Effectiveness of Police Accountability Mechanisms

This report is an empirical study of police accountability measures within security sector reform programming.  The purpose of this report is to capture the empirical evidence of what is effective at strengthening and improving police accountability and then to provide recommendations for making effective programs and activities.

There are different perspectives and cross-cutting approaches for studying police accountability and measuring programmatic effectiveness. Evaluating the effectiveness of police organizations and agencies’ accountability is complex because it includes:

  • Police behaviors (individual, unit, and institutional)
  • Performance outcomes/results
  • Policies and procedures
  • Managerial efficiencies

All four of these elements can or should be evaluated when assessing a police system’s effectiveness. In addition, one then has to review each of the four dimensions within which police accountability systems operate:

  • Vertical (an institution’s internal mechanisms, processes, and procedures)
  • Horizontal (the system of checks and balances across government institutions)
  • External (independent organizations and groups that lie outside the official public governance system)
  • From below (local and grassroots mechanisms by which communities directly interact with their local public service providers, such as the police)

This research applied these perspectives and analyzed a range of accountability programming to identify successful efforts and specific options for security sector reform practitioners. Empirical evidence has been culled from lessons learned in security sector reform, police accountability program evaluations, current criminology, and effective governance and accountability initiatives.

The empirical evidence from these various fields and disciplines clearly converge on a set of recommendations that support strategies and programs that focus on an incremental bottom-up approach in which police-civilian partnerships are the fulcrum around which accountability can be strengthened.  These police-civilian partnerships at the neighborhood and community level are an example of accountability “from below” and are the most likely initiatives by which to improve police accountability.  This finding is mirrored by the most recent studies in effective governance and accountability, including the 2017 World Development Report, Governance and Law.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 10:45am

Last updated: December 03, 2018