Human rights and police training

Democratizing policing systems

Authored by: Alan Beckley

The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138931176
eBook ISBN: 9781315679891
Adobe ISBN: 9781317395553


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Public police organizations are uncomfortable with discussion around human rights, mainly because they are frequently criticized in the media for lapses and errors in safeguarding the civil liberties of their citizens. This should not be the case as human rights are intrinsically incorporated in the tenets of democratic policing models which half the world purports to embrace. It has been identified that there are numerous models of policing (Emsley 2012) ranging from totalitarian to democratic policing, but many of the formats contain the ingredients of the democratic style, which according to Bayley (2006, p. 19) consists of police who: are accountable to law, protect human rights, are accountable to the public (independent oversight of police), and respond to the needs of individual citizens. This chapter will discuss the optimum methods of teaching and learning about human rights within the policing organization and also describe some case studies involving countries that have altered the style of their policing to encompass the democratic model. A simplistic description of the extremes of policing styles is that the key objective of totalitarian styles of policing is to protect the state from liberation of the citizens or external influences; whereas the key objective of democratic policing systems is to protect the security and freedom of all the citizens (Beckley 2014b). The problem, when amending a policing style from one extreme to another, is that it is necessary to change police officers’ hearts, minds and attitudes in a 180-degree direction towards a new paradigm of operational policing; the international case studies will illustrate this point later in the chapter. Training is one of the means to change attitudes but this is a difficult task, especially with experienced personnel and an ingrained culture, therefore the method of training is important along with sensitivity around loyalty to pre-existing regimes and accepted practices. There is not space to debate the issues around the advantages and disadvantages of specific policing styles or models, therefore the discussion will be limited to the principles of democratic policing only.

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