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LAWS 2301 (33)

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LAWS 2301
Ronald Saunders

Criminal Justice SystemPg 197217Strategies for Police Accountability and Community EmpowermentThere is little in either current legislation or practices which broadens the notion of police accountability beyond the assessment of the performance of individual officers and its fit with either the criminal law or other policy and procedural regulationsMany of the communities in which the police operate are characterized by high levels of disorder tension and conflictThe performance of the police in such contexts can have a significant impact on the way a community evolves The problem begins at the conceptual level with the failure to distinguish adequately between the different potential operational meanings of the general notion of involving the community as either a client or a partner in policing and of the more specific concern with relation of police accountability mechanisms to this processThis concept of accountability should be conceived of as a continuum involving a number of different options and approachesThe first possibility is to involve the public as complaints in accountability processesIt reflects the consensus that individual officers must work within the confines and constraints of the criminal law and other relevant regulationsThe result is a tendency to involve the public as victims or witnesses of public abuse who may bring complaints to the attention of the relevant police authorityNeither the complainant nor the general public exercise any control over the process beyond the point of the complaint and many of these processes also fail the test of transparency This approach does little or nothing to address problems at the corporate level of a police serviceIn addition it neglects the broader structural factors responsible for current trends in crime and disorder and in the maintenance of the legitimacy of the police among client groups and communitiesThe second possibility is to include the public as either an advisor to the police or as a participant in the delivery of policing servicesThe benefit of this approach is that it goes part of the way towards opening up a police service to public inputThe participation of the public seems to have a beneficial impact on the quality of the contacts and relations between the police and publicIt is still the relatively autonomous police professionals who retain control over what to do with the publics input and over the nature of the activities in which the public is allowed to participateThe third possibility is to involve the community as a partner in the design and delivery of policing of policing services
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