Police and government relationship

police and government relationship

The relationship between the government and the police isn't working. This was the consensus in the crowded session on bobbies and civil. His paper on Four Models of Police Government Relations served as the principles and models that govern police government relations including the ideas of. A large comparative study of police-community relations around the world a high degree of confidence in their government and police force.

In a healthy relationship between the government and the police, the former should interfere with the latter on the big issues — namely, to safeguard certain core values, to demand that evidence rather than suspicion leads to intervention, to uphold the right to privacy, and to insure there are mechanisms of accountability in place for those who are mistreated in the name of security. The smaller issues, on the other hand, should be left to the experts in policing — the police themselves.

The problem is that the government is failing to intervene in the big issues, and micro-managing the small ones. Fundamental civil liberties are being eroded by police behaviour, and the government is complicit in this erosion.

Malcolm Carroll of Plane Stupid talked about how non-violent protesters are being forcibly stopped and searched by "political policing" that rests on excuses as feeble as "you were carrying blue string" or "you were standing whilst others were moving". He went on to explain how the recent decision to make photographing the police an offence erodes protesters' fundamental ability to hold the police accountable for these abuses of power.

Steve Powell, director of policy at the Football Supporters' Federation, talked about how Section 27 of the Crime Reduction Act led to football fans having an innocent pre-match drink being rounded onto a security busforcing them to miss their match and leaving the bemused pub owner wondering why his cheery, harmless customers were being deported from his establishment.

In this respect, it is interesting to compare France and Germany. For instance, if a French policeman wishes to check your papers or search you, he will do so without providing any explanation. A German policeman, however, will initiate a dialogue and avoid verbal conflict. This could be seen as a minor point, but it really changes everything!

Furthermore, ethnic profiling is far less common in Germany than it is in France, and so confidence levels among the main minority group, which is Turkish and Muslim, are practically the same as among the rest of the population.

In France, however, Muslims, practically all of whom are of North African origin, are checked massively, and they respond with a far higher level of defiance than average. In addition, in Germany the devoutness of Muslim adolescents increases confidence in the police, but in France, it has the opposite effect. Religiosity may thus either bring together or oppose believers and the police, depending on the national context. The effect of national context turns without doubt on secularization processes, the history of relations between state and religion, which are marked by great tension in France but not in Germany.

Can we use benchmarks to improve our own situation? Based on our study, for us it seems essential to limit and clearly circumscribe the use of police checks. The central point of their argument is that the police are vested with a great deal of authority and the power to deprive ordinary citizens of their freedoms within a democratic system where these very freedoms are regarded as the basic pillars of society. Police actions invariably result in the deprivation of the rights of the suspect.

The degree to which particular actions on the part of the police are acceptable depends on the communities' own values and norms. If the police operate outside of the bounds of this "community acceptability" this invariably leads to alienation and even hostility towards the police. This has most often been the case in relation to so-called "minority" or "oppressed" communities. This is because the dominant groups in society have a different view of what is "acceptable practice" in relation to policing within a particular community to that of the policed community itself.

The dynamic and difficult tension between the principles and freedoms embodied in democracy and the nature of policing is perhaps most stark in relation to the authority of the police to use force. The police are the only agency in society which has the legal right to use force and coercion in the performance of their duties at their own discretion.

While the judiciary may impose restrictions on the rights and freedoms of individuals - such as sentences for criminal acts - it is obliged to do this within the context of the due process of law, which allows the accused the opportunity to challenge and cast doubt on the state's version of what actually happened. The police, however, can go so far as to deprive the individual of life, without the benefit of a rigorous legal procedure. It is ultimately the discretion of the individual police officer which determines whether the freedoms and rights of the individual are transgressed.

Where there is discrimination in policing such as in South Africasuch freedoms are routinely transgressed within specific communities, without there necessarily being specific evidence that the individuals who suffer have committed an offence. The nature of policing is fundamentally antagonistic to those it affects. The enormous power of the police to deprive citizens of their rights and the discretionary nature of police action means that the police tend to be alienated from the community, except where such actions of the police are seen to be of direct benefit to a specific community.

There are two possible responses to this problem. The first is what I shall call the "ideal of consensus", which is based on the implicit assumption that modern policing is conducted on the basis of consensus about the nature of the social order as well as on the way in which the society is policed.

The view of the policing role which is based on a societal consensus about law and order is perhaps the dominant view of policing in the western world. It needs to be understood because of its importance in informing the way that police-community relations are viewed in the South African context.

This vision has however been challenged by a number of writers, and is in the process of being reformulated in the light of the trend towards community policing in many parts of the world. The alternative and emergent view places a lot of emphasis on the diversity of societies and the fact that different communities do not in fact have the same ideals with regard to social order, nor are they generally concerned about the same problems. It also recognises that historically, the police have reflected and protected the values and interests of the dominant interest groups in society.

The Ideal of Consensus The dominant philosophy of policing argues that it is the notion of "policing by consent" which allows the tension between democracy and policing to be accommodated. According to this view the police are delegated authority and power from the state on the basis of a broad consensus about the nature of the social order to be policed.

The democratic process of parliamentary democracy allows citizens to express themselves on the values and norms to be protected. The fact that the police are delegated authority by society means that they are accountable to society for the use of those powers. It is thus the delegation of authority from the citizenry which underlies the police-community relationship.

Transgressions of the individual's freedom can thus only be justified within the context of public support for the methods and practice of policing. Such support is usually held to be dependent on principles such as "proportionality" - whereby the degree of force or severity of punishment is proportional to the seriousness of the alleged offence.

However, this approach views the main channel of police accountability as the state, and to the law which is generally assumed to be fair and unproblematic. Neither politicians nor pressure groups nor anyone else may tell the police what decisions to take or what methods to employ, whether to enforce the law or not in a particular case, or how to investigate a particular offence.

The exercise of police judgement has to be as independent as the exercise of professional judgement by a doctor or a lawyer. If it is not, the way is open to manipulation and abuse of the law whether for political or for private ends …10 The major problem with this view is that "independence" tends to be assumed to lead to impartiality. In fact independence of the police does not mean that the police are not tied to political interests.

This is particularly clear in the South African context where the police are supposed to be operationally independent, but as it has also been argued in the British context: What must be recognised is that value systems which determine to a large extent the way in which the police make decisions are closely tied to those of the social group to which the police officer belongs.

The influence of the "consensus view" of policing on thinking about police-community relations can also be seen in a number of related concepts and the way they are used in the conventional discourse of police-community relations.

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The concern with a police image tends to imply that there is an homogeneity in the experience of policing and the social order throughout society. The notion of the police as operationally independent strengthens the idea, which runs through the policing tradition, that the police are the experts in the field of crime and that their work is beyond the legitimate reach of public influence. The tacit assumption or effect of this philosophy of policing is that the police actively pursue a relationship with the public on their own terms.

The unquestioned doctrine of police practice based on impartiality and minimum force is presented to the public as the logical outcome of democratic government and law and order. As Van Heerden puts it: The favour and approval of the public must be sought at all times, not by pandering to public opinion, but by enforcing the laws with constant and absolute impartiality, giving prompt, individual and friendly service to all members of society regardless of status, social position or national affiliation, being courteous and friendly at all times and being ready to make personal sacrifices in order to save lives.

In American policing the concerns with corruption in the s lead to a trend where the police "relate impersonally with communities" and that the source of police authority was to be found in "criminal law and police professionalism rather than in the political will of the community" Kelling A central feature of the "consensus" notion of policing is that accountability is primarily to "the law".

The Police-Community Relationship

In addition the "independence" of the police helps to ensure that they are indeed impartial in the way that they relate to the public - and in the process of investigating a crime. This emphasis on independence from political or other undue influence can be related to the emphasis on professional expertise.

This however means that the police regard themselves as having the exclusive right to determine the nature of policing.

The values and laws of central government the state are also regarded as having a higher moral standing than the views and customs of specific communities. Beyond Consensus - The "problem" of Community Diversity The alternative view of policing is based on the realisation of the diversity of communities and hence of social order. This view has been articulated by a number of writers on policing, as well as in the reflections of "community" policing practitioners in cities around the world.

The starting point is that society is made up of diverse communities with contrasting and often conflicting interest groups.

police and government relationship

This makes the nature of the relationship between police and society much more complex. The notion of consensus and historical impartiality in the development of policing is according to Jefferson Police forces, far from being "inherently impartial" generally reflect the dominant interest groups within society Jefferson Writers such as Reiner and in the South African context SteytlerBrogden and Rauch draw attention to the role of police culture in determining the nature of policing.

The centralised and exclusive nature of police accountability both within national police forces and so-called "decentralised" police forces, as well as the important influence of police culture means that the police forces have historically reflected the dominant interests within society. This analysis is borne out by the "crisis of policing" in much of the western world over the last two decades.

In reality one of the main reasons for this crisis is the way in which police forces have reflected and acted in the interests of the dominant groups in society - to the detriment of their relations with and credibility among, so-called "minority" and special interest groups.

This emergent new tradition in policing which I consider to be a more realistic approach to the problem of policing within a diverse democracy is based on a concern for the following areas: Incidentally, some of these concerns seem to be reflected in the concerns surrounding the development of community policing in places like New York City Ref. New York Strategy document. A history of the police which recognises the partisan origins and the role of the police in protecting certain power relations.

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The consensus at a parliamentary level which leads to law-making is the product of the dominance of certain interest groups and the law tends to reflect these dominant interests. There is therefore a recognition that the law may be perceived to be at odds with community norms. Assumption that the police act in terms of who they are - emphasis on police culture as determinant of policing styles, methods and the focus for favourable or discriminatory policing. The notion of the independence of the police forces does not necessarily imply that the police are impartial.

There is thus an active concern for the representative nature of policing. The police must be representative of the community and its values. There is also a concern for the values of the police. Impartiality is relative to the different values and norms within which policing operates.

What is impartial in one community will be perceived to be discriminatory in another. The police have to be attuned to the specific values of the community. Police accountability should include a degree of accountability to the particular community being policed. The Nature of Communities The question of "community" is of great importance here. The term community is often used in the South African context to describe the general population, or racially separate sectors of the citizenry.

But what does "community" actually mean? There are several senses in which the word is used. Wilmot offers three: Indeed the racial divides in terms of residence patterns present a stark dichotomy in the lifestyles and perceptions of policing in the different South African communities. However, even specific geographical "communities" are divided into a range of sub-communities with differing interests, values and needs. These groups differ in the degree of power which they exercise in the community - some being more marginal or "repressed" than others.

For the purposes of this discussion I will use community to refer to the smallest group with identifiable common interests. Thus a larger "community" may be made up of other "communities": Women, men, youth, the unemployed, particular political allegiances, etc. Women and men are part of the same community, but in terms of the social order have different interests and are treated in different ways by the police.

In reality the status quo as far as the social order in a "community" is concerned is usually defined at any particular point by an equilibrium in the power relations between different sub-communities which make it up. Such power relations are generally dynamic and change leads to a realignment of power between different sub-communities. An industrial area is a community in a geographical sense, but it may be made up of a "migrant labour community", and a "migrant managerial community" who have a semi-stable relationship which is defined as a "social order".

When the relationship changes a labour dispute for instancethe police may believe that the dispute constitutes a threat to the social order. They may be called on by one sector of the community the managerial sector to protect their interests by arresting "illegal strikers".

The police will probably say that they acted impartially. The law might very well agree. But what for the "migrant labour community" is "impartial" police action? Surely impartial action would be to facilitate the resolution of the dispute social conflict to the satisfaction of all. This example highlights an important feature of communities, namely that impartiality in the context of conflict and differences within communities can only be measured relative to these conflicts.

Impartiality is not something that can be abstracted from concrete situations. Communities in conflict The "relative" nature of impartiality is particularly relevant in the light of deep divisions which plague many South African communities. Community conflicts pose particular problems for efforts by the police to establish sound police-community relations. There is no doubt that the "violence" severely hampers the potential to establish good relations with the community.

The police see themselves as being caught in the middle - as a "barrier" between two sides. If a side is "winning" then it will see the police as siding with the other side. The police see themselves as in a no-win situation - some arguing that it is the parties which need to take the initiative to change the situation.

How to Improve Police-Citizen Relations

Indeed the structures of the National Peace Accord have, where they are functional, become one of the most important forums for police-community relations. In fact, all these areas have a dominance of one party and a silent acquiescence of those who would rather support the other, or neither party. The effect of labelling an area as legitimately "IFP" or "ANC" means that the police only relate to the structures of the dominant group.

police and government relationship

While this is often seen as an acceptable channel for police-community interaction, it may in fact simply serve to encourage the political dominance and "intolerance" of the one side.