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Accountability: who polices the police?

AccountabilityIn South Africa's police stations and prisons, torture is routine practice. In the face of government inaction, the perpetrators act with impunity. Lessons are to be learned, however, from the decades of failure of the UK's Independent Police Complaints Commission, tainted by evidence of collusion with the police, particularly on the most serious of issues—deaths in police custody. As Ahmed Ali asks of Bahrain, what help are the official channels in “chasing accountability” and where should those attempting to hold state security forces to account direct themselves?

The question is: to whom should the police be accountable? Around the world, citizens are attempting to hold police to account—from grassroots action in the USA against the racist practice of stop and frisk to families in the UK struggling for justice following the death of a loved one in police custody to adavasis in central India organising to counter entrenched police corruption and violence. Are these struggles the source of accountability or do they surpass this in their demands for justice?



Children in custody need protection, not cruelty and bullying

Recent HMIC report found "inexcusably poor practices" by police towards children in custody. A cultural shift is needed both within the police force and the local authorities who are failing to accommodate them. The Home Office must take action.

Community policing? Achieving more realistic results

It has become fashionable for first-world donors to embrace ‘community policing’ for developing-world security programmes. But context is everything.

After Garissa, Kenya needs to break the cycle

The massacre at a university in Kenya should lead the government to a recognition that repressive and discriminatory reactions, however tempting, have only fuelled such horrific violence.

South Africa’s parliament and the politicisation of the police

The police were a symbol of the old, apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately they are becoming a symbol of the ‘new South Africa’ too.

Kenya’s outlaw police

Developments in Kenya show what happens when “counter-terrorist” police and other security forces are not subject to public accountability.

#IPCCFail – the police complaints watchdog’s “decade of failure”

It's ten years since the Independent Police Complaints Commission was founded, and they've utterly failed.

Fish rot from the head

Torture is routine practice in South Africa's police stations and prisons. A lineage of impunity, traced from apartheid, has meant de facto immunity for perpetrators. With South Africa celebrating its 'Human Rights Day' this weekend, the shocking reality behind its prison walls must be a central focus.

Five thoughts on abolishing the Met

Whilst seemingly necessary and incisive, recent calls to 'abolish' London's Metropolitan police do not go nearly far enough.

"Our self-confidence is the main reason for police harassment..."

For adivasis in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, economic exploitation and social degradation go hand in hand. This interview with Madhuri Krishnaswamy of JADS, an adivasi organisation, reveals routine police protection of entrenched power hierarchies – and the political confidence found to fight back.

Unreformable: an end to stop-and-frisk in NYC?

Under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley stop-and-frisk has been a racist technology of control wielded by an unchecked police force. With large-scale popular mobilisations against police racism and violence, and de Blasio set to take over as mayor of New York City, reform of stop-and-frisk seems in sight. But is such a practice reformable? 

Deaths in British police custody: no convicted officers since 1969

827 people have died during or following police contact since 2004. Families have struggled hard for justice, encountering multiple failures and police collusion from the IPCC. Why is police accountability failing in this most serious of issues?

Chasing accountability; facing impunity

Bahrain's attempt to hold the state security services to account is channeled through campaigning, lobbying and of course the revolution itself. But what help are the official channels, and the law?

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