Who Polices the Police? The Role of Independent Agencies in Criminal Investigations

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Who Polices the Police? The Role of Independent Agencies in Criminal Investigations of State Agents: Executive Summary and Main Recommendations Download the 6-page document. 6 Pages, 473.84 Kb, PDF Download
January 14, 2021
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The events of 2020—ranging from the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, to the systemic torture of protesters in Belarus, to the deaths of individuals detained during lockdowns in India and Kenya—provide stark reminders that the state’s use of force, if left unchecked, can easily turn to brutality. While governments rely on police and other law-enforcement agents to maintain order and investigate crimes, the question of who will investigate crimes allegedly committed by the police themselves remains a critical human rights issue.

Despite the global growth of civilian oversight efforts, abuse and scandals persist. While many civilian review boards have been created to oversee police, very few have adequate investigative powers. Most only have the power to make recommendations for disciplinary action or prosecution, with no ability to implement or ensure follow-up on those recommendations. Clearly, there is a need for more oversight agencies with greater independence and more extensive powers.

This executive summary of a forthcoming briefing paper explores the efforts of independent investigative agencies (IIAs) to investigate and prosecute allegations of serious crimes against police and other state agents. It examines approaches that various IIAs have taken in conducting criminal investigations and prosecutions of state agents for crimes including death, serious injury, sexual assault, and torture. The paper includes recommendations for improving the independence, efficacy, and transparency of IIAs.

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