There is a tension between human rights and policing, and between the ethics and the practice of policing. This acts to the detriment of the essential security that policing is meant to provide. In this paper I consider how and why this tension manifests itself, and some of the measures that may be taken to eradicate it. I do this by proposing the notion of complete policing and seeking to answer a number of questions: what is the relationship between human rights and policing? why do police violate human rights? why should police obey the law? and why are the ethics of policing important? Finally, I consider the responsibilities of police leaders in relation to human rights and police ethics.
What is Complete Policing?
Complete policing is policing that is effective, lawful and humane. It is clearly important for the good governance of any country, and for the well being of its inhabitants, that criminality and social disorder should be kept to minimum levels, that those who break the law should be brought to justice, and that public emergencies should be responded to promptly and efficiently.
All of these matters are the business of the police, although not uniquely so, and they require effective policing. However, any police activity or operation that achieves results through unlawful or inhumane action is a complete negation of the purposes and principles of policing. It is an utter failure of policing. Without law and humanity policing is incomplete. Moreover, such behaviour leads ultimately to widespread and chronic ineffective policing. because police officials reliant on bad behaviour to secure results fail to maintain or develop good policing skills, and because they lose that trust and confidence of the community which is necessary to secure the co-operation of its members. Without that co-operation it is not possible to deliver effective policing.
Complete policing is a form of policing delivered by well managed and well-resourced police agencies deploying technically competent officials who behave lawfully and humanely. Lawful and humane behaviour is contingent upon compliance with the great legal and humanitarian principles set out in international human rights law and international humanitarian law; it is contingent upon compliance with the detailed provisions of those branches of law, and with national law that embodies those principles and provisions; it is contingent upon the development and perpetuation of an ethos supportive of human rights and high ethical standards within police agencies.
What is the Relationship between Human Rights and Policing?
The relationship between human rights and policing is considered by examining the ways in which human rights regulate police powers and police functions; what the relationship between human rights and policing should be; and then by considering some positive aspects of the relationship and some negative aspects
How Police Powers and Functions are Regulated by Human Rights
Policing is one of the means by which states meet or fail to meet their obligations under international law to ensure respect for and protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups within their jurisdiction. All such rights and freedoms may affect, and may be affected by, policing. However, given the nature and purposes of police activity, it is the most fundamental human rights that are of greatest significance to the powers and functions of police.
For example the power to use force is regulated by the right to life (as expressed, for instance, in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights); the power to deprive people of their liberty is regulated by the right to liberty of person and the prohibition of arbitrary arrest (as expressed, for instance, in Article 5 of the same Convention); and the power to carry out search and surveillance activities is regulated by the right to private and family life (as expressed in Article 8 of the Convention). Furthermore, the absolute prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (as expressed, for instance, in Article 3 of the European Convention) is intended to protected people from brutality at the hands of police officials whatever powers they may be exercising or whatever functions they may be performing.
Concerning police functions, such as the prevention of crime, the investigation of crime, and the preservation of public order, similar examples may be found. I will refer here only to one - the preservation of public order. The ways in which police respond to public assemblies of people, and to demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, is regulated by the right to peaceful assembly (as expressed for, instance, in Article 11 of the European Convention).2
In respect of all of the Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights to which I have referred the European Court of Human Rights, in its decisions and findings on cases before it, has made pronouncements on the exercise of all of these powers by police,(3) and on the conduct of police operations.(4)
Indeed these pronouncements can be seen as the expression of best practice for good, professional policing in a democracy governed by the rule of law. Furthermore, in some of these cases(5) the Court has insisted that carrying out prompt, effective, official investigations into the use of lethal force by police is an essential element in the protection of the right to life. Indeed accountability of police for their acts or omissions is essential to the protection of all human rights, and this accountability is reinforced by the right to effective remedy when Convention rights and freedoms are violated.(6)
Standards of best practice for policing, and indeed requirements for investigations into police actions, accountability, and effective remedy are also set out in some very important non-treaty human rights instruments. These include the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.(7) There are also non-treaty texts relating to ethics, to which I refer later.
Finally, in relation to the regulation of police powers and functions, it is important to make specific reference to international humanitarian law or the law of armed conflict.(8) International humanitarian law, like international human rights law, is a branch of public international law. Its purpose is to regulate the conduct of hostilities and to protect victims of armed conflicts, and it only comes into force in times of armed conflict. Police officials, and especially police leaders, need to be aware that many police operations would be regulated by this branch of law in such times. Furthermore they should be aware that, even when a state of armed conflict does not exist, some of its standards also express good professional police practice. For this reason, even though they may not be legally applicable, some of these standards should form an important element in the strategy and tactics of policing civil disturbances, especially when those disturbances are serious in terms of scale or intensity of violence. Examples of some provisions of international humanitarian law are prohibitions of hostage taking, pillage, collective punishments and acts of terrorism; special measures to protect children, and to safeguard them from being recruited into armed groups or from taking part in violence; and requirements to respect and protect medical and religious personnel, and to assist them in the performance of their duties.
In sum, police powers and functions are regulated by legally enforceable human rights and humanitarian standards that require the delivery of effective, lawful and humane policing - complete policing. These legally enforceable standards are reinforced by standards of good practice set out in non-treaty texts.
The Relationship Between Human Rights And Policing
Maintaining social order is such a fundamental police function, and social order is so fundamental to the realisation of human rights that the protection of human rights can be seen, in itself, as a police function. The protection of human rights by police is developed under the next sub-heading "Policing as a Positive Factor in the Protection of Human Rightsā€¯. The very specific ways in which police protect particular human rights give further support, if it were needed, to the notion that the protection of human rights is a police function. Indeed, it is argued here that the protection of human rights should stand alongside the prevention and detection of crime; the preservation of social order; and the provision of assistance in emergencies as one of the primary functions of policing.
In addition to protecting human rights as one of their primary functions, police are also required to respect human rights. That is to say, when they are exercising their powers (for example to use force, to deprive people of their liberty, or to carry out search or surveillance activities) police must obey the laws designed to secure human rights. Protection of and respect for human rights are so integral to policing that the removal of any tension between policing and human rights that exists in practice, the creation of a human rights culture within police agencies, is one of the most pressing tasks presently facing police leaders.
The creation of such a culture can, perhaps, be promoted by recognising the entitlement of police to human rights. This recognition should go beyond the entitlement of police to all human rights as members of the human family, to a recognition that police have special needs as far as human rights are concerned. I will give only one example of this, and it concerns that most fundamental of rights - the right to life. The ways in which a police official is recruited, trained, equipped, briefed, deployed and supervised can have a direct impact on whether or not he or she is killed or survives in a potentially lethal situation. Governments and police leaders, and indeed the community the police serve, have crucial responsibilities to acknowledge and to meet the special human rights needs of police. Many other examples of these needs could be given - especially in relation to the economic, social and cultural rights of police.
The relationship between human rights and policing should be characterised by these three concepts - protection, respect and entitlement. However, the protection of human rights by policing is a very positive aspect of the relationship and this needs and deserves further consideration.
Policing as a Positive Factor in the Protection of Human Rights
The protection of human rights by and through policing is implicit in the provisions of Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised.ā€¯
The reference in this Article to an international order is the source from which the right to development has been drawn by the international community, but it also includes the idea of a social order meaning the quality of life experienced at a national level.
Clearly human rights cannot be realised without social order, and social order, as characterised by tolerable levels of criminality and low levels of social tension or civil unrest, is dependent, in part, upon effective policing. In this sense policing, through the performance of all of its functions, can be seen as a positive factor in the protection of human rights and, specifically, all of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
In addition to assisting in the realisation of all human rights through its contribution to the maintenance of social order generally, policing can be a positive factor in the protection of specific human rights in very specific ways. For example the right to life as expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights treaties9 requires the right to life to be protected by law. This means, inter alia, that states have to enact laws which create offences of murder and other types of unlawful killing, and the prevention and detection of such crimes are police tasks. Furthermore under international and national law10, police are required to respond to crimes involving trafficking of women and children, and to prevent or to investigate effectively racist or homophobic crimes. Police activity in these areas may protect the right to life of victims of such crimes in some instances, but it is also a means of responding to specific human rights violations relating to those categories of people.
The right to life is a civil right, and similar examples can be found for the protection of political rights and economic, social or cultural rights. Where there are laws prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, or prohibiting manifestations of religious intolerance, the effective prevention and detection of breaches of those laws is directly supportive of the political rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to freedom of opinion and expression. 11Where police functions include attending and reporting on industrial accidents, effective prevention and detection of offences under law designed to secure safety at work is directly supportive of the social right to just and favourable conditions of work.
Finally, as an example of huge significance currently, police have a crucial role to play in the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity
These examples of the ways in which police protect specific human rights and freedoms arise out of their prevention and detection functions, and when the other functions of policing are taken into account, similar examples can be found. In providing effective social or emergency services for people who, because of various emergencies are in need of immediate aid, police may protect their right to life. In performing this function police may also protect the right to equal enjoyment of rights, enshrined in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and they may promote delivery of some economic and social rights by bringing to notice the plight of people deprived of rights.
This account of the ways in which policing can be a positive factor in the protection of human rights is by no means exhaustive but it does indicate how effective policing is essential to that process. However, the notion that policing assists in the realisation of human rights through its part in maintaining social order requires further consideration.
Policing can respond, with greater or lesser effectiveness, to manifestations of criminality, social tension and civil unrest but, whilst it might prevent some forms of criminality or even alleviate some of the social or economic conditions which are at the root of tension or disorder, it cannot remove their underlying causes. When those underlying causes are not satisfactorily addressed policing can assist in maintaining a form of social order characterised mainly by a relative lack of civil unrest. However it will be a social order dependent upon repression and injustice rather than on consent, respect for democratic values, and delivery of social justice.
Such a form of social order, because of its unresolved, underlying tensions is not stable, and it is not one in which human rights and freedoms are fully realised.
Whilst it is clear that the relationship between human rights and policing should be characterised by "protection, respect and entitlementā€¯, and whilst policing can be a positive factor in the protection of human rights, it is also clear that in some cases and on some occasions policing is a negative factor.
Policing as a Negative Factor in the Protection of Human Rights
Just as Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be used as the basis for an examination of policing as a positive factor in the protection of human rights, so Article 29.2 of the Declaration can be used as the basis for an examination of policing as a negative factor in their protection. The second paragraph of Article 29 reads:
"In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purposes of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.ā€¯
The legal protection of human rights derives not only from the fact that the various rights find expression in legally binding texts, both international and national, but also from the fact that any limitations on them are also expressed in such texts.
The paragraph from Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights quoted above is important and interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is the general source of the specific limitation clauses to be found in Articles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - for example Articles 18, 19 and 21 protecting the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; and freedom of peaceful assembly respectively. Similar limitation clauses are to be found in Articles 8 - 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Whilst the language of each of these limitation clauses varies slightly, they all require any limitations on the rights protected in the respective Articles to be specified by law, and to be necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights or freedoms of others. In other words they identify similar grounds to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for justifying restrictions on the exercise by individuals of human rights and freedoms they protect.
Secondly, the permissible reasons for limiting rights can also be seen as an expression of basic policing functions, for securing recognition and respect for rights and freedoms of others, and meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare are all benefits of living in a democratic society which can be achieved, in part at least, through policing. When police enforce law by seeking to prevent and detect crime, they secure due recognition for the rights and freedoms of others - the right to life for example. In the same way, police meet the just requirements of morality when those requirements have been given legal force. The just requirements of public order are met directly when police maintain or restore order, and the general welfare is safeguarded when police provide emergency assistance to people in need of immediate aid.
The third and final reason for focussing particularly on this provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the most important. In stipulating the sole purposes for which rights and freedoms may be limited, the Declaration is setting limits on police powers. Police may not be given powers under the law to restrict rights and freedoms for any other purposes. In stipulating that rights and freedoms are to be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law, the Declaration is stating a fundamental rule of police behaviour. Police may not exceed their lawful powers.
The fact that the terms of this Article of the Declaration can also be seen as an expression of police functions indicates a significant link between the actual fulfilment of those functions and the ways in which they are to be fulfilled. It accentuates the connection between police effectiveness and police behaviour, challenging the argument that compliance with rules of good behaviour lessens police effectiveness, and exposing the seriously flawed notion of effectiveness implicit in that argument.
Unfortunately even though human rights are protected by law, and any limitations that can be placed on rights and freedoms are set in law, police officials, who are described as law enforcement officials, break the law designed to protect human rights when enforcing other law. This is something of a paradox, because when they act in this way police are not reducing criminality and disorder, they are adding to it. The paradox exists because a readiness to violate human rights law persists as part of a powerful police sub-culture that regards human rights, which are inalienable and inherent in every human being, as incompatible with the process of policing.
There is a debate about the nature and extent of the tension that exists between "orderā€¯ and "libertyā€¯, but very little of that debate can be carried through to the debate about "policingā€¯ and "human rightsā€¯ for almost all of the tension has been removed by law. Under law human rights and freedoms are clear; the limitations on those rights and freedoms are clear; and police powers, which mirror those limitations, are clear. Police, whose legitimacy is based on law, must comply with that law absolutely.
The areas of policing where that tension has not been removed by law are those areas where police officials are required, or able, to exercise discretion in the course of their duties, and this issue is connected with the great autonomy of action enjoyed by many police officials.
Whilst the extent and nature of discretion exercised by police officials varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, all police officials at different levels in police hierarchies exercise discretion to some extent. This is because it is neither possible nor desirable for all laws to be consistently and rigorously enforced. Questions of resources and deployment of those resources arise, and choices have to be made about which laws are to be enforced and to what extent. Individual police officials, at the lowest levels of the police hierarchy, have it in their power to ignore breaches of law and to decide, correctly or incorrectly, not to enforce the law in respect of specific instances of law breaking.
The exercise of discretion by police officials is connected with their varying degrees of autonomy, for both are an indication of the extent to which much police work is unsupervised and unsupervisable. A great deal of supervision and control within police agencies is supervision and control "after the eventā€¯. Information is fed into the system at ground level, and subordinates are able to control the nature and quality of that information. Supervisors receive sanitised accounts of incidents dealt with by their subordinates, and of their subordinatesā€™ responses to those incidents.
Where no legal provisions are in place to regulate or define what police action should be in particular circumstances, and where no other rules or guide-lines have been developed, the great legal and humanitarian principles of respect for the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family remain to prompt and inform police action. Indeed these principles, and the specific provisions of human rights law which derive from them, provide a sound basis for codes of behaviour and other texts designed to secure ethical standards in the profession and craft of policing.
At a theoretical level there is no tension between human rights and policing. The fact that such a tension exists in practice is inimical not only to the protection of human rights but also to effective policing in the longer term. A short term "victoryā€¯ in dealing with a particular manifestation of criminality may be applauded by a public eager to see wrong-doing punished and to live in a secure and peaceful society. However, when such a "victoryā€¯ is found to have been secured through unlawful and unethical means the applause of the public becomes a little uneasy and less enthusiastic. When unlawful and unethical police practices lead to miscarriages of justice and the punishment of innocent people, as they inevitably do, the applause ceases, public confidence and trust in the police is damaged, people are less inclined to co-operate with and assist police, and courts are reluctant to accept the testimony of police as witnesses. The "victoryā€¯ has become a defeat.
Given the paradox of policing, the fact that in enforcing the law police break the law, it might be useful now to consider why police violate human rights.
Why do Police Violate Human Rights?
Policing can be extremely difficult and demanding - emotionally, intellectually and physically. In practising their craft and profession police can experience personal danger and discomfort, and severe trauma and anxiety.
Police are required to respond with restraint to physical attacks on their persons; they are required to respond dispassionately and compassionately to the immediate effects of serious criminality on victims; they experience the frustrations of being unable to deliver to justice the authors of shocking crimes; and they are subject to pressure from society, the news media, and from politicians to obtain results. In the case of really atrocious crimes; or where there is serious public concern about levels of criminality; or where "law and orderā€¯ has become or has been made an issue of party politics this pressure can be such that police feel they are entitled, or perhaps even required, to adopt unlawful and inhumane methods. Furthermore people engaged in organised crime, or certain types of financial criminality, have at their disposal vast sums of money which can be, and is, used to corrupt police.
These are some of the factors that combine to confront individual police officials with a variety of ethical problems and dilemmas. They are factors that create or reinforce a sub-culture which can be inimical to human rights and the rule of law, a sub-culture which can be comfortable with the absurd and sinister notion of "noble cause corruptionā€¯ - law breaking for the purposes of law enforcement. They derive from the nature of the police task, and the nature of police organisations and their relationship to political systems and the societies within which they function.
These critical factors, and especially elements of police sub-cultures, have been identified and discussed in a number of sociological studies. For example one such study,12 in which a number of others are summarised, argues that policing is characterised by wide discretionary powers, low visibility, and minimal supervision. These working conditions have given rise to an occupational culture that consists of a range of informal assumptions, values and accepted practices that tend to circumvent or defy legal rules and formal instructions. Features of this occupational culture include a sense of mission, orientation towards action, pessimism concerning the social environment, an attitude of constant suspicion, an isolated social life, a strong code of solidarity, political conservatism, racial prejudice, sexism, categorisation of people as either rough or respectable, a code of silence, and a readiness to conceal police misconduct.
These working conditions and cultural features identified in the study are inimical to the development of a human rights culture within police organisations, and they are inimical to the delivery of effective policing. In other words they are not conducive to the delivery of complete policing. In addition to considering why police violate human rights, other important steps in seeking to build a human rights culture within police organisations include expressing and emphasising the reasons why police should obey the law, and why the ethics of policing are important.
Why Should Police Obey the Law?
In a democratic state where the rule of law prevails no person or institution is above the law, and every person and every institution is accountable to the law. It is particularly incumbent on police officials, as law enforcement officials, to work entirely and always within the law.
As human rights are protected by law this means that the law protecting human rights must be respected and obeyed in the course of every police activity and in every area of policing.
In a democratic state the community, through the political processes and institutions of the state, has defined the powers it wishes to accord to police and the limits on those powers. Whilst police may contribute to debates on the extent and nature of those powers and limitations, there is no justification whatsoever for any police agency or any police official to operate outside them.
It is indefensible for police to argue that it is necessary or justifiable to break the law or "bend the rulesā€¯ in order to prevent or detect crime, or maintain or restore public order for the following reasons:
1. If police break law in order to enforce law, they are not reducing criminality - they are adding to it.
2. The police perspective on the nature and extent of police powers is only one of a number which needs to be taken into account in deciding what those powers are to be.
3. Once a decision on police powers has been taken and expressed in law, it is not for a police official to insist that a police view prevails by ignoring that law.
4. If individual police officials decide which laws they will ignore or which human rights they will violate on any particular occasion, the process of law enforcement becomes arbitrary and uncertain because of the huge number of individual decisions being taken by people applying their own individual standards.
5. Some law breaking by police in the process of law enforcement involves very serious criminality and very serious human rights violations. For example torture and some forms of mistreatment of detainees amount to serious criminal assaults.
6. The effect on individual victims of police law breaking can be disastrous in personal terms. It can lead to conviction and punishment of persons innocent of crimes. (In such cases it can also mean that guilty people remain undetected and unpunished).
7. Law breaking and human rights violations by police in the process of law enforcement can have extremely adverse effects on the entire criminal justice system. When such wrongdoing is discovered it can lead to loss of confidence in the police, and in the law, the courts and the judiciary.
8. Human rights are inherent in every person and they are inalienable.
They cannot be taken away from any person - especially by a police official.
Why are the Ethics of Policing Important?
Many of the ethical problems and ethical dilemmas that confront police can be resolved by reference to the legal rules applicable in a given situation and by complying with those rules. However given the reasons why police violate human rights, and regardless of the reasons why police should obey the law as set out above, it is unsurprising, although regrettable, that police do not routinely comply with the law. Moreover, the law can be unclear and it can be silent on some of the most intractable problems with which police are required to deal.
What is required then, is a means of reinforcing the law, a means of encouraging police to respect the law even when the reasons for not doing so appear to be very strong indeed. What is also required is a source of reference for police to consult when the law is inadequate or absent; or when they are required to exercise discretion in the course of their duties; or, conversely, when they have no choice but to carry out their professional duty.
This latter point is of great significance in policing, for police are probably more aware than practitioners of other crafts or professions that sometimes in doing their professional duty they have no choice, except perhaps in their attitude and in the method they adopt, but to carry out their duty.
Consider, for example, the situation of police required to respond to crime and disorder in a society where they feel, with some justification, that over-reliance is being placed on oppression and repression, and that other necessary measures in the realms of social and penal policy are not being taken. They may feel compelled to call for a more complete range of responses to crime and social tension but this would almost certainly put at risk their efforts to remain non -partisan and politically neutral. They may be able to implement some preventive strategies that take into account the wider causes of crime and disorder, but these would remain relatively ineffective within the prevailing social and political context.
Whatever they may feel about the situation within which they are required to operate, the duty of the police is to deal with criminality and disorder regardless of its causes and in spite of unsound or misconceived government policies. In such a situation the obligation on police to act lawfully and humanely is very high indeed if social injustice is not to be compounded by judicial and penal injustice.
Reflections of this nature, wherever else they may lead, steer us to the science of morals, the search for moral principles - in other words to ethics, and, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, ethics are also "the rules of conduct recognised as appropriate to a particular profession or area of lifeā€¯.
It is through the identification and promulgation of ethical principles appropriate to the craft and profession of policing within a democratic polity governed by the rule of law, that police can be encouraged to respect the law; that police can be provided with a source of reference for the occasions when the law does not or cannot direct them; that police can be guided in the exercise of discretion, or in their conduct when they have little or no discretion; and that efforts to corrupt police financially can be counteracted.
Reference has already been made to the way in which the great legal and humanitarian principles of international human rights law can be used to prompt and inform police action, and to the fact that these principles, and specific provisions derived from them, have been used as a basis for codes of behaviour for police. Given that human rights law is concerned with relationships between individuals and the state, that it seeks to regulate and control the exercise of state power vis a vis individuals and groups of people, the relevance of human rights to police ethics and to the content of ethical codes for police is readily apparent.
Ethical Codes for Police
Professional codes of behaviour, or ethical codes, are intended to elicit a set of desired attitudes and responses in each member of the group to which they are addressed. As guides to action they serve to remind members of the group what is expected of them; they provide a common vocabulary for the discussion of difficult cases; they establish and reinforce shared values; and they militate against adverse aspects of the occupational culture and malign external influences.
Ethical codes for the police have been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials - on 17 December 1979), and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (the European Code of Police Ethics - on 19 September 2001). This latter Code superseded the Council of Europe Declaration on the Police which was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on
Police codes of this nature, often based on one or both of the two international codes, have subsequently been developed by a variety of police agencies. This is because it is being increasingly recognised that the promulgation of codes of behaviour is one of a number of means whereby an ethos conducive to lawful and ethical behaviour, humanity and high standards of professional competence can be fostered within police agencies.
For example, debates around this issue have become intensified on some occasions when police officials have been found guilty of serious criminal offences, especially those concerning the administration of justice. Colleagues and supervisors have asked what can be done to prevent otherwise seemingly idealistic and honest individuals from deciding to commit perjury or to pervert the course of justice. In seeking answers to that question they have focussed on means to bolster an individualā€™s sense of propriety in the face of powerful provocations and inducements to behave improperly. One such means is a code of behaviour or an ethical code for police.
The Responsibilites of Police Leaders in Relation to Human Rights and Police Ethics
Police leaders need to be acutely aware that police officials need guidance and support in order to cope with the various conflicting pressures they face.
Police officials need to understand, without any doubt whatsoever, that neither the community, nor their colleagues, nor their senior officers, nor political leaders expect or require them to break the law or to violate human rights in order to do their job.
Support for, and insistence on, lawful and ethical policing must come from all of those sources and especially from police leaders. They have a particularly heavy responsibility to establish and maintain high ethical standards within police organisations. In particular, police leaders need to consider the example they set by their own behaviour; the ways in which they respond to the unlawful and unethical behaviour of colleagues or subordinates; the ways in which they can protect subordinates form external pressures to act improperly; and the totality of measures they can adopt to maintain high ethical standards within police organisations.
The promulgation of a code of behaviour within a police organisation is only one such measure which, if adopted, must amount to more than mere window dressing. A code of behaviour must be developed according to a process which enables the expression of realistic, explicit and detailed norms of behaviour which have a high degree of acceptance and ownership throughout the organisation. Once its contents have been agreed it must be disseminated widely, and constantly reinforced by example and insistence on the good practices it embodies.
The crucial task of police leaders is to command and manage police organisations so that they become and remain driven by an ethos of excellence; an ethos that is conducive to lawful and ethical behaviour, humanity, and to high standards of professional competence; an ethos that is hostile to the notion of "noble cause corruptionā€¯.
This form of corruption sustains and justifies human rights violations by police, the breaking of law to enforce law, by reference to a higher "noble causeā€¯ recognised not by the law but by the consciences of those who invoke it. The practice of policing based on an ethic of noble cause corruption is intolerable, and has no place in a democratic polity where the rule of law prevails. The "noble causeā€¯ espoused is no more and no less than the subversion of the criminal justice system, and the "corruptionā€¯ which is practised consists of some of the most serious criminal offences. Apart from the fact that it is unlawful, it is objectionable because it is arbitrary as a process and random in its effects.
In the introductory remarks to this paper I proposed the concept of complete policing, and defined this as policing that is effective, lawful and humane - a form of policing delivered by well managed and well resourced police agencies deploying technically competent officials who behave lawfully and humanely.
It is a responsibility of government to ensure that police agencies are properly resourced, and it is a responsibility of police leaders to ensure that they are well managed. This includes good management of the day to day operations of the agency, and the management of change. The management of change involves not only changing a police agency so that it can respond to changes in the society it serves, but also changing those elements of the police culture that are inimical to human rights and high ethical standards for police. This latter aspect of the management of change requires persistent, courageous, long-term commitment from police leaders. It also requires continuous external supervision and monitoring on the part of government, the community and legal institutions.
The reward for such persistence, courage and commitment on the part of police leaders, and for sustained external monitoring and supervision will be the creation of a police agency and the development of police officials capable of delivering complete policing. At present, no police agency can truthfully claim to be consistently delivering that form of policing. Which police agency in which country will be the first to do so?
1. This paper adapts and develops the arguments in Chapters 2 and 4 of "Human Rights and Policingā€¯ (published in 1998 by Kluwer Law International) which the author of this paper co-authored with Barry Devlin and Tom Williamson.
2. It is important to note that the European Court of Human Rights has also commented on police methods in dealing with assemblies in cases brought under Article 2 of the Convention which protects the right to life. See, for example, the case of Gulec v.
3. See, for example, the case of K-F v.
4. See, for example, Plattform Arzte Fur Das Leben v.
5. See, for example, the Gulec case at 2 supra.
6. Protected under Article 13 of the Convention.
7. Recommended by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations on 24 may 1989; adopted by the Eighth United Nationā€™s Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders,
8. As embodied, for example, in the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
9. See, for example, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
10. See, for example, the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others; and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
11. Protected, for example, in Articles 9 and 10 respectively of the European Convention on Human Rights.
12. Janet Chan, "Changing Police Cultureā€¯
Originally published in Ihsan BAL and M. Bedri ERYILMAZ (eds.), 'Police Professional Ethics', (Ankara: Police Academy, 2002).
Prof. Dr. Ralph CRAWSHAW
Human Rights Centre,
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