Civilian Oversight of the Police in Democratic Societies


In democratic societies, the police are accountable for many things and to many different people. Most prominently, police are accountable for the effectiveness with which they deal with crime and disorder, as well as for the legality, professionalism, and respect with which they treat people. While authoritarian police are accountable only to their superiors, democratic police are accountable to a multiplicity of bodies. In addition to their superiors, democratic police are accountable to the legislature, to the courts, to members of the public who seek their assistance, and to society as a whole through the press and organizations of citizens. The creation of mechanisms for the routine oversight of police conduct on behalf of the public, mechanisms that curb or correct abuses of power, is a common project of democratic societies. Prepared for the third global meeting on Policing in Democratic Societies, this short framework paper reviews some of the common dilemmas that arise in the design of such police oversight authorities.


Representation Matters

No Child Should Appear in Immigration Proceedings Alone

Each year, thousands of immigrant children are placed into court proceedings in which government prosecutors seek to deport them unless those children can prove they have a right to stay in the United States. Many face these immigration proceedings alone. Many children have legal options that establish their ability to remain in the United States, ...

  • Alyssa Snider, Becca DiBennardo
December 23, 2021
Photo by Alex Burness/The Colorado Independent.

Bans on Holiday Cards and $30 Phone Calls—the Isolation of Prison

The way the United States separates people who are incarcerated from loved ones has always been harsh, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made an already stressful situation worse. Since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, many of the nearly two million people incarcerated haven’t seen their loved ones—not even on a video call. And speaking w ...

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  • Nazish Dholakia
    Nazish Dholakia
December 21, 2021
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