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August 5, 2013

Essay on Citizen Oversight in Policing

Citizen Oversight in Policing
Community oversight refers to an activity in which people citizens have certain powers to monitor and report the negligence and misconduct of police to higher authorities. It is a very powerful and effective method to ensure the self-accountability of the police department and justice across the country.
The present movement to ensure citizen oversight of the police started in the 1970s, with citizen oversight in some form established in 80 percent of the country’s 50 largest cities and in more than 100 municipalities. The attempts on the part of government for the implementation of citizen oversight program have traditionally been an outcome of the public concerns that exclusively internal mechanisms to probe into the misconduct of police do not always guarantee the unbiased, timely investigations of citizen complaints of police misconduct.  On the other hand, the champions of citizen oversight believe that given the adequate internal processes, it might prove to be a beneficial activity to police since citizen oversight provides increased scrutiny and transparency.
It is significant to observe public preferences for police reform for three reasons. First, such knowledge should be useful for administrators in developing policy and instituting new practices. Where popular support for a specific change is widespread, this may be symptomatic of a problem that needs to be addressed. If implemented, the reform may help to diminish police misconduct or enhance police practices more generally. Second, certain kinds of reforms may increase public trust and confidence in the police. Third, reforms that directly affect police-citizen encounters may increase citizens’ willingness to cooperate with officers.(Heald, 2007)

Arguments for oversight dwell on the effectiveness of oversight in addressing complaints, misconduct or broader police policy. Nevertheless, the appearance to the community that complaints, misconduct or police policy are addressed in a transparent and fair way leaves a significant argument for oversight.

Sustain rate and effectiveness of Citizen Oversight

Civilian oversight of policing may also be discussed as unfailing with democracy, predominantly considering the major power which the police hold over citizens. Most civilian oversight mechanisms are bordered on the complaints against the police. At one end of a scale are those organizations that take primary responsibility for receiving and investigating complaints. At the other end of the scale are those bodies that do not investigate complaints but are responsible for reviewing, monitoring and auditing of investigations.
Approaches to police misconduct by oversight agencies also entail a proactive stress and emphasis on identifying and addressing fundamental systemic problems within police organizations. However, a proactive approach to police misconduct is repeatedly ignored in the activities of civilian oversight mechanisms, even if there are some good examples where this approach was effectively adopted.
There are a range of other types of civilian oversight which are not exclusively concerned with misconduct issues. These involve civilian influence and control over broader areas of police policies, for example by controlling appointments, or by helping establish policing priorities.

Arguments regarding effectiveness of citizen oversight are possibly most convincing in situations where internal systems of review are noticeably poor or absent, where there are apparent and prevalent abuses by police, or where police organizations are very poorly managed and organized. This may be the case, for instance, in countries going through transitions to democracy, which have traditionally been devoid of accountability.
However, as Walker observes for the United States, arguments for and against oversight that relies on questions of effectiveness draw on assumptions that are largely untested and unproven. Furthermore, these assumptions can be very difficult to test empirically. For example, it is extremely difficult to judge whether the sustain rate of complaints is different with or without oversight, because oversight may impact on the kinds of complaints received. No doubt the difficulty of resolving such issues is likely to be a feature of other countries besides the United States.
Mostly the condition of fear of crime occurs in the society when the people assume themselves as the one who cannot fight with the vulnerable circumstances of crime, and they fear of higher proximity of victimization. This is because the disorder condition in the society or higher rate of crime in various parts of the society which lead the lower risk resident to be afraid of victimization. This situation can be changed by the good communication between the police and the people of society so that the law enforcement agents can take them under confidence for their security. These negotiations would be able to convince them about safeguard of their property from theft or lose. The citizens are the essential entities that are helpful in the strategies to prevent crime and causes of fear of crime.

Citizen oversight and policing strategy:
A number of policies have been taken under consideration for the possible reduction of fear of crime. Some of the important features of community policing strategy to reduce the fear of crime at the Senior Citizens’ Center are as follows:
·         Problem Solving and prevention: Solving the basic problems of the people of the community helps to prevent the crimes and will ultimately reduce the fear of crime
·         Educate People: Educate the public about cause and consequences of crime. The people of the society have to participate more actively in the strategies to prevent fears of crimes.
·         The Herman Goldstein problem oriented policing:  its basic purpose is to prevent crime by higher visibility of patrols in order to implement severity of punishments
·         Community Assessment and Engagement: Engaging the community always proved to be good strategy in order to reduce the fear of crime. Community can be engaged by using citizens comment  cards or participating in community events
·         Organizational Transformation: design and align the structure of police in a manner to support private partnerships etc.  
These are some of the points which have to be taken in mind in order to formulate community policing strategy to reduce fear of crime.
To determine the diversity of approaches of community policing, South African criminologist Wilfred Schärf proposed a distinction in input (Scharf, 2000; p. 13).  Community police is a system widely practiced in Anglo-Saxon countries. Vigilant training or self-defense is unusual in Western democracies, but pervasive in Africa and Asia in particular, or the surveillance systems implemented by private companies. African criminologists talk about "informal policing" (Alemika and Chukwuma, 2004; p.57), "community-generated policing" (Scharf, 2000; p.14), or even "policing of everyday life" to describe the concept of community policing.
Community Police is a strategy that is designed to simply improve the productivity of the police in the fight against crime or is it more of a policing philosophy that is a new way of thinking normatively the role of the police or community? A whole of community policing practices will not associate the communities. Police work in the prospect of a better performance of the latter. American criminologist Herman Goldstein encourages the problem solving approach mode of community policing – which is based on the finding of ineffectiveness of the traditional approach to the fight against crime. Similarly, the monitoring programs of mutual neighborhood respond to a desire for efficiency and better use of resources in a context where they are rare. While the debate focuses on the means to achieve better results without changing the traditional objective of the police the changes focus on the normative role of the police and communities in community policing.
In the philosophical version of community policing, involvement of community is itself an improvement. The community is an instrument for a better performance of police work but the purpose of the latter is to guide the police force. This is an abridged version of "bottom up" approach philosophy of community policing. Conversely the approach of community policing is regime survival. The objective is no longer fight against crime but the continuance of the policy. In this latter perspective, community policing is a particular way of ensuring the survival and stability of the system by controlling the policing system. 
Discipline of Community Policing in a Segmented Society
Community policing is a part of a logic control, discipline, education and enforcement  of a company that can be fragmented, segmented, considered somewhat docile, prompt and sectarianism or under the influence of negative external powers. If we take the example of Jordanian community policing, known as the shurta mujtamaia, it forms the part of a plan giving pledges to political liberalization plan subject to authoritarian control of their civil society without confining to totalitarianism. This version of the Community Police multiplies the layers of "middlemen" via forums associations whose very names are indicative: the Friends of the
Police, the Association of Friends of Police etc. Some of these companies are elite and does not allow anyone to enter, while others operate on  Non Government Organization (NGO) basis. Section of community policing, or shurta mujtamaia, the Jordanian police plays a role of coordination, and liaison between these companies and police, and are directly involved in information and education especially in schools and universities where it focuses on monitoring of youth. What distinguishes this form of police of a totalitarian version is the absence of an ideology other than the desire for sustainability of the scheme. In other words, there is not a blade of ideology that comes inserted between the police and regime survival.
To describe the phenomenon of a liberalized regime that cares about its survival through a strict bureaucratic control of society without resorting to open repression. .Alongside democratic openness and liberalization of the Jordanian regime in 1989, its bureaucracy and security services have established a control system with strict bureaucratic civil society so as to depoliticize and to prevent the emergence of a challenge, and ultimately ensuring the survival of the regime. This type of political regime seems to have learned the lessons of Algeria in particular where Islamic fundamentalism was first taken control of civil society before taking part in political elections and threatened political liberalization itself. Wiktorowicz (2002) dissected the machinery put in place by the regime of the Jordanian bureaucratic exercise control over the activities of NGOs, their leaders and committees, and the origin of the funds granted to them. 

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Police Quarterly, 11 (4), pp. 427-446


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