However, before we begin to speak of future alternatives to strengthening police accountability there has been a growth in governmental bodies, which practice strict monitoring services for the police force at present. Along with the PCA there is another department known as the Internal Affairs Divisions (IAD). IAD officials have a tough role; they want to be fair to their fellow officers, while increasing public confidence in their ability to provide justice.
The IAD sometimes prove unpopular with rank and file officers, but even they have a chain of command. These internal review stratagems are almost guaranteed to be tainted, by personal biases and occupational loyalties, and so external independent bodies would need to be introduced. Lay involvement has also been in practice for some time. It appears to be profitable for people in police custody, as these professionals are able to walk into police stations and keep track of suspects, and their treatment.
However this is not enough to ensure that the police are fully accountable, and they remain far from being transparent. However the essential issue in Police accountability revolves around the following contradiction: How can the Police be accountable to any one person in the community, and yet not suffer the criticism that they were biased or impartial. The question ultimately is how the police are to be accountable to every member of the community, including different groups and classes in society.
Police accountability obviously needs re-defining, which means an emphasis must be placed on local police training centres and constables to state that accountability is a critical element when working for the public. This leaves us with the notion that the ways in which the police are expected to be accountable has changed over the years. There is an element of police independence, which could be related to the fact that the police have been given increasingly greater degrees of freedom over the years.
It appears that over the years, the "police have become more accountable and less autonomous" (Reiner and Spencer 1993). Reiner and Spencer (1993) recommended that the responsibility for making police decisions needs to be balanced between central and local governments, leaving chief police officers to reverse present trends concentrating on effective central control. Police officers should be given recording devises in which they record their day-to-day activities, or even carry video surveillance, which would be checked simultaneously by anyone who wishes to view them, including the public if they hold valid reason.
Police accountability can only be strengthened with the help of the community, and the Police need to revise the recommendations of Lord Scarman and increase community consultation plans in all areas. Through community consultations, the police may be able to develop a better relationship with their local community and hence make their jobs more effective. Training programmes need to be set up which highlight the severity of malpractices and corruption within the police force. It should be explained that these issues will not be taken lightly, and will be dealt with in a strict manner.
Undoubtedly many officers still think that they can be involved in illegal practise and they will not be caught because they are the law. The Canadian police force were presented with a directional statement in 2002 stating that accountability is one of the most important aspects, along side honesty, professionalism, compassion and respect. Without these elements the police force would not operate effectively. The police need to realise that they must be answerable to the communities that they serve, and their actions just like a criminals actions need a reason.
Independent bodies such as the Audit commission need to be built upon and made stronger in order to help keep regulations understood. The government needs to work alongside the police and help the public identify the police force, thus avoiding additional weak accountability structures such as joint boards and police authorities. These boards if they are to be used need to be advertised to the public, and be recognized as a place where complaints can be made. Their literature needs to be available in different languages and formats, which are appropriate for the population that they are serving.
Community groups may be set up by the complaints authority to help victims who might feel intimidated by officials, and therefore this will allow them to address complaints from those victims. Also victims within the police force are able to attend community group meetings about the police and submit confidential complaints discretely. Other independent bodies such as police monitors could be appointed, who have professional knowledge of police practice and are involved in community complaints meetings.
Police monitors may be able to speak on behalf of the community erasing any unfair situations in understanding police language and its system. Finally the police authority should be entitled to information being gathered internally for HMIC, Home office, and the audit commission as the police authority should be responsible for the police service rather than sending it to those providing the service. Reiner's analysis raises the questions that need to be answered in a particularly vivid manner.
He says, "The police exercise powers which profoundly affect the lives of all citizens". To conclude we can say that it is a basic requirement of any modern police service that they should be accountable to their community just as politicians are accountable to their electorate. Those that wield power must understand that they have certain obligations and responsibilities towards those over which they exercise that power. This will allow communities to trust the police force and therefore make them more credible and efficient in their work.
For example when the police make pleas to the public for help regarding crimes in the community it is more likely that they will receive a accurate response from a community that has faith in their ability to resolve the crime.
Dunn, Anne (2002) "Police accountability" Lecture 5 http://www. rcmp-grc. gc. ca/html/dir-stat-2001a. htm Canadian police force home page. Directional Statement 2001 (January). Jefferson, Tony & Grimshaw, Roger (1984) "Controlling the constable" Fredrick Muller Limited.