Effectiveness of Police Accountability Mechanisms (2020)

Published on:

January 01, 2020


USAID - DRG Bureau

This report is a study of police accountability measures within security sector reform (SSR) programming. Its purpose is to provide empirical examples of mechanisms for strengthening and improving police accountability and to summarize the existing evidence that links these mechanisms to improved police accountability. It draws on systematic studies, anecdotal evidence, and personal correspondence with experts and programmers; and provides recommendations for effective programs and activities.

There are different perspectives and cross-cutting approaches for studying police accountability and measuring programmatic effectiveness. This document defines police accountability broadly by: 1) Police behaviors (individual, unit, and institutional e.g. The extent to which police officers engage in corruption or human rights violations); 2) Performance outcomes/results (e.g. The extent to which the police ensure citizen safety and security); 3) Policies and procedures (e.g. The extent to which the police policies are coherent and actionable); and 4) Managerial efficiencies (e.g. The extent to which police departments deploy resources in a cost-effective manner).

Evaluating accountability is complex because all four of these elements can or should be evaluated when assessing a police system’s effectiveness. In addition, this review covers each of the four dimensions within which police accountability systems operate:1 1) Horizontal -the system of checks and balances across government institutions; 2) Vertical -an institution’s internal mechanisms, processes, and procedures; 3) External -independent organizations and groups that lie outside the official public governance system2; and 4) Diagonal -local and grassroots mechanisms by which communities directly interact with their local public service providers, such as the police.3

SSR evidence for this report has been culled from lessons learned in SSR, police accountability program evaluations, current criminology, and effective governance and accountability initiatives. However, with extremely limited data on what works in police accountability, this report was not able to provide conclusions drawing upon rigorous data points. Instead, this report summarizes which interventions show promise given the data that exists and which interventions merit more research.