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Civil Society Oversight of Police

Topic: Police Oversight Year: 2014 University Involved: Columbia University (SIPA) Transparency International Chapter: TI-United Kingdom


Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme (TI-DSP), based in London, has become the authoritative actor on empowering civil society, the private sector, and governments to promote greater transparency and reduce corruption in international arms transfers as well as in defence and security establishments. During its time programme has constructively worked and built relationships with defence companies, governments, civil society, NATO and other international organisations, academic institutions, and think-tanks to reduce corruption levels in the defence industry.

Corruption in police is pervasive, continuing and not bounded by rank. Yet the boundary between ‘corrupt’ and ‘non-corrupt’ activities is difficult to define. The causes of police corruption include but are not limited to factors that are intrinsic to policing, the nature of police organisations, the nature of the culture within the organisation, the opportunities for corruption presented by the political environment, and finally the nature and extent of the effort put in to controlling corruption. One way in which police organisations can counter corruption within their ranks is to have an external oversight or monitoring mechanism. Some countries such as Honduras have utilised civil society organisations to monitor how they go about reforming their police organisation. Yet there is insufficient information on how civil society organisations can positively play this role. This research project will aim to fill that gap.


  1. Are there examples of countries in which civil society organisations provide oversight of police?
  2. How are such oversight bodies structured and what general terms of reference do they operate within?
  3. Can judgements be made on their effectiveness in limiting police abuse – notably corruption?   


The results of the findings will enable a better understanding of how civil society organisations can effectively provide external monitoring in order to detect and limit instances of police corruption. This understanding, as well as any good practices that the project picks up on, will allow TI-DSP to develop an evidence base from which to advocate for positive and meaningful reform.


The exact methodology will depend on the number of countries that students will undertake to research. Yet the majority of the work will consist of desk-based research and reviewing secondary source documents. The literature on the subject is quite diverse and the student will find excellent material from the various police departments around the world and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is another good source of information on the humanitarian aspect of the issue. TI-DSP can also provide put the students in touch with officials, either retired or currently serving, in these institutions in order to develop a first-hand account of the concerns in policing the police. Further, TI-DSP can also elaborate on its own experience of providing external monitoring to police reform efforts in Honduras.

Author :

30 Dec 2013

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