RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS HELPS THE POLICE

RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS HELPS THE POLICE & LACK OF CONCERN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS HINDERS EFFECTIVE POLICING — AN ESTABLISHED FACT WHICH SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.

Rajendra Dhar
POLICE WATCH INDIA (Regd. NGO)

THE ESSENCE OF POLICING IS PUBLIC SERVICE. IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY THE POLICE ARE GUARDIANS OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY. THEY ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PUBLIC IN THE EXECUTION OF THAT TASK.


Openness and accountability are essential aspects of the role of the police in a democratic society. When highly controversial issues like these arise, the police must be prepared to respond to public concerns if they want to retain the confidence of the citizens. It is evident that public confidence and trust with the police will increase with a police service that immediately investigates controversial incidents and make the result known, warts and all, as soon as possible.

One of the most elementary requirements for public confidence in the police service is a trust in the fact, that members of the service will be accountable should they mistreat citizens or their public responsibility. That trust is absent with certain parts of the population – particularly among the marginalized and the deprived, which also tend to be among those with the most frequent contact to the police. It should also be self-evident that a prerequisite to convincing the general public that the police service is dedicated to upholding and protecting human rights, is a confidence in the fact that members of the service will not abuse their rights. And the best way of generating that confidence is to convince people that in case of grievances, there is a speedy, effective and independent mechanism for getting it remedied.

DOESN’T CONCERN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS HINDER EFFECTIVE POLICE WORK.

Most people have heard the argument that respect for human rights is somehow opposed to effective law enforcement. And effective law enforcement means to capture the criminal. And to secure his conviction, it is necessary to “bend the rules” a little. A tendency to use overwhelming force in controlling demonstrations, physical pressure to extract information from detainees, or excessive force to secure an arrest can be observed now and then. In this way of thinking, law enforcement is a war against crime, and human rights are merely obstacles thrown in the path of the police by lawyers and NGOs.

In fact, violations of human rights by police only make the already challenging task of law enforcement more difficult. When the law enforcer becomes the lawbreaker, the result is an assault on human dignity, on the law itself and on all institutions of public authority. The effects of police human rights violations are multi-fold :-

They erode public confidence
They hamper effective prosecutions in court
They isolate the police from the community
They result in the guilty avoiding sentence, and the innocent being punished
They force police agencies to be reactive, rather than preventive in their approach to crime
They bring agents and institutions of public authority into disrepute
They exacerbate civil unrest

HOW CAN RESPECTING HUMAN RIGHTS HELP THE POLICE.
Respect for human rights by law enforcement agencies actually enhances the effectiveness of those agencies. Where human rights are systematically respected, police officers have developed professionalism in their approaches to solving and preventing crime and maintaining public order. In this sense, respect for human rights by police is, in addition to being a moral, legal and ethical imperative, also a practical requirement for law enforcement. When the police are seen to respect, uphold and defend human rights :-

Public confidence is built and community cooperation fostered
Legal prosecutions are successful in court
Police are seen as part of the community, performing a valuable social function
The fair administration of justice is served, and, consequently, confidence in the system
An example is set for respect for the law by others in the society
Police are able to be closer to the community, and, therefore, in a position to prevent and solve crimes through proactive policing
Support is elicited from the media, from the international community, and from higher authorities
A contribution is made to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and complaints

AN EFFECTIVE POLICE SERVICE IS ONE THAT SERVES AS THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE IN THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. ITS MEMBERS SHOULD CARRY OUT THEIR WORK IN A WAY, WHICH DOES NOT RELY UPON FEAR AND RAW POWER BUT ON THE CONTRARY ON THE REGARD FOR THE LAW, HONOUR OF THE CITIZENS AND PROFESSIONALISM.

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