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Police Accountability: Current Issues and Research Needs

NCJ Number
Samuel Walker
Date Published
November 2006
36 pages
This paper examines the social science literature on police accountability procedures related to the conduct of individual officers and whether there is reliable evidence that accountability procedures are effective.
Accountability is a vital element of American policing. Both individual officers and law enforcement agencies should be held to account for their actions. Effective accountability procedures are essential if the police are to achieve their goals of lawfulness and legitimacy. Holding individual police officers accountable for their conduct is an essential element of policing. It is both directly and indirectly related to achieving the basic goals of policing: reducing crime and disorder, enhancing the quality of neighborhood life, and providing fair, respectful, and equal treatment for all people. The state of our knowledge about both traditional and new accountability mechanisms is very limited. In many instances, basic descriptive data on current practices are not found. With respect to effectiveness, in only a few instances does the existing literature meet the standards of evidence-based policymaking. The research needs identified, which are enormous, have direct implications for police policy. This paper conducts a literature review on police accountability and examines a select set of accountability procedures. References