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Policing Human Rights: The Quintessential Paradox

NCJ Number
Robert J. McCormack
Date Published
April 2000
20 pages
This paper presents arguments about the paradoxical nature of policing in terms of human rights issues.
The author explains that the nature of policing is paradoxical; on the one hand policing can bring peace and protection, on the other hand policing can be brutal and corrupt. The United Nations has long recognized this paradox and has taken measures to ensure that policing upholds human and civil rights. The universal "Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials" was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 and requires that officers respect and protect human dignity. Despite this official code of conduct, human rights violations at the hands of law enforcement officers around the world abound. The author notes that the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) has recently documented violations of human rights occurring in China, Iran, Cuba, Israel-Occupied Territories, and Iraq. Even in the United States, police departments are being brought up on charges of human rights violations. The author describes how in June of 1996, Amnesty International issued a report entitled, "United States of America, Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York Police Department." The report contains allegations and statistical evidence of ill-treatment, deaths, brutality, and shootings within the department. In another report on police brutality, the Human Rights Watch documented cases of police brutality in 14 large cities in the United States during the period 1995 to 1998. Among the incidents reported in this document are cases of sexual assaults by police officers, severe beatings, and unjustified police shootings. In conclusion, the author notes that policing has become a global dilemma as the profession has changed in recent years, carrying serious consequences for human rights. Governments and human rights organizations should work to control breaches of human dignity and rights. Bibliography