The rule of law in any society is vital to promote democratic practices. Police accountability is one such aspect of the rule of law when those equipped with weapons are brought to justice for their malpractices.
The lack of police accountability is empowering police to a dangerous extent, allowing them to use brutal force against civilians.
The George Floyd case is a pertinent example in this regard, where police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted after more than one year despite the case being high profile.
The problem is some of the cases go viral; others get buried under the burden of red tape.
This empowers police even further to put the lives of civilians, and particularly African Americans, at risk.
The subsequent events of the killing of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Daunte Wright are examples of misery, depicting the lack of accountability practices in US policing.
According to a recent study, the number of Black people killed by the police has been increasing.
Had it been about better accountability, this report would not have emphasized increasing police brutality against civilians.
Almost 402 Americans have been killed by the police through mid-2021.
Every third person killed by the police shooting in 2021 is an African American.
Many times, police showed brutality despite civilians being unarmed in the encounters.
Police Accountability: Red Tape is Hindering the Process:
The process from the start of investigating a police officer up to convicting him of a crime takes a long time and is filled with severe complications.
The accountability process is one of the poorest in the developed world.
In cases with a lack of proof against police officers of illegal killing, first of all, the local police department establishes a committee of police officers that initiates an investigation of the incident.
At this point, it is possible that investigators may influence the case for face-saving the police.
The red tape lingers on the process for a fair amount of time. For instance, in the case of George Floyd’s murder, the conviction of officer Derek Chauvin took more than a year, where a team of lawyers tried to save him for personal interests, despite the clarity of evidence present.
The need of the hour is to increase the pace of the justice system to teach the troubling police officers a lesson.
US Accountability: Not as Effective as Other Countries
The judiciary system in third-world countries isn’t satisfying, unarguably.
A recent study published on the accountability and civil justice systems in the United States and Europe reveals the plethora of improvements needed in the criminal justice system of the USA.
For example, currently, there are more than 38000 under-trial cases in the US courts, whereas in England and Wales, Norway and Switzerland, the court backlog is under 3000.
Moreover, just like military courts, many European countries are setting up separate courts for law enforcement agencies, especially for the police department.
The responsibility of these courts is to take action against corruption and illegal use of power by police and paramilitary forces without any delay and political influence.
Promoting Police Accountability: An Issue of Utmost Importance:
“The Essence of Innocence,” a report providing shreds of evidence about the perception of the majority of police officers, suggests that Black people are inherently more violent than other ethnic groups in the United States.
In this report, Prof Carmen Marie says that due to the Black color, considerably bigger body, and different appearance, police officers treat them unfairly.
However, this is a long-forgotten theory of criminology which the police officers in the United States are embracing in the 21st century.
This theory, also known as anthropological criminology, is not being entertained in modern-day criminology.
So, a lack of police accountability is urging police officers to stick with the long-forgotten beliefs.
The following recommendations by the Department of Justice to mend the relationship between police and minorities can be a deal-breaker in most of the scenarios and can result in better police accountability.
Community-based Accountability: Using Civilians to Fix Police
First, the concerned authorities should establish a police review commission, having the mandate to hold monthly meetings open to the public, where the public could present their opinions freely about needed police improvements.
It will help the government to reach the genesis of police violence against Americans.
Then the commission should represent these recommendations to the higher authorities, which could take effective actions regarding better police accountability and police training.
Political Accountability: On Solution of Thousand Problems
Apart from community accountability, the political accountability of police is also a crucial part of the accountability framework. In fact, legislation is the first step to fix policing.
The government needs to be proactive to curb policing threats instead of engaging once the civilians are murdered. This is one of the keys to improving the structure and behavior of the police department.
The government should increase reporting, internal reviews, and checking of the police structure both on a national and local level.
Biden can sign some of the executive orders immediately to put an end to this menace.
These measures can pressure the higher authorities of the police department to adopt best practices and increase police accountability.
Currently, criminal lawsuits are responsible for police accountability, which is pursued by the criminal justice system.
Through criminal lawsuits, state prosecutors hold the law enforcement agencies accountable under the state ordinance.
These prosecutors could delay the police accountability process for their vested interests in policing.
Therefore, it has become a common practice in many states of America that the police officers who have been charged with killing unarmed individuals face delays in conviction.
In order to change this culture, the need is to introduce independent prosecutors who can work in the office of State Attorney Generals.