Balancing Citizen Oversight with Procedural Justice

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Policing is a vital part of any society, but it is also an institution that can be prone to abuses of power. This is why citizen oversight is necessary in order to ensure that the police are accountable to the people they serve. At the same time, it is important to balance this oversight with the principles of procedural justice in order to ensure that the police are able to carry out their duties effectively.

What is citizen oversight?

Citizen oversight can take many forms, from police review boards to civilian complaints commissions. These bodies are tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct and making recommendations for reforms to police practices. Citizen oversight is a critical component of any police accountability framework, as it provides a mechanism for community members to hold the police accountable for their actions.

What is procedural justice?

Procedural justice is the idea that the process by which decisions are made is just as important as the outcome. When the process is perceived as fair and impartial, the parties involved are more likely to accept the decisions made.  In the context of policing, this means that the alleged misbehavior of police must be addressed through procedurally just processes and that they be allowed to carry out their duties in a way that is fair and impartial, without undue interference from external actors. 

A balancing act

For the system to work properly, it is important to balance citizen oversight with the principles of procedural justice. Ways to strike this balance include:

  • Ensure that citizen oversight bodies are composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This can help to ensure that the perspectives of different groups are taken into account when making decisions about police practices.
  • Ensure that the police have clear guidelines and procedures for carrying out their duties. This can help to prevent abuses of power by the police and ensure their actions are in line with the law.

Citizen oversight is necessary to hold the police accountable, but it must be carried out in a way that does not interfere with the ability of the police to carry out their duties effectively. By promoting diversity in citizen oversight bodies and establishing clear guidelines for police conduct, we can strike this balance and ensure that our communities are both safe and just.

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