Who Polices the Police?
The events of 2020—from the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, to the systemic torture of protesters in Belarus, to the deaths of individuals detained during lockdowns in India and Kenya—provide stark reminders that the state’s use of force, if left unchecked, can easily turn to brutality. While governments rely on police and other law enforcement agents to maintain order and investigate crimes, the question of who will investigate crimes allegedly committed by the police themselves remains a critical human rights issue.
Who Polices the Police? The Role of Independent Agencies in Criminal Investigations of State Agents explores the efforts of 15 independent investigative agencies and prosecutorial departments in South and North America, Africa, and Eastern and Western Europe to investigate and prosecute crimes including death, serious injury, torture, sexual assault, and enforced disappearances allegedly committed by police. The publication includes recommendations for improving the independence, efficacy, and transparency of these kinds of departments and agencies.
In this conversation, Wamaitha Kimani, Pedro Abramovay, and Yuriy Bielousov offer insight from their regions on successes and challenges in investigating police crimes, and particularly about the roles of victims, state agencies, and NGOs in gaining accountability for these crimes. Ian Scott, co-author of Who Polices the Police? shares insights from his own practice and from the global study, and co-author Masha Lisitsyna moderated the discussion.
Pedro Abramovay is vice president of Programs at the Open Society Foundations.
Yuriy Bielousov is head of department in the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
Wamaitha Kimani is a lawyer with International Justice Mission in Kenya.
Masha Lisitsyna, senior managing legal officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, is co-author of Who Polices the Police?
Ian Scott, a lawyer from Ontario and former director of the province's Special Investigations Unit, is co-author of Who Polices the Police?
Making the Truth Visible
Q&A: Bearing Witness to Broken Policing
By supporting grassroots activists who are using video to shine a light on police violence, the nonprofit group WITNESS is empowering the movement for racial justice and greater accountability.
Q&A: How One Colombian City Is Tackling Violent Crime
Palmira, Colombia, is one of the most violent cities in the world. But a prevention program focusing on youth has reduced crime significantly—and earned it an international peace prize. The city’s mayor on what’s working.
Lani Guinier’s Overlooked Education Legacy
The late Lani Guinier thought deeply about the intersection between education and criminal justice. Her leadership at Open Society helped pave the way to colleges across the country offering higher education to the incarcerated.