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Restorative Processes and Police Complaints

Police complaints boards are using restorative processes to resolve community complaints against officers.

Young, Richard and Cooper, Karen and Hill, Roderick and Hoyle, Carolyn. Informal Resolution of Complaints Against the Police: A Quasi-Experimental Test of Restorative Justice
In many jurisdictions it is increasingly recognized that police complaints systems should contain a mixture of formal and less formal procedures, as well as allow for a variety of outcomes including remedial and punitive ones. Recent changes to the system for handling complaints against the police in England and Wales envisage an expanded role for local (informal) resolution, with a new range of options including restorative justice conferences. Yet little is known about whether complainants would welcome the option of a restorative justice conference or whether restorative processes would constitute an improvement on conventional practices. This article presents the results of a Nuffield Foundation funded study of these issues carried out in 2002–3 in two police force areas. The findings suggest that restorative processes can achieve moderately better results than conventional processes. While widespread implementation of this new approach is likely to prove problematic for many police services, a flexible approach to introducing changes, drawing on the experience of restorative practitioners in related areas, is likely to benefit complainants without creating dissatisfaction among police officers. (authors' abstract)
Blackler, John and Miller, Seumas. Ethical Issues in Policing
This book, as Seumas Miller and John Blackler state at the outset, is a contribution to the literature on police ethics. They write from the perspective of applied philosophy. Miller is a professional philosopher. Blackler was for a long time an officer in the New South Wales (Australia) Police Service. As such, they hope to bring to their subject a unique and integrated mix of ethico-philosophical analysis and practitioner knowledge and experience. Their fundamental point in the book is this: the central and most important purpose of the institution of the police is the protection of moral rights. In substantiating and elaborating this point, they concentrate on a normative account of the institution of the police. That is, they do not attempt to provide a descriptive account of what the police have actually done or really do on a day to day basis. They want to detail what policing ought to be about in essential orientation and practice. Likewise, they do not seek a theory about police methods or strategies – that is, best practice in policing. They focus, rather, on what they conceive to be the proper ends and distinctive means of the police as an institution. In this framework, they examine the following topics: a theory of policing based on the enforcement of moral rights; authority and discretion in policing; the moral justification for the use of deadly force in policing; privacy, confidentiality, and security in policing; corruption and anti-corruption in policing; and restorative justice in policing. In their chapter on restorative justice and policing, they note that imprisonment is one of the most obvious harmful methods employed by police. To the extent that restorative justice is seen, at least in part, as a response to the perceived failure of imprisonment to effect positive change in offenders, Miller and Blackler construe restorative justice in policing as an attempt to redress the imbalance that occurs when the moral rights of victims are harmed by offenders.
May, Tiggey and Warburton, Hamish and Hough, Mike. Opposite Sides of the Same Coin: Police Perspectives on Informally Resolved Complaints. A report for the Police Foundation
This report presents findings from the first phase of a research project examining the informal resolution (IR) of police complaints. It documents current administrative practices and procedures, largely from the perspective of those involved in the implementation of IR. It also assesses the views and perceptions of operational police officers. There is clear variation in the use of IR across force areas. Those responsible for implementing IR tend to regard it as a useful management tool and an effective mechanism for dealing with minor police complaints. However, police officers exposed to the procedure often feel powerless in the process and think that it provides little by way of fairness or justice. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which replaces the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) in April 2004, intends to strengthen and, where appropriate, expand the use of IR. The authors provide a number of suggestions and recommendations to help the IPCC achieve these aims. Authors' abstract.
Todd, Scott. Factors influencing police officers' decisions to participate in the mediation of citizen complaints.
The use of mediation to resolve citizen complaints against police has not gained much acceptance within law enforcement. This research was conducted within the Calgary Police Service and was designed to uncover some factors that influence a police officer’s decision to participate in the Citizen Complaints Mediation Program. A Likert-style survey was used to evaluate the respondents’ opinions of the Calgary Police Service Citizen Complaint Mediation Program. The survey questions focused on four main categories including knowledge of the complaint mediation program, support of alternative dispute resolution programs, willingness to participate in the mediation program, and perceived fairness of treatment should they participate in the mediation program. Results were examined based on gender, years of service, education, previous dispute resolution training, and previous complaints. Research findings indicated little variation in the support of the Citizen Complaint Mediation Program based on these factors.(author's abstract)
Herbst, Leigh and Archbold, Carol and Walker, Samuel. Mediating Citizen Complaints Against Police Officers: A Guide for Police and Community Leaders
The first chapter defines mediation as "the informal resolution of a complaint or dispute between two parties through a face-to-face meeting in which a professional mediator serves as a neutral facilitator and where both parties ultimately agree that an acceptable resolution has been reached." The goals of mediation are to achieve understanding of the issues involved in the complaint, solve any problems associated with the complaint, and achieve reconciliation between the parties. The second chapter outlines the potential benefits of mediation for police officers, citizen complainants, police accountability, community policing, the complaint process, and the criminal justice system. The third chapter discusses the key issues in developing a mediation program for citizen complaints against police. Among the issues addressed are voluntary participation, case eligibility, the mediation of racial and ethnic-related complaints, the mediation of complaints by women, potential language and cultural barriers, case screening, police discipline and accountability, and getting both sides to the table. Other issues addressed pertain to the mediation session itself and the enforcement of agreements. Chapter four presents results from a survey of existing citizen complaint mediation programs. The concluding chapter describes a model for a successful mediation program for citizen complaints against police. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.
DeLong, Lisa M.. Transforming Police-Community Relations: The Application of Restorative Justice Principles to Public Complaints Against the Halifax Regional Police.
This thesis aims to respond to the question raised by a recent Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry: could restorative justice offer more comprehensive and responsive outcomes than the present public complaints process of the Halifax Regional Police? As community policing theories have noted, the police and their communities are in a sensitive and important relationship. This relationship can be deeply harmed by police wrongdoing. Restorative justice, understood as a theory of justice which aims to restore relationships, could enable an exploration of contextual and systemic issues underlying allegations of police wrongdoing, and could address the associated relational breakdown between the police and the public. Drawing upon the comprehensive Nova Scotia restorative justice program model, this thesis identifies opportunities and limitations within, and proposes modifications to, present frameworks for complaints against the Halifax Regional Police to allow for restorative justice processes- restoring relationships damaged by police wrongdoing. author's abstract).
Kawucha, Soraya K. and Taylor, Robert W. and Boyd, Lorenzo M. and Liederbach, John. Is It an Inside Job? An Examination of Internal Affairs Complaint Investigation Files and the Production of Nonsustained Findings.
Data concerning the internal investigation of complaints against police have rarely been available to researchers. The present study uses information derived through an examination of Internal Affairs complaint investigation files obtained from a large Midwestern police agency in order to examine issues related to the processing of complaints against the police. The article includes an overview of existing literature concerning citizen complaints and internal complaint review structures. Data are presented concerning complainants and accused officers, investigative findings, and the factors cited by investigators in order to justify their findings. Issues regarding the interpretation of sustain rates for citizen complaints are discussed, as well as suggested improvements for the internal review of complaints against the police. (author's abstract)
Eastwood, Philip J.. Will Restorative Justice Work in Municipal Police Complaints Resolutions in British Columbia?
The landscape of British Columbia’s municipal policing began to change the moment that The Honorable Mr. Justice Wallace Oppal’s report Closing the Gap was published in 1994. The report produced over 300 recommendations for police service delivery, many focusing on finding more effective methods for resolving citizen’s complaints. This research project examined the informal resolution of citizen’s complaints and whether the philosophy of restorative justice could be utilized. The literature review examined police accountability, police culture, informal resolutions and restorative justice. The action research aspects included a focus group of complaint investigators together with a questionnaire. Six interviews were then conducted with individuals significantly connected to the police complaint system. The data gathered was analysed, themed, and conclusions drawn. Seven recommendations were made focusing on improving the informal resolution of citizen’s complaints together with a further examination of the value of introducing mediation and restorative conferencing within the resolution process.
Dobry, Josephine. Restorative justice and police complaints: A Report by the Independent Police Complaints Authority
The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is the independent body that oversees complaints against serving police officers in England and Wales. In this report for the PCA, Josephine Dobry examines prospects for the application of restorative justice principles and processes to the handling of complaints against police. In other words, if restorative justice can be used in the criminal justice system to respond to offenses, can it be used when offenses are committed by the police? To answer, Dobry explains the principles and practices of restorative justice; applies them to the police complaints process; details the use of restorative justice for police complaints in New South Wales and the Thames Valley Police; and surveys various alternative means of dealing with police complaints in other police forces in England and Wales.
Barnes, Michael and Ede, Andrew. Making the Response Fit the Complaint: Alternative Strategies for Resolving Complaints Against Police
Today, the Queensland police in Australia are searching for alternative strategies in resolving complaints against police by moving away from the traditional investigative approach to more strategic and innovative approaches. This article presents a description of four different response options or methods; investigation, mediation, informal, and managerial. Investigation involves the systematic gathering of evidence to verify an accusation made against someone or to identify the person responsible for an offense. Mediation or conferencing is an alternative method of dispute resolution that involves trained neutral mediators. Informal resolution or conciliation is a process where an authorized member attempts to resolve a complaint made against a police officer informally. Managerial resolution encourages and empowers managers and supervisors to deal with complainants’ concerns relating to an officer’s competence or conduct through remedial strategies such as guidance, coaching, or specialized training. Findings are presented on these methods advantages and disadvantages through the use of surveys of police and complainants. The findings indicated that informal resolution was much less time-consuming and much less expensive than formal investigation. An outline is presented on the guideline requirements when matching responses to complaints that include: (1) how serious is the complaint; (2) what is the complainant’s objective; (3) what is the subject officer’s complaints history; and (4) what is the subject officer’s version of events? The article stimulates discussion on how to improve selection decisions for the most effective resolution process for any given circumstance.
Johansen, Anja and McLaughlin, Eugene. A Force For Change? The Prospects for Applying Restorative Justice to Citizen Complaints against the Police in England and Wales
The rise of the victim support movement and the emergence of restorative justice practices have established ‘the victim’ as central to debate on criminal justice policy in the United Kingdom. However, victims of police misconduct have to date remained largely invisible within this debate. The aggrieved citizen is not allocated the morally validated status of ‘victim’ but the highly problematic status of ‘complainant’. As a result, the police complaints system concentrates its efforts on interrogating her or his motives and complaints tend to be rendered unconvincing by the system. In many respects, the system acts to discipline or punish those citizens who have the temerity to lodge a complaint against police officers. It is now proposed, in the context of broader reforms, that the application of restorative justice principles will overcome the core problems associated with the police complaints system.
Pollard, Charles.. Restorative Justice and Police Complaints
Pollard, chief constable in the Thames Valley Police (United Kingdom), points to the extensive use of restorative justice principles and practices in policing in the Thames Valley. At the same time, he notes the need to introduce such principles and practices into the police handling of complaints against officers (whether the complaints come from within the force or from citizens who have had encounters with officers). He therefore proposes ways to make restorative justice the approach for dealing with complaints against police.
Introducing Restorative Justice to the Police Complaints System: Close Encounters of the Rare Kind.
Researchers at the Centre for Criminological Research at the University of Oxford have recently completed some research into applying Restorative Justice to the Police Complaints system in a UK police force. The report was written by By Roderick Hill, Karen Cooper, Carolyn Hoyle and Richard Young. Below is a brief description of the report.

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