Police misconduct: accountability of internal investigations

Terry Lamboo (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Den Haag, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 5 October 2010

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of an analysis of official data on police misconduct, providing new insights into the nature and extent of police misconduct and in the official response to police misconduct. Next to the use of force and neglect of duty, private time misconduct is a major type of (alleged) misconduct although it is often discarded from theoretical conceptions of police misconduct. The analysis also showed that two‐thirds of internal investigations are the result of an internal report. This paper shows that official data on police misconduct can result in new insights in the nature and extent of police misconduct and is therefore a relevant source for academic analysis.

Design/methodology/approach

An analysis of official data on police misconduct is compared with theoretical notions of police misconduct, internal investigations and reliability of official data.

Findings

The implementation of a uniform Registration of Internal Investigations for all Dutch police forces has resulted in a clear increase in the number of registered investigations. This seems to be due to a combination of increased strictness on (alleged) misconduct and an improved quality of the registration. The analysis also showed that two‐thirds of the investigations are the result of an internal report. This places a new perspective on the so‐called code of silence among police officers. However, information on the extent and nature of complaints that are dealt with through the complaints procedure is lacking. The complaints procedure has also no formal relation with the disciplinary or criminal procedures.

Research limitations/implications

Official data on police misconduct have to be viewed with a critical eye. The analyses showed however that the Dutch data seem fairly reliable. Additional research should place the official data in further perspective, e.g. through case studies and through a control of the registration with the files of the Bureaux of Internal Investigations. Finally, a comparison with official data in other countries is needed.

Practical implications

The Dutch police should improve its complaints procedures and the complaints registration.

Originality/value

Academic analysis of police misconduct is often limited to case studies of scandals or focuses on citizen complaints. The paper gives a broader perspective by using official data.

Keywords

Citation

Lamboo, T. (2010), "Police misconduct: accountability of internal investigations", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 23 No. 7, pp. 613-631. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513551011078888

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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