Models of police oversight: What about public trust?

Dr Emma Ryan1
1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia

This paper traces a well-trodden path in examining effective approaches to the oversight of police in Australia. It summarises the spectrum of possibilities in this domain and closely examines three key models of structurally organised oversight, categorised as ‘independent’, ‘external’ and ‘internal’. Using both historical and recent events in Victoria as a case study, it argues that legislated police oversight models currently used across Australia reflect a profound misunderstanding of the central role played by public trust in the exercise of policing. Although volumes of evidence testify to the fact that a relying on police to investigate and respond to the majority of complaints against members is both ineffective and potentially counterproductive, ‘external’ oversight bodies (which are all state-based in Australia) continue to adopt this approach. Under this model all but the most serious misconduct matters, and therefore those that attract the least attention of senior police, are ‘referred’ back for ‘internal’ review within the relevant policing agency. Although significant problems with this approach have been identified in academic literature and government reports nationally and internationally, the model persists. In examining the survival of this flawed approach, questions around transparency, funding and gendered modes of ‘doing oversight’ are explored in this discussion. Ultimately, the paper seeks to add to the cacophony of voices currently restating the importance of publicly-funded, functionally independent oversight bodies for 21st century Australian policing agencies.


Emma is a lecturer in criminology at Deakin University where she is the current Course Director of the Bachelor of Criminology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She has taught criminology in several Victorian universities and spent three years working in the Victorian public sector in the area of police oversight. Her doctoral research examined the introduction of conducted energy weapons into Australian policing and she has a long-standing interest in police accountability, especially for their use of force.


Policing in a changing Vietnam: A Southern Policing perspective

Melissa Jardine1
1UNSW Law, Kensington, Australia

Vietnam is a one-party state with police required to pledge loyalty to the Vietnamese Communist Party. The police emerged during a time of political instability in a war against colonialism and for national independence which has imbued the force with particular dramaturgical presentations. In the last 30 years, Vietnam has undergone rapid economic and social change and new challenges confront the police amid increasing prosperity. The unique experiences of Vietnamese police are worthy of investigation and were the subject of this ethnographic project with fieldwork undertaken over a six-month period in 2016. The theoretical framework seeks to address weaknesses in current theorising of policing. Knowledge about policing has been produced and disseminated unevenly so that our understanding comes from a skewed emphasis on the Western experience. In developing a framework for a Southern Policing perspective, I propose an extension of the interactive model of police culture and practice developed by Chan (1997; Chan et al. 2003) which draws on Bourdieu’s (1990) conceptualisations of field and habitus as a relational dynamic. The framework is useful because it provides flexibility for explaining police practices in both Northern and Southern contexts. It can also account for differences in cultural knowledge and institutionalised practices. It pays attention to variations in the field, including the historical relations of a particular place, its political system, broad societal culture, legal frameworks, organisations, relations between police and the community, and gender as a social institution. A Southern Policing perspective also recognises that capital comes in forms which may depart from those identified in previous studies. If we understand police culture to be fluid because officers have agency to pursue different forms of capital, it is important to recognise that societies may weigh various forms of capital differently leading to different manifestations of police culture. These elements are explored in the context of policing in a changing Vietnam.

Melissa Jardine is a Director for the Global Law Enforcement & Public Health Association, and, Gender Advisor & Communications Manager for the Centre for Law Enforcement & Public Health. She has a long term interest in the development of policing and security in Asia and has written and delivered a range of international police training packages regarding harm reduction approaches to drug use and sex work, and police-public health leadership, including for UNODC. Melissa was a Victoria Police officer for 10 years. Her PhD research adopts a Southern Policing perspective to examine the nature of policing and police culture in Vietnam. In 2017, Melissa was named an Asia 21 Young Leader by the Asia Society.

Police Violence and Police Complaints: Independence, Integrity and Individual Justice

Clare Torrible1
1University Of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

This paper explores the impact of recent reforms to the police complaints process in England and Wales on the ability of victims of police violence to achieve justice. The paper focuses on three areas: the jurisdictional boundaries between force professional standards departments and the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC); the new role within the police complaints process for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs); and the potential for victims of police violence to achieve a voice through the proposed super-complaints procedures. The analysis adopts Valverde’s suggested framework for research in securities thus focusing on the rationalities, the scope and the techniques of governance that the police complaints system broadly conceived (to include the IOPC, PCCs and the bodies designated to make super-complaints) now comprises. This examination scrutinises the different ways in which the notion of ‘independence’ is used in relation to these external bodies and probes the implications of the increased emphasis on the promotion of police integrity as an aim of the police complaints process. How each of the bodies responds to complaints and the scope of the procedures they adopt in terms of the temporal and spatial scale at which they operate is also addressed. The paper argues that complainants are now perceived primarily as sources of collective data upon which systemic improvements to policing services may be based (or claims to a commitment to such improvements may be founded) and that consequently, within the police complaints system, justice is conceived predominantly in these structural terms.

Clare qualified as a solicitor in 1998 and was in legal practice for many years acting as a Crown Prosecutor and as a senior solicitor within a Police Authority. She returned to academic study in 2012 where her interest lies in police regulation. Clare sits on the IOPC’s External Stakeholders Group and has published papers on both police legitimacy and police professionalism. She recently submitted her doctoral thesis which focuses on the interaction between the police complaints process and the use of civil actions against the police.

Policing and resilience: A comparative assessment of police organisations’ histories and futures

Tariro Mutongwizo1
1University of New South Wales, Kingsford, Australia

The development of police organisations from the very first Peelite framework has seen vast advancements globally. The debate on the implanting of policing structures through colonialism endures. Arguments have been put forward to examine the suitability of the colonial police on former colonies and the extent to which modelling modern police services on these is appropriate. This paper is more interested in comparing in which ways the current police in former colonies have advanced and how this affects each police organisation’s capacity to work with communities to build resilience. Case studies of the police in sites in Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be explored. The research deliberately compares disparate former colonies in order to assess the current practices of these police services, bearing differences in mind. The research is also interested in noting the directions taken within police organisations. While practices rooted in colonial organisation are observed in some instances, it is evident that each country has taken strides in new forms of police organisation and governance. The importance of the research lies in understanding the variances between these police organisations and the ways in which they each collaborate with local communities under diverse state influences.

Dr Tariro Mutongwizo is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Law. Tariro holds a PhD in Criminology from the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include multidisciplinary approaches to exploring non-state governance of security, the governance of contested spaces and the security of vulnerable and marginalized groups.  She has published on the intersection between state and non-state actors in the governance of security in Africa.


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