Protocol for a systematic review of police training interventions to improve the democratic policing of protests

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Lawful and just use of police power is important both for protecting and strengthening democratic norms and in order to protect individuals in the society. The standards of professional conduct in policing are determined in part by the norms of the society. In democracies, policing duties should be performed in ways that sustain democratic values, rather than undermine them (Loader, 2006), however that is not always the reality. This shortfall should actively be addressed by the state through the promotion of ‘democratic policing’. The centrality of the police in everyday life would suggest that police officers are in position of power to actively support or threaten democratic activities (Sklansky, 2008). Democratic policing can be best explained as the norms of policing that citizens in a democracy should expect to experience. This includes four key norms: serving individual citizens and groups (as opposed to authorities); accountability to the law; transparency in activities; and protection of human rights or basic freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and impartiality in the administration of the law (Bayley, 2001). Police officers are present in the deepest sense in ‘democratic spaces’ in which citizens interact with the state; policing of protests provides a clear example of this idea. In these spaces citizens learn about society’s position regarding respect for individual privacy, norms of tolerance versus norms of bias and how dangerous it is for them to challenge the authorities (Sklansky, 2008). Citizens may learn about the validity of basic norms, such as ‘respect the rights of others’, when they are implemented on the ground by police officers (Manning, 2010). This is one of the reasons that most countries want police officers to internalize democratic values and habits (Das & Marenin, 2005). Democratic policing practices are situated at one end of the spectrum of police use of the power mandated to them by the state (Weber, 1946 in Rumbaut & Bittner, 1979). At the other end is police violence, which refers to unacceptable misuse of force. It is important to note that use of force in itself, even lethal force, does not imply unlawfulness; it is the question of “how much force is justified in what situations” that determines the lawfulness of any action (Skolnic & Fyfe, 2005, pg. 576). When considering police use of force there is an implicit assumption that the police use force primarily to protect the public, while protection from the police is more problematic and much less discussed (Manning, 2010). Democratic norms and behaviours consistent with Democratic policing are usually part of the mission statements of police organisations in Western countries. This stance is often cemented in legal frameworks. For example, the UK Human Rights Act of 1998 “requires all public authorities – including the police - to act in a way which is compatible with the individual rights and freedoms contained in the European convention on Human Rights”(Northern Ireland Policing Board, 2005). This does not guarantee that institutions take the appropriate measures to ensure the realisation of this vision. Police organisations and societies have a responsibility to advance democratic policing.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-38
JournalCampbell Systematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016