Ombudsman, Europe’s poorest police watchdog, according to a study – Liberation

An unprecedented international comparison of police ethics watchdogs in nearly two dozen countries concludes that France’s independent constitutional body is the least resourced and staffed.

The study is a new touchstone in the debate over the control of disciplinary forces in France. CNRS research director Sebastien Roche, political science doctor Simon Varaine and research engineer Noëlle Castagné publish a paper comparing “police control agencies” (ACPs) in twenty countries, Europe and Quebec. Conclusion: The French Legal Defender (DDD) is one of the most independent. However, it is also the least secure in terms of personnel and resources relative to the number of police and gendarmes it oversees.

There are police control bodies “authorities outside the police and established by political authorities to monitor compliance with human rights and police ethics”, defines the study. Thus, the IGPN is not included in the observed coverage because it is an internal, not an external, oversight body of the national police (the same goes for the gendarmerie’s IGGN). France is therefore the ACP Defender of Rights, an independent body entrusted with the enforcement of the Constitution. “respect for rights and freedoms”. As such, it has broad prerogatives as it protects users of all public services and fights against discrimination in general. And it is his responsibility to provide “Respect for the ethics of security professionals”. In this aspect, the Ombudsman can conduct an investigation (based on a complaint or on his own initiative) and make recommendations.

“The UN, the Council of Europe, constitutional states… all see police oversight agencies as the ‘best’ solution to protect citizens’ rights against police violence.explains study co-author Sebastian Roche Let it go. It’s a standard that took time to build, but is now shared: effective oversight is impartial, and impartial oversight can only be done by an independent body.

His work with Varaine and Castagné was supported by Ipcan (Independent Police Oversight Authorities Network) and funded by the Human Rights Defender, a member of this network. However, none of this is related to the results obtained. A total of 25 agencies were observed in 20 European countries (plus Quebec). The idea is to focus on three areas: formal independence of agencies, powers and means.

Each police control body took the same form by dividing the different indicators point by point. “This allows so-called portable measurements, Sebastian Roche explains. For example, with regard to independence, we are particularly interested in the appointment of the head of the agency, and we ask a number of questions: can he be a former police officer? A former ministry official with authority over the police? How long is his term of office? Can it be withdrawn? By whom?” short, “This is not an opinion poll” says research director.

“This study is very important because it is the first to attempt to establish objective benchmarks for the knowledge and comparison of foreign security forces in Europe. Welcomes Claire Hedon, Defender of Rights Let it go. A comparative approach has the advantage of putting national institutional action in perspective in relation to each other without any political or partisan considerations.

“Independents with poor resources”

What are the results of this unprecedented work? Compared to other police oversight agencies, the French Ombudsman has a fairly high degree of formal independence. However, Roche, Varaine and Castagné note: “The more autonomy an agency is given, the fewer resources it gets.” So this typology: “Governments […] creating either agencies that meet most independence standards but have limited resources to carry out their mission (independent-resource-poor) or agencies that have significant resources but retain high leverage (poor independent-resource-rich). “

Defender of Rights to the first category, ie “regardless of resources”. No matter how independent he is “It has the lowest allocation for a police officer to be checked in Europe.” Means are estimated based on the number of full-time equivalent positions allocated by agencies to policing relative to the number of staff managed by researchers. While the best-equipped ACP is Northern Ireland, with 22 staff per 1,000 police, the French Ombudsman has just 0.05 staff per 1,000 officers. “this makes it the least ACP in terms of human resources”, we read from the pen of the authors. Only above are their counterparts in the German state of Baden-Württemberg (0.06 employees per thousand policemen) and Serbia (0.07 employees per thousand policemen).

In addition, “The study shows that the French Ombudsman is the least funded institution in terms of the number of police forces covered. Thus, the French government allocated funds 400 times less than Northern Ireland, and 150 times less than England and Wales. The authors note that in general, the wealthier a country is, the more its government spends on a police watchdog agency. In this regard, France is an exception because it “It is more prosperous than the countries of Southern Europe or Central Europe, but it has very limited resources of the ACP.”

This work for Sebastian Roche “An Inquiry into the Political Underpinnings of Police Control.” Human Rights Defender Claire Hedon concludes: “This comparison can lead us to reforms to improve. Above all, we have new elements in this study that will allow us to make recommendations to our respective national authorities to always contribute to the improvement of police-population relations. It remains to be seen whether the national authorities will take up the issue.

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