Getting Law Enforcement Officers to Respect Human Rights

What are some of the practical ways in which we can get law enforcement officers to respect human rights? That question was posed recently, in a human rights seminar I attended. The question was only dealt with briefly, before the seminar organizers moved onto other matters. But it got me thinking. I have subsequently come to the conclusion that there are three main ways in which we can get law enforcement officers to respect human rights:

  1. Proper recruitment: we need to ensure that only truly decent people are recruited to work in law enforcement. These should be the sorts of people who won’t be inclined to abuse their power. We therefore need to carry out proper background checks, alongside aptitude and psychometric tests, to ensure that only the best people are recruited to work in law enforcement. We see private companies paying a lot of attention to recruitment. Take a company like UPS, for instance. You realize  that before you are allowed to sign in at the login screen, you will have been thoroughly evaluated.  That is, before being hired by UPS, and therefore being allocated an account at, you are bound to have been thoroughly checked. And that applies, even if you were only applying for a clerical position. If a company like UPS is so serious and thorough about its recruitment, how much more attention should law enforcement agencies pay to recruitment matters? Yet some law enforcement agencies take it so lightly that the wrong people find their way in.
  2. Proper training: having recruited decent people – that is, people who are unlikely to abuse their law enforcement powers – we need to ensure that they are given proper training. The training should be aimed at getting them to be able to enforce the law fully, whilst also respecting human rights fully. That is a delicate balance for sure, but it can be achieved through proper training.
  3. Proper operational monitoring: the law enforcement officers need to be made aware of the fact that they would always be under surveillance in their operations. That is, surveillance to ensure that they don’t abuse the rights of the people they are meant to serve. They can even be made to wear body cameras, to enhance operational accountability.

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