Training Law Enforcement for Prevention of Ill-Treatment and Torture

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Training Law Enforcement for Prevention of Ill-Treatment and Torture

From November 18 - 24, 2009 we had the unique opportunity to host an the on-line dialogue featuring Training Law Enforcement for Prevention of Ill-Treatment and Torture. The dialogue featured law enforcement professionals, torture prevention organizations and torture treatment and rehabilitation programs from around the world sharing effective ways of bridging the challenges law enforcement face and citizens they serve (click here for more biographical information on these featured resource practitioners). Read the summary of this week-long exchange below.

Image: The image (right) is from the Police Training Tactical Notebook and captures two police officers in Thailand conducting a role-play in front of their colleagues at a Training of Trainers.

Summary of dialogue

Click here to download the 65-page pdf version of this dialogue [1,124KB]

The New Tactics on-line dialogue “Training Law Enforcement for Prevention of Ill-Treatment and Torture” examined the various aspects of training methodologies and its significance to help upgrade and develop law enforcement officer’s capacities to better perform their role in preventing or at least diminishing torture occurrences. The dialogue adopted five main themes that embodied the most relevant issues relating training with both law enforcement and torture prevention, under each theme the dialogue was open for comments from eight featured law enforcement experts and six non-governmental organizations who represent different fields of expertise concerning the issue at hand. It was also open for the New Tactics general community and public interested in the topic to participate with their comments and ask questions about one or more of the themes pursued in the dialogue.

Theme 1: Law Enforcement Training Components:
This major theme area of law enforcement training components was a pressing topic to share questions, ideas, stories and experiences regarding law enforcement training components, such as:  Materials and Knowledge content, Hands-on, Practical content, Rule of Law and Universal Integration. Throughout the dialogue duration these issues were covered:

Theme 2: Accountability and Impact:
In this theme the dialogue explored aspects of accountability and how training can and does impact the official mechanisms of accountability and how law enforcement trainings address the role of official mechanisms of accountability; and the often raised dilemma of “security versus human rights”. In this context there were several inputs regarding the following issues:

Theme 3: Challenges of Access, Credibility, Contradictions and Structures:
In the area of challenges, ideas covered were related to how human rights professionals can gain access to law enforcement structures and trainees and what makes human rights professionals credible in the eyes of law enforcement when they provide training. In that context the following topics were covered:

Theme 4: Concerns of Law Enforcement Officers Themselves:
This theme focused on concerns of law enforcement officers themselves, taking in account their rights, and how are concerns and rights of individual law enforcement officers regarding such areas as pay, time-off, working conditions, equipment, disciplinary actions and grievance procedures, etc., addressed in trainings. The following issues were discussed:

Theme 5:  Stories of Impact and Effectiveness
In this theme the dialogue shared stories, questions, ideas, and experiences regarding impact and effectiveness of human rights training and education initiatives to make a difference and what was useful in helping to identify impact and effectiveness, and mentioning stories of success in preventing ill-treatment and torture. In this respect several ideas were presented:

Useful resource links related to the themes discussed:


In this major theme area of law enforcement training components, please share your questions, ideas, stories and experiences regarding the following areas of law enforcement trainning components:

  • Materials and Knowledge content
    • What are the questions raised and experiences regarding the effectiveness of human rights training content versus professional training content (e.g., how to conduct an interview of a criminal suspect and collect other evidence, etc.)?
    • Legal content - Is it a necessity to have law enforcement officers (LEOs) legally educated? If so, what are good models for framing the legal background of law enforcement officers?
  • Hands-on, Practical content
    • Are there examples that show how training is effective on topics of human rights that combine LEOs with legal practitioners and civil society representatives? 
    • How can hands-on training play a leading role of mutual awareness raising for both LEOs and the community to practically and institutionally understand and respond to the rights-obligation equation for every community member?
  • Rule of Law and Universal Integration
    • What benefits are seen with models providing opportunities for universal integration – exchanges with other professionals from other countries - and developing more professional ties to help law enforcement organizations refrain from human rights abuses?
    • How might methods of isolation (or sanctions) - keeping law enforcement officers and organizations isolated from international attention and connections - help or hinder their ability to address abusive practices within their own communities?


Good investigative technique can reduce human rights violations

One point worth making is that in many cases the community demands timely redress when crime (burglary, assault, etc) occurs. In the absence of timely redress (offenders prosecuted, property returned), it is the community itself that begins to tolerate human rights violations by insisting on swift action. Police officers can sometimes feel under pressure to deliver results quickly, hence - however reluctantly - they may engage in questionable conduct in order to satisfy the community.

If police are trained professionally with good investigative technique, they'll be able to deliver results without having to engage in such conduct.

 Therefore, professional training content forms part of a continuum along with human rights training content; they aren't two totally different entities.


Yes, but not every country is able to provide such training


the police might be trained professionally to get quicker results but not every country is able to provide such efficient training, also it is a matter of tools and equipments , in many countries police have a dire situation and poor conditions of their equipments added to the lack of professional training, here the only way to quicken the results of open crimes could be violent tactics to force confessions... usually this happen in many countries of the world, where the mechanism of law enforcement accountability is relatively weak and biased.

And follow up by police managers!

I totally agree that knowing how to conduct a criminal investigation is
crucial for preventing human rights violations. Yet, it is not
sufficient. Nowadays there is ample information on how to conduct
criminal investigations professionally and in line with human rights
law, and this information is in fact accessible also to countries
facing less resources. Yet too often police, and indeed the public,
prefer the quick route, rather than taking the professional way. The
quick route leads to being able to arrest someone and get him (usually
him, sometimes her) to confess, regardless of whether he or she is
indeed the offender. The professional route is about conducting a
professional criminal investigation that is aiming to reveal the truth,

Yet, all too often the problem seems to be that police do not apply
the skills they have been taught, and supervisors and police managers
don't mind. Indeed, the supervisors themselves frequently urge their
staff to solve the case quickly (more or less 'no matter how'). So, the
problem is not just about training, it's far more about ensuring that
what is trained is indeed applied. And this is primarily a management

Community pressure for justice & an idea for an alternative

The point you've raised here is very important for considering potential alternative avenues for individuals and communities to gain redress. You stated:

ClintonFernandes wrote:

Police officers can sometimes feel under pressure to deliver results quickly, hence - however reluctantly - they may engage in questionable conduct in order to satisfy the community.

There may be many examples around the world of this downward cycle of such community demands for speedy action and justice which in the end, unfortunately results in less justice and increased police practices of brutality to obtain confessions.

This has certainly been a challenge in communities in Nepal. I'd like to share a creative alternative implemented by the Center for Victims of Torture in Nepal (CVICT) which is shared in depth here in on of New Tactics tactical notebooks: Access to Justice: Creating local level, citizen action mediation bodies to ensure human rights.

CVICT implemented a rights-based community mediation system to settle local, non-criminal disputes. This has been a highly innovative prevention tactic to keep people from being beaten or tortured into giving confessions.

These rights-based community mediation bodies provide a powerful additional benefit to the police themselves. It reduces the burdens on police because the community no longer bring many of their non-criminal complaints to the police at all.  Some of the kinds of issues dealt with by the mediation bodies are:
fighting, quarrels and verbal assault, other domestic violence,
property related (partition & rights), marriage and divorce
related, discrimination (gender, caste, etc.). economic transactions,
land/boundary related, etc.

In the districts where the mediation bodies have been instituted, the police themselves have become very supportive of the process. It has provided the police with more time, energy and resources to actually
solve crimes that cannot be handled in the mediation bodies. CVICT took great care to liaise with the police and the judicial system to ensure that disputes that could not be resolved through the community bodies could be officially referred to the police and judicial process for action.

It is important to note that in Nepal, community policing is not part of the police force mandate, so even when police have been successful in resolving cases in this way, it is outside their mandate to do so. Therefore, CVICT tried this alternative.

I would be interested to hear from others regarding:

  • Are you involved in community policing training and implementation methods?
  • Does community policing help answer the community demand and pressure for speedy action and justice - as a preventive measure against police abuses?
  • Are comunity policing methods successful in taking care of many of "lower level"
    kinds of community disputes and tensions before they lead to greater

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Reply relative to community policing

I direct one of the original regional community policing institutes established by the COPS Office (Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, US DOJ) more than a decade ago. In response to your question, I think community policing can provide the means for addressing community demands for speedy action, most directly though educational efforts. Much of COP outreach to communities involves informing them about the limits on what the police can do. Educating the community about due process, human rights, and so forth can reduce some of the pressure the community would otherwise exert. I think it's unncessary to assume that community expectations are fixed. They are dynamic and can be affected by efforts on the part of police.

 As for the success of COP in addressing public order issues, I think the evidence is pretty clear, if for no other reason than that such offenses are not considered appropriate foci of traditional policing (which focuses, instead, almost exclusively on the most serious offenses). These offenses are "legitimate" concerns under COP, but not under other strategies.

Community Policing: the alternate idea to ensure justice

Many thanks to Nancy for sharing CVICT activities and Nepal experience. I have had opportunity to meet and talk with senior police officials of Nepal and visit some field level activities of community policing. One thing I like most in Nepal is there are some committees that have initiated to address community problems in general not particularly focus in community policing. Later at some point they included community people’s security and justice issues and extended their activities in community policing. Though community policing is not part of police force mandate that you have mentioned, but I noticed police always keeps their eyes open to provide assistance to the communities. In some police station they established separate unit to deal family disputes particularly violence against women. 

I’m trying to response the issues that you are interested to listen in Bangladesh perspective.

 Involvement in community policing training: I have been involved in community policing training and implementing methods since last five years.  It was a huge challenge at the beginning to convince police about the training. There are one police academy and seven police training schools in Bangladesh. Academy is for senior police officers, and schools are for junior officers and front line staff. The first reservation from police was we have enough training scopes within our facilities why you are proposing for another training. And secondly, we are doing community policing since a long so this experience is enough to implement the program.  Interestingly those two are not much valid questions. Because community policing issues were not incorporated in regular police training. “Community policing” that police are talking was focused to night patrolling.

Does community policing help to answer community demands:  Shalish, the traditional mechanism of dispute resolution that works as Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), is very popular in my country.  One of the biggest constraints of this process is all the panel members are from influential people of the community. In such cases community policing mechanism has gradually been popular for answering community demands. Regarding preventive measures against police abuses, still this method is not well enough. We have experienced several abuses during the time of caretaker government which was widely discussed at the national level but no ready has found yet.  

Are community policing methods are successful: Answer to this query is “Yes”. The first evidence we found from the record file of respective police station where number of cases that filed before implementation of community policing program has reduced noticeably. Officers also confirm now before register any complain they check if the issue was raised to local community police forum (CPF). Community people of the areas, which are not covered by community policing activities, has realized the benefits and have started to implement this program. 

More thoughts of me will follow later. 





Mir Rakib Ahsan

Senior Program Officer, Rights and Criminal Justice

The Asia Foundation, Bangladesh


community policing training and implementation

Mir Rakib,

Thank you for sharing the experiences of community policing in BanglaDesh. I believe Bangla Desh is making excellent efforts in community outreach as well. I have following queries:

  1. What is the content of community policing training? Is it related to behavioral and attitudinal change or much more than this? Is it a mandatory training for all and what is the duration?
  2. What has been your experience with ADR? Aren't there allegations of non registration of crimes in the police stations (what we call 'burking' in this part of the world)?
  3. Do you register criminal cases if ADR is not successful? What is the supervisory mechanism of ADRs?
  4. How do the judiciary view ADRs? Is there a legal mandate for this?
  5. Do you train community members especially the groups involved in the process of ADRs?

Nina Singh, (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)

Training content and ADR

Dear Nina Singh,

Nice to read your different opinions and experience. Followings are my responses regarding your queries.

Q1:Contents of the training are: HR protocols: Presentation on five HR protocols, CEDAW, CERD, CRC, ICCPR, and ICESCR.  Community policing: what is community policing, what is not community policing, difference between traditional policing and community oriented policing, why it is important, why community policing forum (CPF) needed, how it construct,  What is happening in the field: Share some practical experience what is going on the field by senior police officer at the district level and by implementing NGO staff.    [A field visit is organize to a nearby CPF from the training venue] Group exercise and presentation: Different topics have chosen for different session, i.e. community problem mapping, way to build trust between police and community, develop an effective community awareness campaign, seeking for common ground. Role play: One example; participants are asked to work on a community problem as human rights activists, journalist, HR commission member, civil society organization member, community people, police. They analyze the problem and then organize a press conference in a group to the audience.   Way forward: Synopsis of participant’s comments and experiences from the training. Training evaluation: An evaluation questionnaire of close ended and open ended is provided to the participants to get their feedback.   


Energizers have demonstrated whenever facilitator feels.    


Duration of each training is for 3 days and it is mandatory for all sub-inspectors if the particular police station has been selected. 

Q2: Each CPF formed a special committee on ADR. Normally this committee consists by 5 knowledgeable CPF members. We provide training to ADR committee members on basic law. In general family, land and inheritance related problems the highest that come to the ADR committee.      

ADR committees are not authorized to deal murder, rape and acid throwing cases. This should be filed to the police stations. Committee basically deals with above mentioned petty cases of family, land and inheritance related issues. If such of cases comes for register police will check with CPF whether it has placed in the CPF first.   


Q3: Yes, only when ARD committee fails to resolve it. But before that there should be a clear evidence of their effort to resolve the problem. CPF convener, ADR committee chair, assigned Sub-inspector of police for the CPF, and one implementing NGO personnel supervise and monitor the whole process.     


Q4: Though there is no legal mandate but because of long pending of cases judiciary system always encourage people to solve the petty problems locally. 


Q5: Yes, we have a working partnership with some legal service providing organization to provide trainings to them. 

Very sincerely,



Mir Rakib Ahsan

Senior Program Officer; Rights and Criminal Justice

The Asia Foundation


Community demands and pressures

In reply to Nancy Pearson's questions about whether community policing can answer the community's demand and pressure for speedy action and justice, thus preventing human rights abuses by police, it is worth pointing out that community demand is a very sharp, two edged sword. Currently in South Africa many community members and leaders are very afraid due to violent crime and are urging police in precisely the opposite direction. They use the language of "a war on crime" to encourage and justify the police's use of excessive force. It is not hard to see how this can also happen in a world in which a totalitarian regime has brought stability at the cost of freedom and human rights.

 As human right's activists I think it would be a mistake to assume the broader community is always on our side!

Community Policing - bridging community & law enforcement

Community Policing is a  great way of abridging the distance between a community and their law enforcement agency, I experienced it first time I was a liaison officer in UN mission to Namibia, and one of my duties was having that community policing methodology improved within poilce setting in my region there, also I sort of had the same work secondly in Bosnia in 2001-2002, and my observation are as follow:

  1. Community policing is an effective tool to alert police always of their tight linkage to their communities, and that they are not an "imposed authority" over them.
  2. It embodies the fact that law enforcing is a societal tool to keep the society stabilized, so it part of the society and not "alien body"
  3. It raises the fact of LE agency accountability to its society , and consequently to the law that that society has developed to protect its entity.
  4. Creative application of community policing eventually brings better understanding of police mission to the community which police serve, and this is a vital issue if we need to have mutual understanding between police and community.
  5. That mutual understanding would lay good foundation for mutual understanding of the obligation-right equation that bond them both together in one boat.
  6. It is a nice tool and reminder that the police is there for the community, which may help marginalize other misconceptions such as the police is to serve the ruling system or party.
  7.  politicized police is a plague, and community policing is a way to keep it from being political entity and keeps it in the circle of community civil service.

I have my impression based on tangible development line of police performance after adopting such a community-based activity and think that human rights cause will be the first beneficiary of community policing.

Community demands and pressures

 Yeah, that is a very helpfulquestion by Nancy 'whether community policing cananswer the community's demand and pressure for speedy action and justice, thuspreventing human rights abuses by police..'  Malawi is one of thecountries in Africa which prior to the advent of democracy (1994), suffered thecurtailing of human rights while being led by a dictator. The Constitution hadno Bill of Rights and nobody spoke of rights. The government was very good atinfringing people's rights and the Police were one of the main vehicles throughwhich most people's rights were violated. Suspects were subjected to policebrutality and in most cases treated as guilty even before it had been proved soby a court of law. Confessions were obtained through the use of force in mostcases and it was normal to be beaten by police once arrested. The transition todemocracy sought to turn this around and put a stop to torture and infringementof prisoner’s rights. Programs were set up through the help of foreign aidspecifically to educate law enforcement officers to protect and enhance humanrights in their work. Such programs were also done through local NGOs like theMalawi Centre for Advice, Research and Education on Rights (CARER), which providedparalegal assistance to prisoners and monitored prison situations, includingthe conduct of police. However once the attitude of Police over prisoners beganto change, the public did not understand that everyone had the right to a fairtrial and not to be subjected to inhuman, cruel or degrading punishment,whether or not they were guilty. As such human rights NGOs began to facecriticism that they were meddling with the police and hampering ‘justice’ byprotecting criminals more that they cared about victims’ rights. The generalbelief is that criminals should not have rights so once suspects are releasedon bail, the public thinks that the police and the courts are being lenient ondangerous criminals who end up committing more crime once released. As suchover the years there has been a rise in things like protest against the policeand mob justice that sometimes when one is caught committing a crime, saystealing, they are beaten, stoned or torched to death by the public who believethat prisoners’ rights will lead to the release of that person at the expenseof the victim’s rights. The public simply lost trust in the police and theentire justice system.

As away of enhancing cooperation, trust and collaboration between local communitiesand the police service, community policing was introduced in Malawi. Theinclusive nature of this program has in a way helped society to understand thatthey can also play a big role in curbing crime and ensuring that communitiesare safe and secure. While the police are trained in good policing practicespertaining to human rights, the public is also educated on the concept ofuniversal human rights and institutional justice. Slowly, both the police andthe public are beginning to understand that infringement of the rights ofsuspects nor taking the law in one’s own hands, does not necessarily curb crime.As such, high ranking officers do publicly condemn acts of police brutality althoughthe ones that actually deal with suspects sometimes still tend to disregard thecommitment to protecting the rights of all, in an attempt to yield to thepublic outcry that criminals are not being dealt with ‘accordingly’. There istherefore a very big challenge for more education on universal rights and moreresources on enhancing public participation in curbing crime.



Community Policing example in Malawi


Thank you very much for sharing this excellent example from Malawi. I am struck by the very difficult cycle that gets set in motion: police are used as a repressive political tool; police apply repressive techiques to general crime(coerced confessions); the public comes to expect ill-treatment from police; public loss of trust in the police and judicial system; the public responds with acts of mob justice to gain "instant justice".

I also found it very interesting that the public perception that human rights organizations advocating for rights were perceived as actually standing in the way of justice. The public mind set had become so convinced that anyone arrested MUST be guilty of "some" crime and were therefore not entitled to rights but perhaps "deserved" to be beaten, tortured.

Perhaps in psychological terms, this can be seen as an important "defense mechanism" that allows ME (as a human being) to separate from and pretend that those who are beaten, ill-treated, tortured, are not really human (they are "other"), they are "bad" (criminals), and therefore not deserving to be treated with the same dignity and respect that I deserve. It also provides ME with a false sense of security, that I can be in "control" and be "assured" that this will not happen to ME (as a "good citizen").  

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Community Policing Mandate


Policing itself is a community service and community orientation is essential from the stage of basic training of the police i.e after the recruitment. However the in service training should take into account the following observations:

  1. Community policing should ideally be facilitative and complementary both for police as well as community. The fundamental task of police is safety and security of the community and maintenance of public order. Unfortunately , often under the garb of community policing political and social dynamics within the community becomes upstage. These are also reflected in several decision makings at the cost of jeopardizing the delivery of justice to victims. Therefore there is a simultaneous need of training the community about their roles and expectations.
  2. Community policing should also be mandated by law of the land because in many countries the courts have objected to the 'mediation' by several community groups that primarily aim  to facilitate justice at the grassroot level. 
  3. The mandate of community policing should be clear in terms of the areas of interference. Often community policing has been helpful in collection of intelligence, negotiations during law and order situations,  counselling of victims as well as solving petty disputes. Yet there have been instances where serious crimes such as rape was not registered in the police station because the community liasion group of the police station decided against it.
  4. The resistance within the police to outreach the community  also needs to be addressed. It is here that the role of 'soft skill ' training comes.

Community policing also requires enormous resources and often police officers look at it as additional burden, therefore for community policing to be successful there is the need to augment the resources in the same proportion. 

Nina Singh, (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)

Domestic violence is crime

Thanks Nancy, for your contribution. I agree that is worth studying alternative methods for providing justice which can indeed provide a valuable alternative to the classical justice system - especially as the classical justice system in many countries is not functioning as it should and is often difficult to access, in particular for the poor and vulnerable, often simply because tyhe next police station can be (tens, sometimes hundreds) miles away.

However, I always get a bit worried when hearing that domestic violence is being dealt wth through such alternative measures. I know these can be succesful in ending the violence, however all too often they lead to a genderbias (simply said: favouring men over women) and fail to provide a clearcut signal that domestic violence, just like any other violence, is prohibited, and should be considered a crime. This having said, I do realize that probably 'something is better than nothing', and that sometimes a pragmatic stand may be more effective than a strictly principal one. In other words, if the alternative justice system is the only system available to provide at least a minimum sense of justice, than this is probably preferable to no justice at all.

Domestic violence is a crime - clarification on Nepal case


Thank you very much for raising this critical point regarding domestic violence being a crime.

I did not mean to misrepresent the situation regarding the community mediation processes implemented by the Center for Victims of Torture in Nepal (CVICT).  I want to share two quotes from the tactical notebook, Access to Justice: Creating local level, citizen action mediation bodies to ensure human rights. I hope these will provide some clarification.

"Limitations of the mediation process (page 15)

Criminal, violent and other state related cases are out of the scope of the committee. In addition, the mediation committee deals with only minor cases of domestic violence such as general beating, verbal abuse, etc. Bigger cases, usually criminal, are sent to court or the police."

At the same time, CVICT recognizes the situation in which women often find themselves. In fact, their initial mediation process had to be adpated to provide for a specific "Women Peace Committee in communities.

"Emergence of the Women Peace Committee (WPC) (page 10)

The concept of the WPC emerged during the community mediation programme’s implementation period. After about a year and following our first evaluation, the community mediation project team realized the necessity for a separate committee to deal specifically with women’s disputes. Due to the need for confidentiality, some issues were difficult to deal with in the mixed-gender general mediation session. Moreover, in many cases, women felt uncomfortable in presenting their issues or simply did not bring up the real issue during the session, particularly before male mediators. The mediators often could not proceed with such cases. Therefore, CVICT, after consultation with NGOs and community people (including mediators), decided to form separate committees for women to concentrate on their issues, and also to work as a pressure group in the community.

The WPCs can settle all disputes but focuses on womenrelated disputes. This practice has provided women a real place to put forth any issue freely and frankly and it has permitted women mediators to have real participation in decision-making. This has led to a growing identification and recognition of women’s roles outside their homes by husbands, family and society.

The aim of the WPC is to provide women easy access to justice. In Nepal, where illiteracy among women is high, they are economically dependent on men and have very limited access to resources. An additional barrier the WPC helps to overcome is the need for women to gain approval from men to participate in decision making processes. The WPCs have sought to uplift the status of women and strongly advocate for women’s rights and general human rights. Like the Human Rights Mediation Committees, the WPCs organize women, provide training, raise awareness of basic rights, and provide a venue to settle their disputes among themselves. In this way, these mediation committees provide the women an opportunity to organize and consolidate their struggle, to advocate for and obtain their rights and justice. One very positive outcome has been the development of new leadership roles for women with empowerment support in socio-culture, economic and legal spheres.

I believe you are quite right when you commented regarding the alternative justice system being offered has been on of the few systems available to provide at least a minimum sense of justice. The medication committees are working to change that by reducing the barriers for women to bring domestic violence situations into public discourse and seek redress. But perhaps this also provides the much needed venue to shed light on those cases that are criminal, and as a result get referred to the judicial court system with the support and weight of the community added.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Hi Nancy Thanks for

Hi Nancy

Thanks for clarifying this!


Stick to your role!

I think it is of utmost importance that if human rights advocates decide to step into the field of training the police they do so within the limits of their own expertise which means they should stick to human rights and refrain from training professional policing skills to police officers.

This sounds like a simple principle but in practice it turns out to be rather difficult to comply with. This is largely because over the years it has proven to be a 'good practice' to integrate human rights training in general police training and relate it to police practice. This may lead, in practice, to it being a thin line between training human rights 'sec' and training police professional skills. This is not a problem (at all) when the training is carried out by police trainers, but when it is done by human rights groups a problem may arise as it may lead to human rights advocates finding themselves in a position where they are de facto training police.

Yet, it is important that human rights advocates do not become police trainers as such, for a number of reasons. First of all because it is not the human rights community that should take, nor accept, responsibility for training the police, as this is first and formeost a responsibility of the police (or in some countries the Home Ministry) itself. Clearly, this responsibility includes the responsibility to train new recruits in human rights (as well as those officers already serving). Secondly it may lead to the human rights groups involved to being coopted, which obviously becomes particularly sensitive in situations where police have commited human rights violations after having been trained on this issue. Thirdly training the police may easily take away a significant portion of the resources of the human rights groups involved, with potentially limited impact. This is not to say that human rights groups should refrain totally from training the police, but it does mean that they should think twice when stepping into this field, about what it means for their own organization, their relationship with the police but also with fellow human rights groups, and most importantly: what exactly they are seeking to achieve (through training). It may turn out that for example assessing the existing curriculum from a human rights perspective and suggesting improvements, is a better (and less complicated) step to take first.

Obviously human rights groups can, and do, conduct training. And it is important that they continue doing so as it helps them to get a better understanding of the police and police realities, and also helps to establish personal relations with (a number of) police officers. This often turns out to be an important first step in more long term engagement which can prove useful when working on police reform and relaizing more sustainable changes in police practice.



What should be included and excluded in trainings?

Thank you, Anneke for your thoughts on the role of the human rights advocate as trainer.  I wish I would have heard this advice while I was working in Uganda (as a human rights advocacy intern) a few years ago. 

Having had the opportunity to join my colleagues in training police officers in Uganda, I have many questions about what exactly human rights advocates shoudl and should not be training police on.  My colleagues worked with survivors of torture and ill-treatment everyday in Uganda and so it seemed like a perfect fit that they would be the ones to work with police officers to help prevent this kind of abuse.  The trainings were 1-2 days and took place in town outside of the capital city, Kampala. We worked with about 20-40 police officers at any given training.  

The officers were always polite and interested in the topic.  We explained what torture is, we talked about international human rights law and how it relates to their work.  We explained the physical and psychologic impacts of torture, trauma and ill-treatment.  The police officers appreciated all of this information.

The problem always came when, naturally, the officers wanted to explain their 'dilemmas' that they faced on the ground - and often they felt the need to defend their actions.  They would ask "What if I am called to handle a situation x and I cannot control the situation unless I do y...but you are saying that is illegal - so what should I do instead?" As Anneke mentions in her comment, Stick to your role!, human rights advocates should not be training on professional policing what is the best approach to take at that point?  While I was there, I tried desperately to find as much information as possible on proper interrogation techniques so that we would be ready the next time these questions are asked - but isn't this the job of the police supervisor?

Craig mentions one approach to police-training in his comment, Negative Resilience. Are human rights advocates in the position to train officers "how to consciously strengthen their psychological defenses for
situations in which they are in danger or dealing with aggressive
offenders and then consciously opening their defenses again when they
are in safe places, having an important conversation with a collegue or
at home with partners and children"?  I think this is really interesting, but what role can advocates take if they do not have the professional background to train on this? Find someone who does? 


Furthermore, how can human rights advocates make an impact on those supervisors that should be training the officers on these important skills in order to prevent abuse?  What role can advocates play in that work?  

Phew - this is a lot of questions. Carrying out these trainings can get so complicated!

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Role of human rights advocates in police training: suggestions

It seems to me that in the discussion going on two different subjects are getting intertwined, these are 'what' and 'by whom'. I think this relates both to training as well as to the subjects discussed relating to accountability and supervision.

Of course police training should encompass both professional and human rights aspects, soft skills and legal knowledge. And training all these subjects are first and foremost a responsibility of the institution responsible for providing training to police. This doesn't mean police trainers should all be police officers, on the contrary, taking in civilian staff can greatly contribute in preventing the development of an isolated island police culture. 

Human rights advocates can help, and can share their knowledge, and can provide access to the police to their sources of information, moreover they can advocate for proper police training including human rights. Maybe the best way to put it is that human rights advocates are maybe most efficient when they help police trainers in improving their training, rather than perform as trainers themselves.


Civilian Trainers for Police officers


You have raised a very good point. In my country I find an escalation of civilian trainers for police officers. It is a good development because they bring with them a new perspective and even police people feel relaxed and share their ideas without any inhibition which is often difficult in the hierarchical and disciplined environment of police. 

Nina Singh, (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)

Civilian Trainers for Police officers

Yes..this is particularly true when police trainers are partly civilian experts, and back to community policing, this concept is wide enough to honor this issue, in fact part of community policing is to have this "mutual imprint " of police issues, which soften the hierarchical
 and disciplined environment of police and play as reminder that the community is the reference for police, consequently police has to respond accordingly , and through this "warm linkage" human rights have better chance to flourish.

Role of human rights advocates is to train police trainers

Thank you, Anneke, for responding to my questions/concerns.  I agree with you, that,

"Maybe the best way to put it is that human rights advocates are maybe
most efficient when they help police trainers in improving their
training, rather than perform as trainers themselves."

It was also very interesting to read Michael Kellett's comment on Police Training.  In it, he highlights the importance of including 'professional input' into the trainings.  It is very easy for police officers to disregard a training if it is deemed illigetimate for any reason.  Michael also points out this it is so important to include these human rights principles into a more mainstream approach and put it into context.  Police officers generally know it is wrong to ill-treat citizens, but they may not have the professional skills to appriopriately deal with the situation.  These profesional skills should not be the responsibility of the human rights advocate to train.  Instead, as Anneke suggests, human rights advocates should work with those that are responsible for training police officers on these professional skills.  

Can any of the participants share examples of what these relationships might look like - between human rights advocates and police trainers?  What is involved in these types of trainings - the training of trainers?


Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Human Rights Advocates in Police Training


I agree with Anneke's views  that   police training should incorporate human rights advocates.

Indeed  this is something that is being practical in Kenya , its carried out by an organization called Legal Resources Foundation  where they have trained  police officers  as well as prison officers on human rights.I  was trained in a session where one of the facilitators was a prison officer, this is  very critical in that it helps to change the attitude of the public towards police and prison officers  and  they also get an opportunity to interact with the public and get the public's views on their work as far as human rights abuse is concerned.

 I concer that not all  police officers ill treat  people in custody but there are those who are very notorious .Therefore  training police officers  on human rights issues will  change them individually and also impact on the work they do, if they have skills in human rights , are aware of the various human rights documents  and know that the world is watching , they will refrain from being abusive.Imagine the case of a police officer high up the rank  commenting that  the killing of a youth during  the post election crisis in Kenya was  a role play in a Rambo movie, I think  more police officers should be trained on human rights especially  with regard to the international documents and also they get in contact with the victims during the training as well as   human rights representatives from other  countries.Also cases of  sexual abuse of victims while in police custody is also an issue and use of sexist language especially if the  victim is female.Reform needs not to be repressive or painful

Thank you


Leonida Odongo  and Zico Ameca

Query regrarding Retention of Training

Another challenge pertaining to the training of police officers is the issue of retention of the learnings. While all police officers recognize the usefulness of  these trainings in their classes, unfortunately these learnings are  not being followed or practised at the work. place. Often the reasons are attributed to the bad living and working conditions of police, the pressure of delivery etc. Consequently after sometime they forget even the name of the training.

I would like to know the mechanism to address this. Of course strict supervision  is one tool, but is there any other way to constantly hammer the learnings of training? How is this problem addressed in US or Australia or any other country successfully?  

Nina Singh (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)

Retention of Training


Hello Nina


What about  periodic refresher courses for the trained officers? Would that help in hammering  down what was learnt ?  as well as having  officer of the year awards in various categories   so that as they perform their work, they are aware that at the end of the year, there are perfomance awards to be got( just thinking out loud)


Leonida and Salome Sigei

Ebony Youth Initiative

Materials knowledge and content

I don't think that the distinction 'human rights v professional' is a good one. The two different aspects of police education/training might better be expressed as 'behavioural' and 'technical', and these are interdependent - not in opposition.  A police official needs to be educated in a behavioural sense (to be aware of what human rights are, the relationship between human rights and policing, what his or her powers are and the limits on them). A police official who behaves badly, who abuses his or her powers, can never be considered to be a professional. He or she also needs to be trained in a technical sense - for example to know how to interview witnesses and suspects, how to gather evidence, how to use force lawfully and so on. If a police official lacks technical skills such as these he or she is much more likely to resort to unlawful methods (violate human rights) to get results.

As far as legal content is concerned, at the very least police officials need to know the powers ( to use force, to arrest/detain, to search etc) granted to them by law and the limitations on those powers. They also need to know what evidence is required to prove specific crimes or offences (ie the points to prove - what elements constitute specific crimes) so that they can assemble the best evidence and make out a convincing case to support the charges brought against an accused person.

Professional and Soft Skill Training

I completely agree with Ralph's comment. Behavioral training is very important for effective service delivery as far as policing is concerned. Our study in Rajasthan (India) indicated that the victim satisfaction was 30% higher in those police stations where the staff were trained in behavioral training. We call it 'Soft Skill Training'. It includes subjects like good communication skills, leadership qualities, team management  and also  personality  development skills e.g. stress management, time management etc.

However, the need of sound professional knowledge and skills can not be undermined. The knowledge of law including the human rights law, procedure of executing these laws, techniques of criminal investigations (both legal and scientific) are equally important. Often inadequate knowledge and skills encourage police officers to adopt abusive  method. 

The knowledge and skill upgrdation should be a constant process and not one time affair.  Because of their high pressing jobs there is a tendency of forgetfulness among police. I would also advise in situ training for police personnel i.e training at the place of work rather than calling them to a different place that they often can not attend because of unforseen externalities.

Reply on "soft skills" training

Well... I may have input in this particular issue, of soft skill training, which I may summarize in few points:

  1.  The fact that training is so important to upgrade officers behavior and hold them accountable shouldn't overshadow the fact that torture and other HRTs violations are not just committed out of ignorance or lack of training.
  2. Focusing on at kind of training may present tangible results when HRTs violations are committed out of ignorance or poor expertise.
  3. The same training themes may end up with empty hand if HRTs violations are results of other reasons , such as ; Individual corruption-Systematic HRTs violations by the governing body- violations based on poverty and economic collapse.
  4. In such cases other training programs may better suit such violations, which focus on: Good governance and policing, Community policing, HRTs integration into planning leadership levels, universal integration of the LEO organization into different advanced international entities where HRTs are well shaped and respected.
How to supervise the law enforcement officers ?

I think that the law enforcement officers training is very important, but the most important thing is to supervise the law enforcement officers..

Re: supervision

Professional Standards Sections (what are often referred to as Internal Affairs) can play a role here, although of course at the early stages of their establishment they can be beset with problems, hostility, suspicion, and so on. This can continue past the early stages too, obviously, but they are nevertheless invaluable.  



Dr. Clinton Fernandes, (Australia), Senior Lecturer, Strategic Studies, Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales

Reply to Supervision of Police Officers

We did a very interesting experiment in Rajasthan. Although we have inbuilt system of Inspections by Supervisory officers, we encouraged police stations to have ISO certifications. The ISO certifications had two important components: (1) regularizing the processes at police stations and make it time bound so that there is no delay on the part of police responsiveness and (2) customer satisfaction. The entire police station staff received training and the individual responsibilities and roles of every individual staff was fixed.

ISO certification introduced two extra tools of supervision: (1) Audits by external agency and (2) Feedback by complainants and visitors of the police station. If the staff were found lagging bvehind in the performance they were given extra training to match their targets. ISO certification not only encouraged transparency in the working of police stations but also enhanced accountability  and improved the service delivery of police stations.

Nina Singh, (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)


Supervision is a tool that should be existing to check on every organ in any community, not only law enforcement officers, we are not angels.


I support your idea Mr. Hany. It is after supervising that any one can see the impact of the training. In our case, for instance any Civil Society Organization in Ethiopia doesn't have a mandate to supervise. However, e.g. what my Center did after we had provided a trainig on torture isssues, which prison inmate treatment included is that after a six months period we have visited some sample trainees to took with them about what they did after the training and we had made a cross cheking interviews and took with near by community about their previous behaviors of the polices and what happened after they have taken the training. In addition, we have also called them during the june 26 public event and we have made them to took the impact of the training for their community whom they are working with and offcourse the community beleived the behavior changes of the officers. Do you have any other better experiences in this regard!

Re: Supervision

Activists can continue to contribute to monitoring how well police comply with their training. In Australia, for example, activists highlight how police remove their badges or deliberately use riot helmets with visors in order to prevent themselves being identified while policing protests:


Dr. Clinton Fernandes, (Australia), Senior Lecturer, Strategic Studies, Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales

Monitoring police and seeking redress for illegal practices

Thanks for posting that link, Clinton. Lots of great information for activists about "organizing in the face of increasing repression."

In addition to these threads on monitoring compliance with police trainings, there have also been threads on the creation of domestic laws on torture.  I wonder if anyone has anything to add to this conversation about the enforcement of domestic laws pertaining to torture and ill-treatment, and whether law-enforcement officers are prosecuted for such crimes.  In Uganda, there is no domestic law criminalizing torture.  When a survivor or a victims family wants to seek redress for the torture committed, they must go to the Uganda Human Rights Commission to seek monetary compensation from the government of Uganda.  One cannot seek redress from a particular perpatrator. Therefore, no one ever goes to jail for the crime of torture.  (of course, there are currently many human rights organizations working hard to pass a bill that would allow for the criminalization of torture).

Does the existance or non-existance of such a law work its way into your trainings for law enforcement officers? If so, how is this addressed?

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder


I would like to make a couple of points in relation to training.

Firstly, as several contributors have already pointed out, a professional input is essential but not just from the point of view of the technical aspects of police work. Law enforcement officers are, in general, quite conservative and form part of a close knit community, often suspicious of outsiders. They may regard someone who has the tag 'human rights activist' or 'human rights trainer' attached to them as a threat, there to make their job more difficult. That is not to say that people with human rights expertise have no role in police training, quite the opposite; just that there must be someone there who has credibility with the trainees. I would also go so far as to say that the fact that someone is a police officer or has a law enforcement background does not automatically grant them credibility. In my own country (UK) police trainers themselves sometimes lack credibility and I have seen the same thing in other countries.  Operational officers can be very harsh and demanding in their judgements and so, if possible, someone with operational credibility and who will therefore be listened to should be involved (I know that this is not always possible).

In relation to content, whilst it is important to outline human rights principles, in my view it is more important to ensure that these are mainstreamed into general training and put into context. Police officers generally know that it is against the law to torture and ill-treat suspects. Often, what they lack are the professional skills to deal with suspects properly. This, together with pressure to obtain results from senior officers, government and prosecutors, often results in them feeling that they have no other option other than to use force to obtain confessions and thereby satisfy the demands made on them. Thus a culture develops where it can be the norm for suspects to be ill-treated. Giving police those professional skills and changing the culture is not always easy and demands lots of time, effort and money, which are not always available in many countries. But I believe this is the only effective approach.

An approach that appeals to law enforcement officers is to set out clearly the practical arguments against using torture and ill-treatment. Police officers are in general very practical and pragmatic individuals and want to obtain results and my experience of using these arguments is that they usually keep the attention of the audience better than just setting out the content of international conventions. The practical reasons for not using torture (i.e. that it is ineffective in obtaining genuine results) are set out clearly in the APT publication 'Defusing the Ticking Bomb Scenario' available at .

Police officers also sometimes need to have it explained to them why human rights can help them and that they are not something designed to make their jobs more difficult. I summarised the arguments in a presentation I did last year in which I also set out some of the practical arguments against torture. I hope I can be allowed to follow Ralph's precedent and to reproduce it here, which is easier and quicker for me.

Finally, I think it is also important that training is not delivered to police officers in isolation. The effort put into training them will be diluted if judges, prosecutors and others, who all influence police working practices, carry on as normal.

INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE IN PRE-TRIAL DETENTION CLOSING ROUNDTABLE – HANOI, 4TH/5TH MARCH 2008 The Role of the Police in Upholding Human Rights  Presentation Abstract: Mr Michael KellettFormer Detective Chief Inspector, British Police Service and former Police Advisor to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture  

At last September’s Roundtable Conference here in Hanoi and in the six workshops that took place in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we concentrated largely on the technical aspects of human rights as they relate to the work of the police and based on our seven focus areas. We looked at the international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and we also examined Vietnamese domestic legislation. Further, we dealt with the practical detail of operational features of human rights in policing, such as health and safety, independent monitoring mechanisms and the investigation of allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Today I would like to pull together the various strands of our discussions and examine in more detail the principles underlying the role of the police in upholding human rights.


I think it is a good idea to remind ourselves from time to time why the police should uphold human rights and to do this it is vital to understand the purpose of policing. This of course has a number of dimensions but the most important in my view, is the relationship between the police and the citizen. In the former Soviet Union and in the states of the former eastern bloc, the prime purpose of the police was to protect the government and the state (often, in effect, these were same thing) from the population. However, in modern western democracies the principle is that the police exist to protect individual and collective freedoms but at the same time are there to represent the authority of the state. If these two examples can be said to represent the two extremes of the police/citizen relationship spectrum, I would say that human rights are clearly a more important consideration for the police in the latter than in the former. And I should perhaps also point out that not all western democracies have achieved the ideal and that some are closer to the human rights end of the spectrum than others. I do not know enough about Vietnamese society to say authoritatively exactly where you are on that spectrum but my involvement in this project during the last twelve months tells me that the Vietnamese Police are taking the issue of human rights seriously, even if, as with many other countries, there is still much work to be done.


There is of course a delicate balance here and even in those police forces that are closer to the human rights end of the spectrum, in practice there is often a tension between human rights and policing. Of course, that tension is one of the reasons that this project has taken place in the first place. But the fundamental principle is that the prime duty of the police is to uphold human rights. This was set out explicitly and very powerfully a few years ago in a report into policing in Northern Ireland written by the former Governor of Hong Kong, Christopher Patten, as a result of which major changes were made to the organisation and structure of the police in that part of the United Kingdom. The report said:

 ‘It is a central proposition of this report that the fundamental purpose of policing should be .... the protection and vindication of the human rights of all. .... Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised”. The role of the police is to help achieve that social and international order. They must, for example, uphold the laws that safeguard the lives of citizens. There should be no conflict between human rights and policing. Policing means protecting human rights’.[1] 

That is a very clear statement but, as the report went on to point out, not so easy to implement in practice. Judgements that police officers make every day, often split second decisions, can determine the difference between good policing and bad policing, between effective policing and ineffective policing. In several of the workshops I stated that human rights are not something that the police should be afraid of but rather something to be embraced because applying human rights principles aids effective policing and that is an argument I will develop shortly. However, for the moment, let us stay with more general principles.


There are a number of general reasons why the police should uphold human rights and the first of these is, quite simply, that human rights are protected by law - by international law and the by constitutions and laws of states and this applies to Vietnam just as it does to every other country in the world.[2] Police are law enforcement officials who have a duty to respect and enforce laws which protect human rights as equally as they have a duty to respect and enforce other laws. They are not entitled to violate human rights laws when enforcing those other laws. If they do so, they are not reducing criminality but rather they are adding to it and committing crimes themselves.


Secondly, when the police enforce the law by seeking to prevent and detect crime or to prevent public disorder or to hold detainees in lawful pre-trial detention, they are upholding the human rights of all citizens. Some police officers appear to hold the view that human rights are something designed to protect criminals and to make their jobs more difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human rights apply to victims of crime just as much as they apply to those suspected of crime – and they apply to police officers just as much as they apply to other citizens. The rights of victims and suspects have to be balanced of course but one class does not have primacy over the other. This principle has been formally recognised in Europe in recent years by an increasing frequency of decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, in which the importance of the victim’s position has been firmly recognised by stating that a failure by police to mount an effective investigation into criminal acts can in itself amount to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.[3]


In developing this theme and moving on to the practical consequences of police failing to uphold human rights, I would refer back to Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights quoted above, in which it is stated that everyone is entitled to ‘social order’. Social order, ‘as characterised by tolerable levels of criminality and low levels of civil tension or unrest is heavily contingent upon effective policing’.[4] But social order cannot be said to exist when there is illegality and violation of human rights in the process of law enforcement. ‘”Order” secured by abuse of power is the ultimate disorder and a complete negation of the notion of law enforcement’.[5] And of course, eventually, this type of ‘order’ inevitably breaks down and those subjected to it are likely to rebel. In the United Kingdom we experienced this in the early part of the 1980s, when serious public disorder occurred in our major cities, the spark for which was what was perceived to be the oppressive use of police powers towards ethnic minority communities. This was indeed a failure of policing, due in significant part to human rights abuses. Similar disorder has occurred recently in France. But the adverse consequences for policing are not limited to the outbreak of disorder. Police who are seen to abuse human rights lose the trust of the communities in which they work, thereby rendering effective policing of those communities difficult, if not impossible. Effective policing is only possible with the consent of those who are policed and when consent is withdrawn the police become at best almost redundant and at worst, agents of repression.


I think it may be appropriate here to say a few words about the abuse of human rights in ‘extreme circumstances’, something which in these days of international terrorism is very topical. When confronted with grave and horrendous crimes and when dealing with hardened criminals and terrorists and under pressure to obtain results quickly, police can be tempted to breach legal and ethical standards and to engage in torture and ill-treatment. This is not just theory but reality and in at least one country, the United States of America, it has apparently become official government policy.[6] It is not my intention to rehearse the ethical and legal arguments against torture, which are manifold and deserving of at least one roundtable conference of their own, but rather to outline the practical consequences of it for the work of the police.[7]


The plain fact is that torture simply does not work. It is an ineffective investigation tool. Persons under torture or the threat of torture can be made to admit to the most grievous crimes, even when they are innocent of any wrongdoing and the police may not know if what is admitted is true. The result is that innocent people may be imprisoned and the guilty may be left free to commit further serious crimes. This is not simple hypothesis but the painful experience of my own country where, in the 1970s and 1980s, a number of innocent people were convicted of serious terrorist related crimes and of horrific murders, as a result of confessions obtained following ill-treatment or the threat of ill-treatment.


Other practical consequences for the police are that, once violence or the threat of it has been introduced into the relationship with the suspect, it is almost impossible to use any other legitimate interrogation technique. And as the investigators among you will know very well, some of the best informants are recruited from those who have been arrested; using or threatening violence against suspects will almost always make it impossible to recruit them as informants, thus further inhibiting the effectiveness of the police.


Finally, if a police force becomes known for using torture or otherwise breaching human rights, legitimate law enforcement agencies in other countries will be reluctant to deal with them, thus affecting international cooperation in the investigation of crime. Furthermore, it will be almost impossible to have anyone extradited. Once again, this is not just hypothesis but recent experience. Only a few weeks ago Canada placed its close ally and neighbour, the United States, on an official Foreign Ministry list of countries where torture is an issue of concern[8] and in my own country, we have been wrestling for several years with the serious and difficult problem of what to do with some twenty suspected Islamic terrorists, resident in the UK and many of them wanted in their own countries but whom the British courts refuse to authorise to be extradited or deported, on the grounds that they are at risk of being tortured if returned home.


I do not want to give the impression that the only reason for police adhering to human rights principles is that there are negative consequences for failing to do so, although I hope I have illustrated that there are indeed negative consequences, both for the police and for the citizen. But there are also positive reasons for adhering to human rights principles, not least that doing so impels police to become more professional in their work and thus more effective. Abusing or neglecting human rights could almost be said to be ‘lazy policing’. For example, it is a relatively quick and easy task to force a confession out of a suspect by ill-treating him. It can be a little more time consuming to gather enough evidence to make it irrelevant whether or not a suspect confesses. But in the first case, there is always a doubt that the guilty party has been convicted, in the second case there is no such doubt. The list of benefits from applying human rights principles is long and we covered many of them in the workshops. It is true that adopting them implies more training and almost certainly some changes in working practices but they are worth it.


Human rights are not an alien concept imposed on law enforcers and inhibiting them from carrying out their duties effectively. Rather the reverse – they are a basic and essential foundation of policing in the modern world. Without them, policing risks becoming oppressive; with them and when combined with an effective training system, they are a powerful means of protecting society ethically and successfully. When first confronted with the requirement to adhere to human rights principles in their work, it is understandable if some police officers, not used to the concept, experience anxiety and concern. However, the experience of police in the UK and elsewhere is that they can be quickly assimilated into everyday practice – they are after all, no more than common sense and the exercise of basic principles of common human decency, that all people with whom we come into contact, be they suspects, victims of crime or just citizens with whom we interact, are treated as we would wish to be treated ourselves. So, in conclusion I would return to the words of the Patten Report, there is, ‘no conflict between human rights and policing. Policing means protecting human rights.’[9]


[1] ‘A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland. The Report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland’. London HMSO, September 1999, paragraph 4.1 (Patten).

[2] The substance of this paragraph is taken from a paper presented by Ralph Crawshaw and reproduced in ‘Human Rights and the Police: Seminar Proceedings, Strasbourg 6/8 December 1995’. Council of Europe Publishing 1997, p12.

[3] See, for example, Osmanoglu -v- Turkey (24/01/08), Maslova & Nalbandov -v- Russia (24/01/08) and Donmus & Kaplan -v- Turkey (31/01/08). Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights can be accessed via its website: . 

[4] Crawshaw op.cit., p15.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See, for example, ‘US Government said to endorse harsh CIA interrogations’, International Herald Tribune, 03/10/07.

[7] For a comprehensive, convincing and easily readable account of the arguments against using torture see, ‘Defusing the Ticking Bomb Scenario; Why we must say No to torture, always’. Association for the Prevention of Torture, Geneva, 2007. The document can also be accessed at .

[8] See, for example, ‘Canada Puts US on Prison Torture Watch List’, Globe and Mail, Toronto, 18/01/08.

[9] Patten op. cit.

Incorporating others who influence pol. practices into trainings

Thank you for your contribution, Michael!  I find your points very thought-provoking and helpful in thinking about what is necessary for a successful police-training endeavor.  I especially liked your point about including others in the training:

"I think it is also important that training is not delivered to police officers in isolation. The effort put into training them will be diluted if judges, prosecutors and others, who all influence police working practices, carry on as normal."

Certainly judges, prosecutors and others have a great influence of police work. I am very curious to know if any other participants in this dialogue have incorporated judges, prosecutors and others into their police-training work!


Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Re: Incorporating other law enforcement in police-trainings


You are right, and I know some programs in Egypt that are delivered to both Police and Juges as well, with fewer cases of having them attending the same training together, WHile the issue of police officers involvement in human rights abuses is of greater connection with police practices rather than other law enforcement officers such as judges and public prosecuters, But I agree that the main gain behind police training in human rights abuses prevention can be further enhanced if other law enforcers are included.


critiquing training...(?)

'Is there a legitimate political space for a critique of human rights?' This is how the book 'State Violence and Human Rights - state officials in the south' edited by my colleague Steffen Jensen and myself begins. What we meant actually was is there space for a critique of the ways human rights are being implemented. We believe there ought to be and this new tactics forum seems to provide evidence that there is a lot of healthy critical reflection going on. This is to be welcomed. My own research amongst law enforcement officials (prison officers in Nigeria and Sierra Leone) suggests that standardised interventions often fail to take seriously the lived realities and structures of law enforcement officers struggling to do a complex task under challenging conditions. Indeed sometimes we are so keen to apply the tools we have at our disposal that we do not take sufficient care to make sure these tools are the most appropriate tools for the task. As someone else has written, if all you have is a hammer everything comes to look like a nail! I fear sometimes that recourse to training  and to manuals can be a case of diagnosing the problem in the light of the solution we have at hand. What happens is institutional constraints, pressures of time, the imperative to act and so on reduce our ability to think imaginatively and to put ourselves in the position of the potential recipients and benificiaries of our interventions.

Critical research on learning and education has demonstrated how difficult it is (especially for Westerners)  to think outside the box of training as a route to change but it is simply no longer true that the problems of law enforcement agencies are problems of lack of knowledge. It is in the realm of practice and to the situated actors who are involved in practice that we must turn.

I have tried to develop these ideas in the light of ethnographic material in the following publications and would welcome ongoing dialogue with practioners involved with the design and implementaion of programmes.

 “Introduction” to State Violence and Human Rights: State Officials in the South with Steffen Jensen.  Routledge, 2009 

“On hangings and the dubious embodiment of statehood in Nigerian prisons” In State Violence and Human Rights: State Officials in the South

“Imaginary reform : changing the postcolonial prison”. In Imaginary Penalities Ed. Pat Carlen. Cullompton: Willan. October 2008

“The political economy of right: exporting penal norms to Africa” Criminal Justice Matters, Politics, Economy and Crime. Nr 70

“Prison Officer Training and Practice in Nigeria: contention, contradiction and re-imagining reform strategies”. Punishment and Society: the international journal of penology, 2006, 9 (3)

"Reforming Nigerian prisons: rehabilitating a “deviant” state" British Journal of Criminology Vol 45 No. 4 July 2005 pp 487-503


LE Training components : hands on practical content

Alice Verghese

Medical inputs - using medical officers attached to police centres /units  

We have had some startling, positive, responses of training LE through medical officers (MOs) previously targeted and trained by us at IRCT. The LE are trained exclusively by MO's of their vicnity within the "normal" police training programmes , incorporating a few sessions on medical (physical and psychological ) consequences of torture, results of conducting a thorough, proper  medical examination , and writing a comprehensive medical report .  This also helps us to "stick to our role" and develop and use health based preventative mechansims .........

The right to effective policing... and police training

Dear All

Response prompted by various interesting observations to date taking just one of the questions posed - “questions raised and experiences regarding the effectiveness of human rights training”.

I endorse Ralph’s point that there should be no tension between human rights and policing or as it might be framed “human rights based policing” is “best practice policing “. I see Michael Kellett has beaten me to the Chris Patton quote “Policing means protecting human rights”!

Part of the problem is that training happens in the absence of awareness or acceptance of the fact that effective policing is a human right! Without which rights to life, bodily integrity, liberty, property etc are likely to be threatened.

Despite the obvious logic of this the reality remains of a tension between ‘Human rights” and “policing”. It can be traced to Institutional culture, media portrayal (of both human rights and police) etc but in the context of this exchange as Anneke has observed I think it can also be linked to the fact that that a lot of bad training has been done to police officers!

Starting from the fact that human rights training is sometimes a relfex reaction - delivered to police officers without it being established that lack of training is the actual problem that needs to be addressed. If the problem is institutional lack of accountability then no amout of human rights training of front-line police officers is likely to lead to human rights change. There is nothing that undermines the credibility of police human rights training than the knowledge among participants that when the training is over they will continue to get the signal from superiors that the end justifies the means.

A related problem is training for which there is inadequate buy-in by officers due to training not being relevant to the daily reality of those in the room, whether  police managers or those engaged in front-line policing. Human rights training of police is still too often made up of one-size-fits-all power-point presentations of some human rights treaties and mechanisms or fails to address what Evgenchev refers to when he asks "What is the police officer's personal benefit from abidance of human rights and not practicing violence?"  Part of the answer to this question lies in approaching training of police officers as training of people who have specific professional responsibilities - but who are nonetheless themselves bearers of human rights (albeit with certain restrictions that should be clear, justified, proportionate and acknowledged). Training needs to explicily address that being a police officer is only one part of ones identity. Police officers as also men/women, able-bodied/disabled,  members of families, ethnic/religious groups etc. Moreover, the specific nature of their job means that they have certain legitimate specific expectations of the state equipment, training, clarity of powers, effective institutional accountability mechanisms, due process etc.

One guarantee of training failure is when police officers are herded into a training room for some human rights ‘purification’ usually as a result of some external pressure on the police organisation that it be seen to be doing something about a poor human rights record. The trainers among us will all have had the experience at some time where we faced a room of resentful folded arms!

And at the same time the expectations around police training go both ways. Trainers should signal an expectation that trainees will engage in human rights no different than they would training on firearms, driving etc - in terms of professional preparation, engagement etc. This expectation should I think be premised on the fact that human rights based policing is more effective in the sense that that word is used by police officers but also based on the legitimate expectation that when citizens entrust someone with special powers (albeit for their protection) then they should be entitled to expect police officers to engage with (indeed demand) all training necessary to deliver best practice (ie human rights based) policing.

To be effective police training needs to be accompanied by senior police management signal to their organisation of their buy-in to human rights training including active involvement in planning and participation and generally pre-empting stereotypical reaction - in one memorable case I recall someone announcing to sceptical colleagues “I am a human rights officer … with a gun!”. 

Tips for NGOs - building LE relationships & providing training


Thank you for shaing these great points to be aware of regarding training content, buy-in from senior police management and trainees, and recognizing the extenuating circumstances surrounding trainings (e.g., reaction to recent abuses). Your comments also tie in well with Walter Suntinger's post regarding the need for training to be better integrated into organizational structures for sustainability.

I thought it might be useful to share a "shortened" list of tips for NGOs building law enforcement (LE) relationships and providing training to LE personnel. These come from Arie Bloed in his tactical notebook,  Police Training: Opening the door for professional and community-oriented policing (The full text of these points can be found on pages 20-21 - that also includes a list of DON'Ts)

Here are some things to DO:

  • When approaching police, do keep in mind that police training institutions are often the more open-minded or ‘liberal’ parts of police organizations...Even though official approval from the central leadership of police is often required for developing cooperation....
  • Offer and provide highly professional training which police see as directly benefiting their work. This goes a long way in establishing relations of confidence and even friendship...
  • Go into the work with the knowledge that this will be a long-term organizational endeavour.....Training alone won’t have substantial or an encompassing impact upon police performance if this is not accompanied by more structural changes within the police, such as changes in the official criteria for evaluating the performance of police officers and management.
  • Show respect for the work being done by police in the country concerned and show real understanding for their problems....Acknowledge that they are very experienced in their own context. In many countries police organizations are developing highly innovative ideas for addressing specific problems...
  • Choose staff with professional skills to work with police organizations...People without basic respect and understanding of the problems and specificities of police work will find it very hard to be accepted as an equal partner....
  • NGO partners should do their best to understand the difficulties which police face in many developing countries concerning human rights-related issues, as police are under constant pressure from politicians and civil society...
  • NGO partners should show and maintain strict reliability. Police organizations are highly disciplined and bureaucratic in nature. This implies an expectation that NGOs should also fulfil any agreements according to set timelines and quality standards...
  • Follow the protocols...Be prepared for a considerable number of rules of a protocol nature which are likely to be quite different from the usual atmosphere within which NGOs are working....
  • Discuss and plan for the kinds of situations that may occur which will force the discontinuation of a working partnership with a police organization...Recognize that continuation of a partnership in such instances might seriously affect the credibility and legitimacy of the NGOs concerned.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Materials: Discussion tools to discuss HR with police

Re useful materials: Many years ago I drafted the so-called Discussion Tools for the Council of Europe, officially called the Discussion Tools. A police and human rights trainer's manual : 15 ideas to encourage
police officers to reflect on human rights issues.
The tools have been used by many trainers, in different contexts and prove to be a valuable tool when aiming to stimulate genuine reflection about human rights by police officers, instead of them simply memorizing the articles of the Universal Declaration (as in fact is still the way how human rights are being taught to many police worldwide). As has been referred to repeatedly this Dialogue, human rights need to be an integrated component of police training, and in particular need to be related to police practice in order to have any relevance to police in their daily operations. This tool aims to help doing just that, in that it  provides a range of exercises and tools trainers can use to stimulate debate and reflection about human rights and how they relate to police work.

The Discussion tools have been distributed widely and can easily be found on the internet. Also they have been translated into many of the European languages.

Anneke Osse

Re: Resource Sharing

Thanks Anneke!

A New Tactics Community member wrote:

Re useful materials: Many years ago I drafted the so-called Discussion Tools for the Council of Europe, officially called the Discussion Tools. A police and human rights trainer's manual : 15 ideas to encourage police officers to reflect on human rights issues. The tools have been used by many trainers, in different contexts and prove to be a valuable tool when aiming to stimulate genuine reflection about human rights by police officers, instead of them simply memorizing the articles of the Universal Declaration (as in fact is still the way how human rights are being taught to many police worldwide). As has been referred to repeatedly this Dialogue, human rights need to be an integrated component of police training, and in particular need to be related to police practice in order to have any relevance to police in their daily operations. This tool aims to help doing just that, in that it  provides a range of exercises and tools trainers can use to stimulate debate and reflection about human rights and how they relate to police work.

The Discussion tools have been distributed widely and can easily be found on the internet. Also they have been translated into many of the European languages.

Anneke Osse


Andrés Vázquez

Resource: Discussion Tools - A police and HR trainer's manual

Hi Anneke,

Thanks for sharing this resource, Discussion Tools: A police and human rights trainer's manual: 15 ideas
to encourage police officers
to reflect on human rights issues, it looks like it would be a great guide book.  I've tried to find the book through the Council of Europe but it seems not to be available there.

I did find it listed for sale here:

If you have a better place to find it, please let us know.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

ACCOUNTABILITY (local, national, international) and IMPACT

In this major theme area, please share your ideas, questions and experiences regarding aspects of accountability and how training can and does impact the following: 

  • Official mechanisms of accountability
    • How do law enforcement trainings address the role of official mechanisms of accountability? At the local, national and international levels?
    • How do trainings address the often raised dilemma of “security versus human rights”?
  • Civil society accountability
    • How are civil society members engaging in law enforcement training to heighten their role and become influential players regarding accountability?
    • In what ways are models of community policing expanding the roles and practical partnerships between law enforcement and communities in preventing ill-treatment and torture? 
    • Are tactics that provide secure and trustworthy mechanisms protecting community members who report ill-treatment and torture effective in promoting accountability among law enforcement?


Civil society

I'll use a specific example here: Greater publicity can improve the conditions under which policing and security work occur. In the case of eastern Indonesia (Papua), for example, there are strong government-imposed restrictions on access by journalists and humanitarian workers. One NGO  urge other governments "to press Jakarta to invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Papua":

This did in fact occur:

The Special Rapporteur "heard credible reports of incidents that involve arbitrary detention, torture, harassment through surveillance, interference with the freedom of movement and in defenders’ efforts to monitor and investigate human rights violations. She was also informed of cases where human rights defenders were threatened with prosecution by members of the police and the military. "

One problem here is that military officers who committed serious crimes in East Timor were later promoted:

In the absence of justice for those crimes, it's hard to see how uniformed personnel can reform their behaviour. But certainly some members of civil society are doing their best to raise awareness of this issue. 




Police accountability should start within & be backed up outside

Effective police accountability should involve internal as well as external actors, and should include the police themselves, the Ministry of the Interior (or any equivalent), including a Police Inspectorate (if available), courts, prosecutors, parliament, local administration and local legislative bodies (if applicable), civil society including human rights NGOs, academic reserach, the media and last but certainly not least independent oversight and or police complaints bodies. Yet, here too the prime responsibility for police conduct lies with the police itself. They should manage their staff appropriately and corect them when they (are believed to) misbehave. If police management fail to see this as part of their responsibility they -to my opinion- show they are wholly uncapable for doing their job. Unfortunately, this is the reality in many countries today. Therefore those players outside of the police, including the civil society, should take up their role in holding the police accountable for their actions as well as their effectiveness. And indeed, and I am sorry to say this, but police do have a greater responsibility than other members of society, because they are police having immense powers the abuse of which can have a tremendous impact on security, and ultimately stability, of countries.

Accountability 'in' and 'of' training

Obviously the issue of accountability needs to be discussed with new police recruits, so that they understand that they are held accountable, why this is so, and also that they are willing to account.

Principles of accountability could also be incorporated in the way training is set up. A simple example is that trainers should be open for scrutiny themselves, for example through setting up an effective and transparent system to evaluate the training sessions as delivered. Also, police training institutions could invite members of civil society, but also parlementarians, judges, prosecutors etc to conduct training sessions so that they can explain thier respective roles in police accountability and also their expectations of the police. Finally police training itself could be open to external scrutiny, for example through establishing (representative) external review boards that regularly (eg annually) review the training curriculum as it is on paper and also as it is conducted in practice.


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