Police and public security

Sustainable development goals that relate to this topic

The pillars of open government – transparency, participation and accountability – can contribute to improving policing and public security. Accountability of the police, supported by transparency, is required to expose and address wrong-doings, including corruption, discrimination, abuse of power and anti-democratic use of police. In addition, community participation can help enhance safety and public order, and solving and preventing crime. Active participation by local people requires an approach to policing in which the police are better integrated into communities, are seen to listen and respond to concerns, and actively engage people and communities.

Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

What are illustrative commitments

Illustrative Commitments

  • Introduction

    Across the globe, the primary point of contact many citizens have with their government is a police officer. Competent, honest and effective law enforcement is a mainstay of the rule of law. Insufficient or ineffective investment in the public security sector can result in weak or non-functioning security institutions, unable to respond to or deter crime and violence. Given the extraordinary power and authority vested in the police, accountability is particularly important in addressing problems of corruption, discrimination, abuse of power and anti-democratic use of police. For these to be exposed and addressed requires sound governance and accountability of the police, supported by transparency.

    Countries organise their police systems in different ways. Most of them have more than one police force, for example national, state or regional police, local or municipal police, gendarmerie, and judicial police. Some also undertake military duties, and in some cases military forces may supplement national police forces in national emergencies or, in specific circumstances that are clearly defined and restricted under law, help carry out basic police functions. There may also be special police forces or units such as tax and military (or para-military) and drug enforcement police. Whatever the form the police and public security forces take, it is important that information about laws and the way they are enforced is open to the public, and that policing is accountable. As with any other public service, the police force is paid for by the public and therefore should be ultimately accountable to citizens. Issues of security and safety are of profound concern to the entire population but are often ‘owned’ by police and political authorities.

    Key principles of democratic policing are;

    • Police give priority to serving the needs of individual citizens and private groups
    • Police are accountable to law
    • Police respect and protect human rights, particularly those necessary for unfettered democracy
    • Police are professional and transparent in their activities (Bruce and Nelid, 2005)

    The establishment and consolidation of democratic policing require that governments see the police as an instrument for protecting the safety and democratic rights of the people, and establish mechanisms and institutions to ensure that police are accountable and act with integrity. A further concern is that police themselves are fairly treated by their own institution – police corruption often takes a heavy toll on officers’ conditions of service – and this in turn has direct outcomes for service delivery and police efficiency.

    Going beyond this, it is increasingly recognised that community participation is crucial to enhancing safety and public order, solving and preventing crime. Police departments enjoy greater support when the public understand police procedures, believes that they are fair and that officers are held accountable for their actions and performance. Active participation by local people requires a new approach to policing (often termed ‘community policing’ ) in which the police are better integrated into communities, are seen to listen and respond to concerns, and actively engage people and communities. This involves a change in organisational values, management style, training and evaluation of police officers. The benefits of this approach come in better community relations, improved police legitimacy and public support, more effective problem solving and increased information for the police (OSCE, 2008).

    New technologies open up new opportunities for collecting evidence, targeting police resources and enhancing efficiency, and monitoring the performance and conduct of police, but they also raise important privacy concerns, which need to be addressed with robust safeguards.


    • Bruce, D and Neild, R, 2005, The Police we Want: A handbook for oversight of police in South Africa, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
    • OCSE, 2008, Good Practice in Building Police-Public Partnerships, OCSE.
  • Expert Organisations


    This topic was developed by Rachel Neild, Vonda Brown and Sandy Coliver of the Open Society Justice Initiative, with inputs from Ivanka Ivanova, Maya Forstater, Carly Nyst, G.P. Joshi, Gergana Jouleva, Robert Davis, Bruno Langeani, and Sanjay Patel among others. These sample commitments will be updated, and we welcome comments. Please send any feedback to or .


  • Standards &
  • Examples in Practice

    Australia holds regular satisfaction surveys on policing

    For example the Australian Federal Police assesses client satisfaction is a Key Performance Indicator. The AFP Business Satisfaction Survey (BSS), formerly known as the Client Satisfaction Survey, has been conducted annually since 1999-2000.

    The survey is designed to assess the AFP’s commitment to its core values, the performance of the AFP in conducting and undertaking investigations, and working with our clients and stakeholders. The results provide feedback about the AFP’s activities and enable the identification of areas of service delivery requiring attention. Those surveyed include staff from organisations that the AFP routinely works with, including commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, industry clients, embassies and diplomatic missions in Australia and overseas.

    Austria has published information on the use of special investigative means

    In 2008, the Austrian Court of Audit published a report about the use of special investigative means by the police, including wiretapping, costs, effects, etc

    Germany publishes an annual statistical yearbook on crime

    The Federal Criminal Police Service (BKA) has, since 1997, published an annual statistical year book for crime trends, together with analysis.

    In Brazil police stations show photographs of the team of officers

    Posters in police stations show the team officers in charge with photographs, enabling identification of officers.  Not only is this more personal, it provides access to all irrespective of literacy, and enhances identification in situations in which a badge number of nameplate may not have been visible).

    In Bulgaria publishes data on permissions granted for electronic surveillance

    In Bulgaria  permissions for wiretapping must be  granted by the Presidents of the district courts and aggregated data are available in the annual reports of these courts since 2010.  This information is aggregated in the annual report of the Prosecutor’s office. The same report contains aggregated data about number of crimes committed by the employees of the Ministry of Interior, including police.

    In India police officers are included in income and asset declaration requirements

    The Home Ministry had directed all the officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS) in the country to disclose their assets under the Immovable Property Return (IPR). State level governments have also directed police officers above the rank of Sub-Inspectors to disclose details of their income and assets. Those who fail to comply can be clearance for promotion and service medals. However high rates of non compliance continue to be reported.

    The monthly criminal intelligence gazette is published by the West Bengal police

    The Police Department in West Bengal publishes a  monthly Criminal Intelligence Gazette online.  These kinds of documents were earlier confidential and accessible to police officers only. Now some States are uploading this kind of data on their police websites.

    The National Crime Records Bureau in India publishes annual reports on crime, deaths and imprisonment

    The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in the Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for collecting, maintaining and disseminating crime data. The NRCB has installed a 762 server – based computer systems at District Crime Records Bureau and State Crime Records Bureau across the country.  Every year, the NCRB brings out three important publications- (i) Crime in India (ii) Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India and (iii) Prison Statistics in India.

    The Bureau of Police Research and Development of the Ministry of Home Affairs puts out an annual publication titled “Data on Police Organisations in India.”  The report provides some basic and vital statistics about police in different states/UTs in the country, like sanctioned and actual rank wise strength of police forces, including the women police; police population and area ratio; number of police districts, rural and urban police stations; police budget, including expenditure incurred on police training; extent of transport, communication and computer facilities available to the police; number of police training institutions; number of departmental proceedings initiated against police personnel, etc.

    The UK conducts annual surveys of experience and attitudes to crime

    The Crime Survey for England and Wales, and the Crime Survey for Scotland measure the extent of crime by asking people whether they have experienced any crime in the past year. The full results are published annually each July with quarterly update.  The Crime Survey records crimes that may not have been reported to the police and it is therefore used alongside the police recorded crime figures to show a more accurate picture of the level of crime in the country. As well as measuring crime, the survey looks at identifying those most at risk of crime, which is used in designing crime prevention programmes, people’s attitudes to crime and the Criminal Justice System, including the police and the courts and people’s experiences of anti-social behaviour and how this has affected their quality of life.  From 2009 the survey has included a separate survey to record the experiences of young people aged 10-15.

    The UK established a new integrity package for the police in 2012

    Following a series of scandals about police conduct, new code of ethics, and a single set of professional standards in force practice were adopted. Police officers must declare gifts and hospitality, second jobs and sources of income including company directorships, and this is published in a national database. A ‘struck-off’ list’ of officers who have been dismissed for misconduct is published and a sanction has been introduced for officers resigning during misconduct proceedings by ensuring such proceedings are taken to conclusion – proven misconduct will result in officers going on the struck-off list.

    The UK sets ‘annual data requirements’ for police forces

    Section 11(1) and (2) of the Police and Social Responsiblity Act requires an elected Local Policing Body to publish any information specified by the Secretary of State by Order. The Secretary of State may also specify by Order the time and manner of publication. The details of the information required to be published includes:

    • The total budget of the elected Local Policing Body;
    • Information as to each item of expenditure of the Local Policing Body exceeding £500 (other than a crime and disorder reduction grant), including the recipient of the funds, the purpose of the expenditure and the reasons why the body or the chief officer (as the case may be) considered that good VfM [value for money] would be obtained;
    • Information as to each anticipated source of revenue of the Local Policing Body other than, in the case of a PCC, the precept);
    • Information as to each crime and disorder reduction grant made by the Local Policing Body;
    • The salary of each senior employee, and
    •  A copy of each contract with a value exceeding £10,000 to which the Local Policing Body or the chief officer is or is to be a party.

    The Annual Data Requirement (ADR) sets out all routine requests for data made to all police forces in England and Wales under the Secretary of State’s statutory powers. Some of the data collected through the ADR form National Statistics that are subject to stringent reporting and validation standards. The ADR requires police forces to submit the financial data used by HMIC in the preparation of its annual Value for Money profiles of police forces.

    The website provides street level information about crime and justice outcomes

    The UK Home Office run website,, which provides the public with easy access to street-level information about crime, anti-social behaviour and justice outcomes in their local area in the form of crime maps. The public can also see how crime rates in their area compare with those in other similar areas. By following a link to HMIC’s website the public can see how the cost of policing in their force area compares to the cost in other police areas. Users can also find information about their Police and Crime Commissioner. We will be adding comparative information about the finances and staffing of PCC offices.