Police revamp key to improving police-civilian relations, field study finds
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    Police revamp key to improving police-civilian relations, field study finds

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    Revamping the way a police zone works in order to guarantee transparency and ease pressure on police officers would greatly improve police-civilian relations, a new report found.

    A two-year field study by Belgium’s institute of forensics and criminology (INCC) found that a police zone’s “management choices” could inadvertently but “significantly” impact the choices and behaviour of officers while on the job.

    “Aside from potentially deviant and reprehensible individual behaviours, research suggests that a police zone’s management choices —even when they are not intended to target certain categories of the population,” anti-discrimination body Unia said in a position paper on the report.

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    Time constraints imposed on patrol officers were “at the heart of the problem,” the study found, saying tight time constraints weighed on the daily tasks of officers, who were required to move quickly from one intervention to the other.

    For the study, the INCC worked with the Brussels North police zone for a two-year period, interviewing officers and analysing their interventions from 2017 to 2019.

    Unia said the research showed there was a need for creating transparency mechanisms to ensure citizens understood the motivations for police’s interventions, and “particularly those leading to identity checks.”

    “Currently, there is no legal framework which allows a citizen to know the reason for a police check that they undergo,” Unia said. “This reinforces the view some groups of the population have of police as a threat and not an interlocutor.”

    The anti-discrimination body also called for the creation of an effective mechanism allowing citizens to file and follow up complaints and said it was essential to do away with “complacency” towards police misconduct.

    Police zone managements must also prioritise diversity among their ranks and ensuring officers have appropriate interpersonal skills in order to create police units that are “turned towards the population and not against it.”

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times