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Since the early nineties there have been two important shifts in police oversight across and beyond Africa. The first is the introduction of independent, often investigation-driven bodies to oversee complaints against police agencies. The second has been the introduction of performance driven management strategies across the public service arena, including within police and oversight agencies. These have led to the regular collection and analysis of selected data in attempts to assess the performance of agencies against a set of predefined targets.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recommends that all complaints against police are reported to an independent oversight agency whether that agency investigates the complaint or not. This allows for the agency to monitor complaints over time in order to identify patterns or underlying causes of misconduct. Subsequent analysis enables agencies to make informed recommendations to the police agencies they oversee and help them learn from their mistakes. Attention to data trends also helps an oversight agency to learn from and improve its own work.
It is considered good practice for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) units within police oversight agencies to monitor key indicators and track progress based on these between less frequent large evaluations such as annual audits. By monitoring and analysing trends over time, oversight agencies position themselves to develop understanding of systemic challenges within police agencies. Data generated can help identify particular aspects of police work, particular stations or units, or geographical locations within police precincts that generate high numbers of complaints. Similarly, it can help oversight agencies better understand the experiences and challenges faced by their staff, and try to ameliorate these.
Despite the widespread emergence of new oversight architecture and management strategies, literature on the intersection of the two remains sparse. This policy brief reviews academic, public policy and institutional literature on the measurement of performance in police oversight agencies. Because of the relative scarcity of academic literature on the subject, the report also draws on literature relating to performance evaluation in anti-corruption and police agencies. Additionally, it examines annual and research reports from seven police oversight agencies abroad, and cites personal communication with four of these agencies. It highlights examples of creative qualitative indicators used for performance monitoring. While some of these might be considered ‘research’- type projects, they are included because they represent ways in which oversight agencies might develop textured understandings of the data they might collect. It is hoped that this brief will provide oversight agencies and related role-players with a knowledge foundation from which to compile or revise performance management indicators.