The Status of Research
Despite efforts on the part of civilians to monitor police conduct and measures taken by the police to modify their approaches to law enforcement, the issue of complaints against the police continues to persist. A sampling of recent newspaper headlines highlights this issue:
Several factors limit the relevance of current research on the effectiveness of civilian oversight. These are: the varying definitions of complaints, insufficient and incomplete documentation, and the types of research conducted.
Police misconduct is usually described in police service regulations of provincial Police Acts and other statutes governing police forces, internal policies of a police force, and codes of professional conduct. While there are many similarities between the various regulations and conduct codes, there are also substantial differences in defining what is meant by "discreditable conduct," "neglect of duty," "unnecessary exercise of authority," and other types of misconduct. Some police forces, as discussed below, do not define and categorize conflicts that are informally resolved as "complaints." This lack of consistency in defining complaints among various police jurisdictions severely limits the use of comparisons as a research tool (Fyfe).
Some authors argue that a broad-based classification system of complaints needs to be established (Holland). There have also been calls for the creation of a comprehensive code of practice detailing the rights of complainants and the rights of police officers, and the development of national guidelines to register complaints beyond the reports traditionally submitted to public officials by police forces. Major advances of this kind, however, have not occurred (United Kingdom Inspectorate).
A second limitation is that documentation on incidents reporting police misconduct within police forces and in civilian review bodies generally tends to be incomplete and insufficient for research purposes (Grant). The Calgary Police Service, for example, follows this practice:
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