“Policing by Consent”
Can we protect and serve the old-fashioned way?
Violence by police against persons of colour sparked global advocacy and activism like “Black Lives Matter,” slogans like “I Can’t Breathe” and “Driving While Black,” and high-profile public protests like famous athletes “taking a knee.”
While many acts that initiated activism have occurred in the U.S., when replayed around the world they have set off a global activism. The killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 by Minneapolis police was particularly brutal and has been incendiary, resulting in widespread protest and calls to review civilian policing on many levels.
In Canada reporting of local police wrongdoing is fueling local activism. Coast to coast to coast, Canadians may be losing confidence in police as calls are heard to end racially discriminatory practice, check the use of force, better manage mental health issues, and even to “defund” policing.
Civilian policing, at the intersection of public safety, justice, culture, race and indeed economics, is being critically examined. Police reform is being discussed and there is consensus for change that demonstrates more accountability, transparency, and standardized service.
“Policing by Consent”[i] is such a model for police service delivery based on accountability to the public, and transparency of how policing is delivered. Police power comes from the common public consent, not the power of the state. Of course, no individual can choose to withdraw individual consent.
Meanwhile, standardization of police practice and procedure under such a model is found in the “Strategic Guidance Framework” for international policing (SGF).[ii] This is a concept developed by the United Nations over a decade of research and development, with the input of a network of global experts, including Canadians.
The SGF is grounded in globally recognized, human rights-compliant, gender-responsive and evidence-based norms that anchor consistent, coherent and sustainable reform and development of law enforcement agencies. The SGF balances individual rights and liberties while ensuring public safety, including the security of police officers.
Equally, the Strategic Guidance Framework is sanctioned by important justice-based multilaterals: Interpol, NATO, European Union, African Union, International Association of Chiefs of Police, among them, and indeed by Canada as a United Nations member state.
Policing by Consent, supported by the SGF as independently developed standards of police practice, offers a publicly acceptable and politically neutral approach to solving complex policing issues; discriminatory practise, use of force, mental health management, and “defunding” among them.
D.C. (David) Beer is a former Director General of International Policing for Canada