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Governance of the use of force: Police self-assessment guide

25 January, 2024



The use of force by the police has become a controversial issue around the world. Reports about human rights violations by the police focus on what went wrong but hardly ever offer substantial analysis of causation. The underlying reasons why police use of force incidents occur are rarely addressed.

The “Governance of the use of force: Police self-assessment guide” aims to respond to this gap.

It is a hands-on instrument that supports police organisations to identify gaps and challenges and highlight good practices. Only by identifying the root causes, police institutions can achieve meaningful change and stronger governance over the use of force. The guide is a non-prescriptive tool. It does not provide any "magic fix", but rather prompts self-reflection to more closely align police use of force with human rights standards and international good practice.

The guide was created to be relevant and adaptable to different operational contexts.

Thanks to the modular structure of this guide, police organisations have the option to prioritise and conduct either a full review or a topic-specific assessment according to their needs and available resources. The extent of the self-assessment will be determined by the characteristics of each organisation, including context, political will, resource capacity, specific needs and time frames. The Self-assessment will provide them with crucial insights into actions that can be taken before, during, and after the use of force to ensure human rights compliance. Those actions are key to preparing officers to make real-time decisions in line with domestic legal frameworks and internationally recognised guidance.

It should be read in conjunction with DCAF’s 2021 publication Use of police force: A Framework to ensure good governance over the Use of Force, as this framework document provides further detail on the key concepts examined in this Guide. While intended for police institutions, the guide can also assist oversight bodies in approaching the issue of police use of force in a factual and structured way.