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Use of police force: A framework to ensure good governance over the use of force

9 August, 2021



The use of police force, either in the context of management of public assemblies and demonstrations or in the context of more routine police functions such as searches, seizures or arrests, has come under increased scrutiny around the world. Latin America, in particular, has become the epicentre of a wave of police reforms triggered by incidents involving the use of force.  

This publication aims to provide guidance on the key pillars that shape governance of police use of force. The paper focuses on the three main dimensions of the use of force: rule of law, human resources, and accountability. The document was built upon the work that DCAF has undertaken with police organisations in different regions and is informed by DCAF’s decades of experience supporting police reform processes across a range of countries.

It offers specific examples to illustrate the context-dependent nature of each countries’ practices. While some of the examples come from countries with relatively low levels of crime and violence, the rationale behind their use of force practices is still worth considering as the underlying principles can often be adapted even to contexts that are more fragile or complex. 

In addition to this publication, we invite you to read the “Governance of the use of force: Police self-assessment guide”, a hands-on instrument that supports police organisations to identify gaps and challenges and highlight good practices.