Police Lethal Force and Accountability
Monitoring Deaths in Western Europe
University of Exeter (logo)University of Ghent (logo)NL Politie Academie (logo)University of Groningen (logo)

The use of force by the police and other law enforcement officers has long been a significant topic of concern, especially when it results in death. This issue and the controversies around it have recently been highlighted by a series of high profile deaths in 2020.

Police Lethal Force and Accountability assesses the frequency of deaths, and the availability and reliability of information regarding deaths, associated with the application of force by law enforcement agencies in four jurisdictions: Belgium, England & Wales, France and the Netherlands.

As documented, while deaths from the use of force appear relatively rare across these four jurisdictions when compared to countries such as the US, the procedures and policies for recording, investigating and disclosing details associated with deaths are wanting. The availability of official information on the number of deaths associated with the use of force, its reliability, and the extent of details collected on those who die at the hands of the state vary from country to country. While there are elements of good practice, the procedures and policies are often lacking in critical respects. As a result of such deficiencies, it is difficult to assess many important dimensions of policing; including whether some communities are disproportionality subjected to the lethal use of force.

Ultimately, reducing the extent of police force requires addressing underlying societal conditions associated with employment, health, housing and education. However, more can be done by law enforcement agencies, as well as by their oversight bodies and government ministers. Assembling data and evidence that is accessible, relevant and useful to those concerned with lethal force is a necessary step to enhance accountability for, and thereby possibly prevent, deaths. Police-related bodies not only need to act on what they know but, to demonstrate they are doing so, to the populations they are meant to serve. Every death associated with the use of force by law enforcement officials should be recorded, recognised and investigated. No one’s death should go unacknowledged and unexamined.

In this spirit, the overall conclusion of Police Lethal Force and Accountability is as follows:

Policing agencies considered in Belgium, England & Wales, France and the Netherlands, all need to enhance data collection, publication and analysis of deaths following the use of force in their respective systems. Further, they need to act upon lessons from previous experiences, so as to help prevent future deaths and ensure different communities are not disproportionality subjected to the lethal use of force.

Police Lethal Force and Accountability: Report

English (PDF)Français (PDF)Nederlands (PDF)

You can download the full report as PDF here on the left, in English or in French.

There is also a Dutch summary available.

Police Lethal Force and Accountability: Monitoring Deaths in Western Europe was launched on Thursday 11th February 2021. The video here includes the presentations given as part of that launch.

Contributors

In memory of Anneke Osse, the inspirational driving force behind this report.