Democratic police governance in comparative perspective: reflections from England & Wales and the Netherlands

T. Jones, R. van Steden

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to compare the specific institutional arrangements for realizing democratically accountable policing in England & Wales and the Netherlands. It assesses each accountability system against a set of "democratic criteria" and considers the implications for democratic policing of the current reform trajectories in both jurisdictions. Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts a cross-national approach exploring the relationship between policing and democratic institutions by comparing the democratic credentials of the police governance systems in England & Wales and the Netherlands. Findings: Current reforms to the police governance system in England & Wales aim to increase local elected influence over policing. By contrast, the Dutch system deliberately limits the degree of local electoral control over policing. The paper argues that there is a range of elements to democratic policing, and that "democratic accountability" should not be conflated with control of policing by elected bodies. Whilst the trajectories of reform in England & Wales and the Netherlands are going in opposite directions, each raises a number of "democratic" concerns. Research limitation/implications: The research is limited to only two developed European parliamentary democracies in the European Union. Further comparative research on democratic policing is required to expand the analysis to a wider variety of democratic contexts. Originality/value: To date, there has been little attention paid by policy makers or by academics to the form and nature of police governance in continental European countries. By drawing comparisons between England & Wales and the Netherlands, the paper aims to provide a democratic assessment of the two police accountability systems (and their current reform trajectories) and discuss some broad policy implications for police governance in each jurisdiction. Practical implications: Comparative analysis of police accountability in both England and Wales and the Netherlands provides potential for policy learning in each jurisdiction. The analysis suggests that both systems, in different ways, are currently at risk of over-emphasizing particular democratic criteria (such as electoral participation, or delivery of service) to the exclusion of others (such as concerns with equitable and fair policing and the protection of minority rights). © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-576
JournalPolicing : an international journal of police strategies and management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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