Modern democratic society demands that police officers are accountable for what they do and much debate on the subject centres currently on machinery to ensure that. The insistence on accountability arises at least in part from a depressing litany of police failures and corruption, blended with incompetence. There are instances across Europe where police exceeded their powers, performed badly or abused the trust that people place in them. Accountability though, is complex and many-layered, and it is not always possible to reduce it to principles that cover all eventualities. Current modelling is examined and the mechanics of accountability are analysed. In former Soviet satellite countries, a democratic model that holds the police to account has more immediacy than in Western Europe. The universality of the requirement to make the police justify what they do has created a thicket of commentary through which a path is plotted.
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