Law Enforcement: Judiciary to Police

[Written on February 7, 2014] My grandfather was the only attorney in his village in Pakistan and after the Partition, the only one in his village in India. My uncle practiced law throughout various cities in India. Today, my brother runs his own law firm in our hometown of Los Angeles, California. I am not an attorney, but perhaps due to familial ties, the justice system seems to speak to me and my work.

Currently, I am helping with a publication at the World Bank on information and communication technologies (ICTs) — mobile, radio, online platforms — for closing the “accountability gap” between suppliers of services, namely government, and demanders of them, namely citizens. In an assessment of current cases targeting greater transparency and accountability in governance, we conclude that efforts with the goal of enhancing the judicial system are minimal as compared to others.

A sneak peek at the chapter regarding this topic is below:

“A quick glance at existing cases of transparency and accountability initiatives reveals that judicial openness is the most under-addressed goal of all. This is alarming given the evidence highlighting the pivotal need to close an “implementation gap” between laws and the practical enforcement of them (Nadgrodkiewicz, Nakagaki, Tomicic 2012).”

Last weekend, I spent a day at a café with a lawyer friend of mine discussing this very subject. Her thoughts led me to believe that I might be approaching this from entirely the wrong angle.

It all tracks back to who we perceive to be the “enforcers of the law”. My thoughts are that courts — judges, clerks, lawyers — are the upholders of the law. My friend reminded me of law as enforced by the police. Police accountability, in my mind, was always somehow an element of public service delivery; similar to water, health and education, policemen doing their job meant “safety” as a public service.

I stand by my classification, but also understand how increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of police work can directly relate to a better judicial system. Greater trust by citizens in police will strengthen their adherence to laws, resulting in fewer trials and less overwhelmed courts. Of course, there are a number of assumptions I am making here, including: one, a more effective police force leads to a more honest one from which trust can grow; two, trust in government will generate model citizens who break less laws and do little harm; and three, a high volume of trials is reason for low performing courts and poor enforcement of the law. Despite assumptions, the train of logic seems reasonable.

Flashback to the inspiration for my interest in this topic: for years, I have been perplexed as to how legislation in India can be quite progressive, yet the enforcement continues to fail? The answer is no doubt complex, but my instinct was to point my finger at a weak judicial system. Perhaps this is the answer in part, but this thought experiment has me searching for a new angle that looks at law enforcement through a more holistic lens.

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