Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This chapter serves to clarify some of the key concepts. By graphically illustrating the relationship between degrees of ‘control’ and degrees of accountability it is argued that the two concepts are not incompatible. The term independence is then used in the chapter to refer only to decision-making that falls in what is pictured as the fourth quadrant: ‘full accountability’ with ‘no control’. The chapter then outlines the scope or range of the potentially ‘independent’ decision-making tasks.

Stenning discusses the growth of the ‘doctrine of police independence’. It is argued that what we might assume is a widely held value favouring police independence is in fact unique to certain jurisdictions and the United Kingdom ‘roots’ to the Canadian police services are more questionable than many writers assume.

The main task of this chapter was to present an international perspective. The chapter provides an overview of police independence in England and Wales, Australia and New Zealand. Regarding England and Wales, the chapter concludes that the scope and practical implications of police independence remain ‘unclear and open to contestation and debate’. In Australia police independence tends to be limited by the way in which the Australian police services are organized—on a state and Commonwealth governmental level rather than having local or municipal forces. In New Zealand there is one single national police service and therefore no local authorities that could make demands or issue instructions to the police. The NZ police are governed directly by the central government. However, three recent factors have expanded the discussion in NZ regarding the issues that surround police-government relations: a governmental review of the administration and management of the New Zealand Police; controversy over the state visit of the President of China to NZ in 1999; and the introduction of a Bill to amend the existing Police Act.