Security Force Monitor: Research Handbook

About Security Force Monitor

The Security Force Monitor works to make police, military and other security forces around the world more transparent and accountable.

Human rights researchers, journalists, advocates, litigators and others engaged in making security forces accountable face a common problem – a lack of clear, detailed information on those forces. Often, answering even simple questions can be difficult:

  • Who is in charge of the specialized anti-riot police unit?

  • What army unit has jurisdiction over what areas?

  • Where did this commander previously serve?

  • When was a particular police unit based in a specific city?

  • What was the command chain when a unit is alleged to have committed a human rights abuse?

There is a vast amount of public information on security forces around the world, but it is unstructured and scattered among a wide variety of sources, making it prohibitively costly for those engaged in public interest work to understand the security forces of a particular country.

The Security Force Monitor aims to solve this problem and aid those working to make police, military and other security forces accountable. The Monitor analyzes and compiles public information to provide data on: the command hierarchy, location, areas of operation, commanders and the other linkages between units – all tracked through time. The Monitor’s mission and technical offerings have been developed to serve, and in consultation with, a wide range of civil society efforts.

The Security Force Monitor is a project of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute.

More information about Security Force Monitor can be found on our organizational website.

This Research Handbook is a guide to investigating the structure, personnel, infrastructure, operations and connections to human rights abuses of security forces around the world. It provides detailed information about the methods, data and tools used by Security Force Monitor to do this. This Research Handbook is a work-in-progress and is updated during the course of the work of Security Force Monitor.

Table of Contents


Tony Wilson, Tom Longley, Michel Manzur and Niko Para from Security Force Monitor are the authors of this Research Handbook.

Security Force Monitor has partnered with DataMade to create DataMade has operationalized and refined Security Force Monitor’s data structure, worked with us to create a powerful open source platform to put the data online, and made a significant contribution to the concept and design of

James McKinney - at the time with OpenNorth - was a major contributor to the development of Monitor’s data model, adapting Popolo (an international open government data standard) and developing the specifications for the Monitor’s research tool.