The Role of Police in Society
Lecture slides prepared by Lisa J. Taylor
Abuse of Power by Police
The majority of police officers are professional and ethical. However, a small minority abuse their power. This leads to
close scrutiny by the public of all police.
Police officers have tremendous power in our society:
• The power to arrest
• The power to mediate or to charge
• The power to use force
• The power of life and death
Officers received tip regarding drug activity
in a home.
They filed an affidavit for a no-knock search
warrant, falsely indicating they had sent an
informant in to buy drugs.
When the raid team burst in, the 92-year old
female resident began shooting at officers.
She was killed by a hail of bullets.
When officers found no drugs, they planted
drugs, and forced an informant to lie about
buying drugs from the woman.
2 of the 3 officers ultimately confessed and
pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
The lead officer received a 6-year sentence.
Their sergeant pleaded guilty to federal
charges of violating the dead woman’s
Officers were accused of committing
perjury by falsely describing drug
busts they conducted in written police
Video taken by surveillance cameras
during separate drug raids show the
police officers failed to get consent
from the apartment-dwellers before
conducting warrantless searches for
The officers also misrepresented
their searches in later police reports.
Since these reports are written under
oath, this was tantamount to perjury,
according to the Public Defender.
Viewpoint: Police as Crime Fighters
Criminals are the “enemy” and are fundamentally different from “good” people.
Police are the “army” that fights the enemy.
Police must be able to use any means necessary against
Since police are in a “war,” they must be allowed discretion in making decisions.
Model of Law Enforcement
Crime Control Orientation
• Preventing criminal conduct is the most important
function of law enforcement.
• Failure of law enforcement means the breakdown of
• Criminal process is the positive guarantor of social
• Efficiency is a top priority.
• Emphasis is on speed and finality.
• There is a presumption of guilt.
Viewpoint: Police as Public Servants
• Criminals are like any other citizens.
• Police have limited ability to affect crime rates one way or
• Police as public servants serve all people, including
• Since police are public servants, their ability to use force
should be restricted.
Model of Law Enforcement
Due Process Orientation
• There is a possibility of error.
• Finality is not a priority.
• There is insistence on prevention and elimination of
• Efficiency is rejected if it involves shortcuts.
• Protection of process is as important as protection of
• The coercive power of the state is always subject to abuse.
Early American Law Enforcement
• 19th-century police were involved in social
• Corruption was common in early police
• The move towards police “professionalism”
began in the 1920s.
• During this period, the role of crime fighter
emerged as a characteristic of police.
• The role of public servant was minimized.
• In some ways, a return to original police
involvement in service and engagement with
• Focus is on proactive crime prevention rather than
• Encourages officers to see citizens as partners.
• Shifts decision-making and discretion downward to
patrol officers who know the neighborhood best.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document