Enabling and constraining police power

On the moral regulation of policing

Authored by: Ben Bradford , Jonathan Jackson

The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415708654
eBook ISBN: 9781315885933
Adobe ISBN: 9781134619450


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Dubber (2005) describes the police power as unlimited, and while he was referring to a concept of police much broader than the uniformed public police service that is our focus here, it is certainly true that the police remit is both broad in terms of its potential objects (threats to the stability of established social order) and wide in the set of means available to achieve its aims (up to and including the use of deadly force). The extent of the power vested in police, the fact that most officers operate in low visibility settings, and the discretion many of them wield – all of these factors create significant problems of oversight, governance, and inevitably, ethics. That policing tactics and techniques are often only loosely constrained in law and/or are unavailable to other actors (Brodeur 2010) serves only to make these issues more pertinent and more pressing.

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