Police Power and Human Rights

Authored by: Jason Jolicoeur

Routledge Handbook of Social, Economic, and Criminal Justice

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138545649
eBook ISBN: 9781351002707
Adobe ISBN:


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Human rights are those fundamental protections and privileges that are granted to individuals simply because of their humanity. Rights of this nature tend to be strongly associated with the founding documents that have contributed to the creation of the civil and legal protections enjoyed in contemporary democratic societies. Given their role as the enforcement arm of the government, police officers can influence human rights development in several ways. They can protect human rights through their enforcement activities or they can undermine these rights by engaging in professional conduct harmful to others. Because of the discretionary power that police officers exercise during the course of their professional duties, they can have a dramatic influence on what social justice and human rights mean in actual practice. Additionally, police actions are able to drive changes in societal attitudes towards human rights, and the police function itself often serves as a reflection of public attitudes regarding the nature, scope, and substance of these rights. While the police have the potential to undermine human rights, they have also become a crucial part of the broader social control system. As a result, they will continue to have an important influence on human rights well into the future.

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