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Public Role and Control of Police

The first thing that comes to mind when talking about police is that their role is to help people, protect them, and improve the quality of their lives. The implementation of these goals lies in the maintenance of law and public order, and crime control through the investigation and prevention of criminal activities. It is also essential to notice that the role of the police should not be reduced exclusively to crime-fighting. The responsibilities of police officers are much broader than catching criminals, as depicted in Hollywood movies. Instead, police should also be engaged in social work. An example of the social dimension of police officers job is preventing and fighting domestic violence, child and elder abuse, and distribution of the prohibited substances.

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In spite of the fact that police are essential for the well-being and prosperity of society, their actions face some limits. The most topical limitation on police is that they are allowed to use deadly force only under life-threatening circumstances. Besides, it is critical that if a police officer used deadly force, not as a means of last resort, he or she would be convicted similarly to the civilians. In addition to that, doctors strictly follow the Hippocratic oath that says not to hurt anyone. This oath is also applicable to police in the context of their limitations. Without a doubt, police officers should do everything to fulfill their duties, but their actions should never harm innocent people.

Citizens of democratic states have a right to exert control over the police. This claim is based on the fact that police are a part of the government that is needed to create public goods, distribute them among people, and coerce people to contribute to the public goods. Protection of citizens and their safety could be regarded as an example of a public good. In a democratic state, people control the actions of a president and his administration and political parties through elections. However, people cannot control police in the same manner. Nonetheless, police are an indispensable part of the government, and citizens participation in government is a tool to prevent them from gaining too much influence in society and creating a police state.

The ability of people to control the police is the tool to resolve the dilemma of a state that is concerned with how to escape the exploitation of its citizens and, at the same time, prevent citizens from abuse of their power and exploitation of others. The control of the police by the citizens is also a way to escape the dilemma of police that is concerned with how to ensure that police use force to protect citizens and prevent them from illegal use of force. When people have instruments to express their approval or disapproval of police actions, this makes the latter accountable to the former and acts as a driver for the competent use of power and force.

In the assigned article, Ramsey (2014) discusses how notable it is to be a policeman and what happens when the police abuse their power and violate the oath to protect people. Policemen are the representatives of the government to which people gave some part of their freedoms in exchange for protection, as is proposed in the ideas of social contracts of a wide range of philosophers. According to Ramsey (2014), the failure to tame the police leads to a situation similar to the Holocaust. Under no circumstances could police officers be granted permissiveness because their primary goal is to serve the interests of the people, protect the minorities, and fight criminals without becoming criminals instead.


Ramsey, C. (2014). The Challenge of Policing in a Democratic Society: A Personal Journey Toward Understanding. New Perspectives in Policing. Web.

Rooney, A. (1984). The perfect policeman. The Huntsville Item, p. 4A, Col. 2.

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