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< Back to question What is the role of the police in America? Show more Show less

The American police force has the capacity to do most anything, but there is currently much controversy about what exactly they should be doing. Given the police’s almost boundless authority, defining their job is imperative to maintaining our constitutional rights while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

To enforce the legal system Show more Show less

The police are the bulk of our executive branch, and do the footwork of the legislature and judiciary.
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To function as emissaries of the judiciary

Our legal system in America comprises prisons, the police, and courts. The police’s role in this triad is to carry out the footwork of the judiciary as its agents.
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Proponents


The Argument

The police’s role is to be agents of our legal system. Our lawmakers don’t enforce the laws, but our police do. The police do this by arresting people, serving warrants, and charging people as crimes are investigated. This is the work the courts need done in order to prosecute someone. Therefore, the police are doing the dirty work of the court system, or judiciary. This is their role because ensuring everyone follows the laws is essential to maintaining order. If the police did not enforce the laws of the courts, our society would cease to be a society because it would descend into chaos. However, the police are merely the intermediary between citizens and our legal system. Some may argue that they’re part of our legal system because the police are who charge people with crimes. However, just being charged means neither a conviction or even a court date. After being charged, the matter is in the hands of the courts, and so the police’s main job is just to deliver criminals into the hands of the courts. They are our domestic military responsible for keeping everyone safe, and take orders from the courts just as the military takes orders from the president (i.e. Commander in Chief). Much of what we deem criminal in the U.S. is considered so because it’s dangerous. Thus, upholding laws is one way the police maintain public safety. By working for the judiciary when a crime occurs, the police ensure justice. Although the police may arrest people, they only temporarily enforce laws until the court is able to sentence and convict the arrested criminal. This makes them distinct from the judiciary. And since the police follow the orders of judges and prosecutors, the police are their emissaries who go out into the world and carry out their instructions – be it granting or removing freedom from someone.

Counter arguments

This argument fails to recognize that the police have a more important role than that dictated by the judicial system. They have to maintain order when they encounter a novel situation that may be unsafe but not criminal. When they begin to respond to such a situation, they are no longer working for the judiciary because they are making their own decisions. The problem with this argument is that the police do a lot more than take orders from the courts. That’s part of their job, but a bigger part is interacting with the public while on the clock. How they do that is up to them, meaning police officers are independently-minded citizens privileged with a special job. The court does not tell the police who to pull over for drunk driving – just that drunk driving is illegal. Thus, the police are not so much emissaries of the judiciary as they are another facet of it.

Premises

Rejecting the premises


References


    This page was last edited on Friday, 7 Aug 2020 at 19:40 UTC

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