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What is the role of the police in America? Show more Show less
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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 keep communities safe Show more Show less

Our society is a more hostile place than were the sleepy villages of centuries past. Therefore, our modern society needs police to make our towns safe.
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Police keep the peace

The job of the police entails much more than responding to crime. Maintaining order in our cities and towns is a full time job in and of itself.

Context

With almost 1% of Americans in prison, we are at a critical juncture in terms of how to define our correctional system [1]. Should it expand, remain as is, or be reformed? There are people on all sides of the debate, but reaching a consensus is important so as to implement cohesive, effective policy regarding prisons and the police.

The Argument

Some current police policymakers recommend that we start calling our police officers “peace officers,” instead. Whereas the second moniker has a positive connotation, the first implies punishment, brute force, and fear. The latter is not a good model for police relations with the community. In order to keep communities safe, there has to be a cooperative relationship between the police and most citizens. It is a team effort to prevent, report, and stop crime. When the police do their part in this effort, they are fulfilling their main job duty – to keep the peace and maintain lawful order. Although keeping the peace literally means stopping riots, the phrase has a broader application too. When the police are making arrests or chasing criminals, they can keep the peace by using minimal violent force. This improves citizen-police relations, because many Americans currently fear the police when law-abiding citizens (i.e. the majority) should do just the opposite [2]. As if this wasn’t enough, it is even accepted as common law that the police have a duty to protect “the safety and welfare of the public. [3]” How exactly police do this depends on an almost infinite number of factors, but the principle remains the same. The police do not exist to stir up trouble, hurt people, or use their power to bully. They are the police, and the dictionary describes their job as being “responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order [4].” Order is maintained when the police function as mediators between people during disputes – such as an eviction, a heated couples’ argument, or a noise complaint. This has the added benefit of reducing crime, as criminal acts are less likely in a situation that has been deescalated [5]. So much of what the police do revolves around the quality of citizens’ daily lives – not criminal investigations. The sooner the American public starts to recognize this as the police’s true role, the sooner the police’s image will improve right along with their relationship to the community.

Counter arguments

This argument erroneously claims that the police should be doing the role of politicians. The police’s job is not to be well-liked. They are not elected. They are civil servants doing a dangerous job, and should not have the added responsibility of maintaining a friendly aura while people shoot at them on a regular basis. The mayor and police force’s public relations person needs to disseminate campaigns seeking to improve police-community relations. That is their role. The police have a different role because the quality of those police-community relations is not at the crux of their job. Their job is to prevent, interrupt, and stop crime. They do not have to be well-liked to do that. Police-community relations are secondary in importance when compared to handling crime, as the quality of police-citizen relations does not keep people safe – it merely builds community. We are lucky to have the police, and the issues with police-community relations arise when citizens are unwilling to abide by laws. The police don’t need to change how they do their job to accommodate those people. The police deal with criminals and citizens, and the latter ought not to have any problem with the police so long as they’re law-abiding.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/01/16/percent-incarcerated/
  2. https://www.city-journal.org/html/keeping-peace-15913.html
  3. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000244c.pdf
  4. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/police?s=t
  5. https://www.policemag.com/339534/keeping-the-peace-during-civil-disputes

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 15:25 UTC

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