Essay Example on Role of Police in a Democratic Society

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Wesleyan University
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A democratic can be described as one where there are broad values involving participation and formal rules and procedures. Usually unsaid is that participation creates a social order where one is included. The police, on the other hand, is at the heart of this social order by their mandate to enforce laws that support it as well as another task like mediating and arbitrating disputes, traffic control and helping during emergencies. A brief history of police will help bring out how the police came to be entrusted with such mandate as still evident today and instances of abuse of such mandates. In the 15th century policing was done intermittently by the military and society was largely unpoliced. Later in the 18th century with clear national borders, initial policing model by British was one of unarmed police and citizen would accept police authority willingly rather than intimidation. Later with the expansion of law policing became increasingly concerned with internal security, prevention of public dangers and prevention of breaches of the law. However, the process of how such mandates are carried out varies widely across different societies, and often questions are raised on the aims of such processes to achieve desired outcomes.

The police department in a democratic society can also be seen as an independent agency ( like any other government agency) tasked with fashioning and implementing a proper law enforcement policy for their community. However, unlike other agency, their policy may be biased sometimes due to the delicate task of balancing the needs of the society, political and psychological in their decision-making. For example, firefighters and police are different departments, they both wear uniforms, and both jobs involve personal danger. However, their basic responsibility is not similar. Whereas fire fighter's objective is to prevent and extinguish unfriendly fires their methods are largely based on physical sciences the decision police makes are political for example quelling an opposition demonstration in the name of protecting businesses being looted or social as in the case of community policing or psychological in such a case as profiling a criminal.

However, police mandate is constantly checked and revised by other independent organizations typical of any democratic society, for example, the judiciary. One major task of the judiciary is to interpret the law, the same law that is required to guide police in their duty. Such checks are due to historical functions police have been known to carry out or engage in for example support of dictatorial regimes, search and arrest of citizens, use covert surveillance and engage in summary punishment. In such instances, police are seen to conform to ministerial functions of the government in power. Some instances are justified in case of self-defense or matters of national security situations where the desired outcome is achieved. But means used to achieve such outcomes can sometimes be abhorrent and prohibited by law, for example, torture and kidnapping. In some countries, a law must sanction such acts as house search. Such police tactics have traditionally created conflict between the police and the same public they are mandated to keep safe and protect them.

Hence police in a democratic society must be subject to the law, neutral to all and not politically aligned in their discharge of duty in enforcing the law, and do so legally and not use force or deprive a citizen of his rights. The later can be stressed by adding that such police intervention in citizens lives are under limited and carefully controlled circumstances, and that police should be accountable to the public. The above conclusion can be summarized by saying that any police policy formulation should be greatly centered on the needs of the greater society being policed to avoid conflicts by putting community needs at the heart of their policy as demanded in any democratic society.



Police & Democracy. (2017). Retrieved 26 September 2017, from, F. (2017). Cite a Website - Retrieved 26 September 2017, from, k. (2017). Retrieved 26 September 2017, from


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