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Ethics of policing

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L171-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Policing is, historically, relatively new. Accordingly, the study of the proper norms governing the police is also a novel endeavour, especially in comparison with the study of the norms relating to other coercive practices like war and law. The ethics of policing can be disaggregated into two subcategories. The first concerns the conceptualisation and justification of policing. How are police properly understood? What are they for? On what terms is the institution of the police a justified institution? The second concerns specific issues. Should police be armed, and if so, on what terms are they to use their weapons? How should political protests be policed? What are the proper limits on the actions of undercover police? In what circumstances can police legitimately permit, cause, or commit crime with the goal of preventing further crime? When is it permissible for police to lie?

Clearly, one cannot attend to one of these two subcategories without touching upon the other. A theory of the function or justification of policing will have implications for matters of practical policy, and a view on practical matters will draw upon, reveal, or support a broader theory. In this article we will first look at the justification of policing in general before moving on to two more specific police practices: profiling and entrapment.

Citing this article:
Nathan, Christopher. Ethics of policing, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L171-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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