On how a failing government creates an intrusive police force

authors Paul Ponsaers
  Elke Devroe
journal Cahiers Politiestudies (ISSN: 1784-5300)
volume Jaargang 2012
issue 25. Tides and currents in police theories
section Artikelen
date of publication Dec. 12, 2012
language English
pagina 115

This article is a contribution to the discussion Jack Greene is launching in this volume. It is a reflection on the relationship between the police and politics, starting from the premise that peacekeeping has traditionally been the core activity of the police. We illustrate this theorem by reference to the results of empirical research conducted in both the United States and Europe. We conclude that the expectations of the political class regarding the police have completely transformed over the last three decades, and the emphasis lies more and more on crime fighting. However this is not based on a realistic vision of concrete police work which consists in essence of preventive acts. This assertion is based on historical insights, from which it seems that the police were expected to preserve the day-to-day peace and quiet of a neighbourhood. In this paper we will clarify some causes of the change in political vision. First and foremost, a failing government is an indirect cause of demand for the ‘strong arm of the law’. A government that does not succeed in guaranteeing social justice for its population leads to riots, where the population turns its back on the most apparent representation of the government, that is the police, mostly followed by a zero tolerance policy. A second cause for the shift of emphasis towards crime fighting is the economic crisis: police have become too expensive. Other security professionals (even in the private sector) have taken over day-to-day contact with the population and the police are reserved for large-scale crime fighting. This essay takes a close look at this new relationship between the police and politics.