Democratic Policing

Chapter Seven: Democratic Policing


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What is Democratic Policing? 

        Asking a Dumb Question

        Elements of Democratic Policing

        Equality: A Neglected Factor

Police Accountability

        Democracy 101

        Back-End Versus Front-End Accountability

        Difficulties with Judicial Review

        Mismatch: Judicial Review Versus Intel

        The Case for Front-End Accountability

Preventing the Police State

        Is the U.S. a Police State?

        How Life Imitates Fiction

        Is the Militarization of the Police Creating a Police State?

        Do New Technologies Make the Police Less Democratic?

What Can a Tour of the Holocaust Museum Teach Police About the Heart and Soul of Democratic Policing?




        Take-Away Value

Point/Counterpoint: Does Perspective Matter in Police Accountability?


After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

  • define democratic policing.
  • evaluate equality as a key area contributing to democratic policing.
  • explain why accountability is necessary in a democracy.
  • compare and contrast front-end and back-end accountability.
  • analyze the strengths and weaknesses of judicial review as a means for controlling the police.
  • argue the case for front-end police accountability.
  • apply knowledge of police states to answer the question, “Is the U.S. becoming a police state?”
  • appreciate the value of a tour of the Holocaust Museum for learning about the spirit of democratic policing.


Today, the business of reconciling policing with the principles of a democratic society represents the most urgent police reform. It is something more important that all of the other reforms combined. Although it would be hard to find someone in law enforcement who isn’t a fan of democratic policing, saying you are reformer who favors democratic policing raises more questions than it answers. But the questions it raises are crucial. Those questions steer us toward figuring out how policing can advance American political ideals.


            Sometimes democratic policing is identified with procedural justice and the rule of law. At other times democracy is tied to police respect for certain rights, such as citizens’ rights pertaining to unreasonable search and seizure and those relating to compelled self-incrimination. Sometimes democracy is connected to how the police deal with the public in a specific fashion: what some have called the “service style” of policing (Wilson, 1968)—and what is now bunched together with “partnering” and other police activities under the omnibus or all-encompassing concept “community policing” (Sklansky, 2005).

            In addition, democratic policing stands opposed to other forms of competing policing such as vigilantism (i.e. taking the law into one’s own hands) and political policing (i.e. intelligence, security or police agencies characteristic of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes that operate secretly outside of the law to repress dissent and weaken a regime’s political opposition). Democratic policing can be defined by what it avoids—it shuns torture and terrorism—and by what it is guided by—the rule of law and the principle of equality.

Asking a Dumb Question

American astronomer Carl Sagan has once stated that: “There are naïve questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” This rule applies to the study of democratic policing as well.

The first and most essential question about democratic policing would seem to be whether or not the U.S. is a democracy. A democracy is a society that values the rights of the individual, the rule of law, equality, universal suffrage, free and fair elections, competing political parties, an independent judiciary, checks and balances on the government and civilian control of the military. Democracy also means government by the people, who may rule either directly or indirectly, through elected representatives.

Foundations of the U.S. government are defined by a constant struggle over how far democracy should be extended. Over the two and half centuries since the founding of the U.S., it has grown more democratic by extending the right to vote to women and people of color and by instituting the direct election of senators by popular vote. But we’ve also taken steps backwards. Initiatives suppressing voting, such as voter identification and felon disenfranchisement (i.e. denial of the right to vote due to criminal conviction), and gerrymandering (i.e. a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating state or federal district boundaries for voting) are anti-democratic steps. Additionally, the growth of the role of money in political elections diminishes our democracy by giving the rich undue influence over the outcomes of elections. Then, too, in the past 20 years we’ve had two presidential elections in which the candidate with the most votes did not take office (Older, 2019).

A recent public opinion poll indicates that Americans generally agree on democratic ideals and on the values that are important for the United States. But for the most part, Americans see the country falling well short in living up to democratic ideals. The public’s criticisms of the political system run the gamut, from a failure to hold elected officials accountable to a lack of transparency in government. Despite these criticisms, most Americans say democracy is working well in the United States. But how well?

Obviously, it depends on what yardstick we use. What if we use the standard of how much power the average citizen has to influence public policy? If we do that, we discover that at best, the U.S. is a flawed democracy. U.S. democracy is flawed because of an erosion of public trust in political institutions (Ma, 2017). A flawed democracy has free elections but weak governance, an underdeveloped political culture, and low levels of political participation (Ma, 2017).

At worst, the U.S. is an oligarchy, not a democracy. Oligarchy, government by the few, involves despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes. Oligarchies in which members of the ruling group are wealthy or exercise power through their wealth are known as plutocracies. Oligarchies in which members of the ruling group seek status and personal gain at the expense of the governed are kleptocracies. As the prefix “klepto” (as in kleptomaniac, one who has a compulsion to steal) implies, kleptocracies are rife with political corruption.

Political science research suggests that U.S. policy is driven by the economic elite and business interests (Gilens and Page, 2014). Preferences of the average American have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. Majority public opinion on many key issues of the day is nowhere near reflected in public policy (Gilens and Page, 2014). If it did, the country would look radically different.

Take, for example, the conundrum of public opinion and public policy on guns. Measures like universal background checks often attract the support of more than 90 percent of the American public, but overwhelming support has not translated into overwhelming victories for gun control measures (Cohn and Sanger-Katz, 2019). Business interests opposing gun control have blocked most gun control measures. Despite scores of deaths from mass shootings, Republican lawmakers fear the National Rifle Association’s ability to stir up political opposition in their districts (Shear and Stolberg, 2018).

Elements of Democratic Policing

The defining elements of the ideal of democratic policing are as follows:

  • Police are subject to the rule of law and respect human dignity rather than the dictates of a powerful political leader or political party.
  • Police can intervene in the life of citizens only under limited circumstances.
  • Police practices and policies are transparent so that citizens keep informed about what the police are doing and are not doing.
  • Police are publicly accountable.
  • Police are both a powerful weapon against private systems of domination and a frightening tool of official domination (Marx, 1995).

The democratic police ideal differs from one democracy to the next. For example, in the U.S. the democratic police ideal is supported by these organizational props:

  1. a division of labor between those who patrol, investigate, arrest, try, and punish;
  2. a military-style structure that limits discretion; and
  3. a separation of police from the military and the creation of competing police agencies;
  4. external agencies that monitor police behavior and that give permission for highly intrusive police actions;
  5. identification of police (e.g. identification numbers on badges and marked cars); and
  6. courtroom trials in which deceptive and illegal police actions are revealed and judged.

These features are rooted in the belief that liberty can be best protected if power is diffused, if competing agencies watch each other, and if police actions are visible (Marx, 1995).

Equality: A Neglected Factor

Although equality is a core democratic value, it is often neglected in discussion of democratic policing. Alexis de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, political scientist, and historian. Best known for his work Democracy in America based on his travels in the U.S., Tocqueville is perhaps the most well-known democratic theorist. According to Tocqueville, the democracy he found exemplified in America was a matter of equality—and more specifically, a matter of pushing aside the powers and privileges of monarchs and aristocrats (Tocqueville, 1835).

Any discussion of democratic policing must acknowledge problems connected to disproportionate targeting of minority suspects by the police. In recent years, this problem has  arisen in relationship to racial profiling. Racial profiling is the systematic use of race (usually along with other factors) in picking out persons for investigative attention

There are two sides to disproportionate targeting of minorities: over-enforcement, as in racial profiling, and under-enforcement, as in disproportionate neglect. Over-enforcement and under-enforcement are symptoms of the democratic failure of the criminal justice system to respond to the needs of the poor, racial minorities, and otherwise political vulnerable (Natapoff, 2006).

Racial Profiling and Over-Enforcement. Racial profiling places a heavy burden on democracy. It entrenches racial inequality. This happens in several ways.

First, by incarcerating a disproportionate number of people of color, racial profiling contributes to impoverishing consequences for the families and neighborhoods of the incarcerated. Second, by stopping members of minority groups again and again for seemingly minor reasons, the police inadvertently train members of minority groups to be deferent, subservient, and powerless. Third, by arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating members of certain groups at higher rates, criminal justice authorities confirm racial stereotypes (Sklansky, 2008).

Profiling on the basis of a characteristic, such as religion or national origin, can assert white dominance in the same way as profiling on the basis of race. Applying extra scrutiny to Muslims or to Arab-Americans is much like applying selecting attention to African-Americans. From the standpoint of democracy, U.S. Justice Department has been accused of splitting hairs when it distinguishes between racial profiling, which it condemns, and profiling based on nationality, which it defends. The Department of Justice’s focus on visitors from countries with an active al Qaeda or ISIS presence raises the specter of ethnic profiling by generating lists dominated by Middle Eastern men (Gross and Livingston, 2001).

Contrary to popular opinion, concerns that racial profiling raise for democracy by threatening to reinforce racial inequality do not rest on the fact that profiling involves intentional or conscious discrimination by law enforcement. Any law enforcement practice resulting in heavily disproportionate rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration of members of racial minorities can reinforce racial inequality by reinforcing racial stereotypes and by breaking up minority families as well as neighborhoods. The higher rates of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, in turn, serve to confirm that the profiled groups really are more crime-prone.9 (Sklansky, 2005).

The other side to this equality equation involves a reality check: crime hurts minority neighborhoods and higher rates of criminal victimization are one of the worst of the inequalities suffered by members of racial minority groups.  So what? What if racial profiling reduces crime in minority neighborhoods? If that’s the case, then the benefits for democracy of overenforcement might be greater than the costs! This is an empirical question that needs to be addressed through research (Sklansky, 2005).

Appreciating the possible benefits and costs of overenforcement are one thing; finding solutions is another. Three possibilities exist: judicial intervention that protects citizens’ rights; external systems of police accountability; and internal review of police tactics and practices.

The first solution involves the appellate courts. While the U.S. Supreme Court has created many rules controlling the discretion of individual law enforcement officers and protecting the dignity of individual suspects, something is missing. It may surprise you to discover that a search and seizure can’t be challenged as “unreasonable” under the Fourth Amendment on the grounds that it was motivated by prejudice. According to the Supreme Court, claims of discriminatory policing must be brought under the Equal Protection Clause, not the Fourth Amendment (Sklansky, 2008).

The only problem is that the Equal Protection doctrine treats claims of inequitable policing the same as other claims of inequality: it requires proof of intent or conscious animus. This is because the Supreme Court has interpreted the Equal Protection Clause as prohibiting only decisions made with “discriminatory purpose.” What this means it that challenge will almost always fail. Intentional prejudice is almost impossible to prove unless the accused confesses to it. Then, too, most instances of racial profiling do not reflect intentional or conscious animus, but instead a neutral motive coupled with a tendency to discount harms posed by the practice (Sklansky, 1997).

The second strategy for dealing with inequitable over-policing is changing the external political environment in which police departments operate. Some possibilities include making civilian oversight boards more broadly representative and increasing transparency of police decision making (e.g. requiring the police to post online deadly force policies, high speed chase policies, and other critical policies) to empower community groups.

The third strategy involves changing the internal equality of police departments. This includes changing organizational structures and workforces. Historically, police departments have been segregated. Today, American police forces are much more diverse than they were in the past, and more representative of the communities they serve. Minority officers, female officers, and gay and lesbian officers are transforming a profession that 40 years ago was mostly white, male, and homophobic. Much of the progress has been produced by court-ordered affirmative action.

Through affirmative action, police departments have taken positive steps to correct past racial and sexual discrimination. Affirmative action is a policy that directly or indirectly awards jobs, promotions, and other resources to individuals on the basis of membership in a protected group in order to compensate those groups for past discrimination. A key aspect of affirmative action plans is the commitment to ensure that the percentage of minorities or women in particular job categories within a police force approximates the percentage of those groups in the adult labor force. Because affirmative action programs for police departments are growing less common and less politically popular, it is uncertain whether the trend toward diversification of police forces will continue (Sklansky 2005).

            Disproportionate Neglect and Minimalist Policing. If democratic policing requires a commitment to equality, then insufficient policing can be as much of a problem as heavy-handed policing. Without question, there are many places in the U.S. that don’t receive adequate police protection. What strategies are available to address this problem? Again, the best options seem to be judicial intervention, external political control, and internal restructuring of police departments.

Hypothetically, a useful tool might be the Fourteenth Amendment. Passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, it guarantees all Americans due process of law and equal protection of the law. It was meant to ensure protection of liberated people who were formerly enslaved from private violence perpetrated by white terrorist groups. Today, the Supreme Court does not recognize a right to minimal police protection. According to the Supreme Court, the Constitution protects only against injuries inflicted by the government.

In regard to due process of law, the Supreme Court has ruled that it limits government power but does not guarantee minimal levels of public safety. Moreover, the Court has interpreted the Equal Protection Clause to prohibit a state’s selective denial of protection to disadvantaged minorities. But because the Equal Protection Clause is violated only by decisions made with “discriminatory purpose” or intent—that is conscious animus—that clause is of little use in challenging under-enforcement (Sklansky, 2008).

Some might argue that judicial involvement is unnecessary because elected officials at the local and state levels have political incentives to provide sufficient police protection. However, history has shown that police departments have traditionally provided more protection in rich areas as compared to poor areas. Unequal levels of police protection are made worse by the recent growth of private policing that generally is available to predominantly white, wealthy gated communities but not for poor minority neighborhoods.

Inequitable policing can be addressed in three ways. The first is by court rulings and other mandates from forces outside of police departments. This was the strategy of the Warren Court’s “due process revolution.” Mandates the U.S. Supreme Court has created to control the police have been aimed at structuring police discretion and safeguarding human dignity of suspects. The second strategy for addressing inequalities in policing involves restricting the political context in which police departments operate in order to make police more accountable to the communities they serve. An example is civilian review boards. The third way is by diversifying police departments and by changing the makeup of police workforces (Sklansky, 2008).


Police in a democracy must be accountable—whenever they violate rules, laws, and civil rights. In addition, the police must be accountable to how they try to protect the public, how they respond to crime, and the results they achieve in terms of public safety and justice.

Democracy 101

To understand the significance of police accountability, let’s review a few democratic principles. For starters, there are two sides to governance in America: democratic accountability and rule of law. The first describes how we make rules that govern society. The second identifies limits on how we govern.

Accountability is essential for democracy. Executive branch officials work for the people. They are governed by the people. At the same time, the rule of law guarantees protection against official arbitrariness. That is, officials must respect fundamental rights. Additionally, two aspects of the rule of law are important for discussions of policing: transparency and generality. The people must be able to see what the police are doing so they can assess those actions and exercise control. The law also must treat everyone alike; if groups are treated differently, differential treatment must be based on justifiable reasons and not be arbitrary. In the U.S. we put these ideas of accountability and the rule of law into action in various ways.

Under the idea of separation of powers, for example, political representatives in the legislative branch who are elected by the people make the laws that people are expected to obey; police and other officials within the executive branch enforce the laws; and courts from the judicial branch decide if the actions taken by the other branches is consistent with the law.

Around the turn of the century, the U.S. adopted an “administrative model of separation of powers. Under this model, lawmaking, enforcement, and adjudication mainly happened within the executive branch—subject to various procedural safeguards that were intended to guarantee transparency and non-arbitrariness. Although legislatures still make the law, they delegate to law enforcement and other agencies in the executive branch the power to fill in the details by making rules. Public participation is key to executive governance at all level of government. (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015).

Back-End Versus Front-End Accountability

Inasmuch as police are part of the executive branch, it is good to keep in mind that accountability in the executive branch of government has two parts: the front end and the back end. Front-end accountability means that transparent rules made with public input exist before officials act. Back-end accountability translates into making sure the rules are obeyed.

When people talk about accountability in policing, they are usually referring to back-end accountability. Something has gone wrong; it is not what should have happened according to the rules or the law; and consequences are imposed either on a police agency or its officers. This model of accountability is applied throughout American government. In its simplest form it consists of front-end lawmaking or legislation, supplemented with administrative rulemaking by police agencies or some other agency in the executive branch, followed by a multiple back-end mechanisms (Ponomarenko and Friedman, .

What are the multiple back-end mechanisms to which the police must be accountable? These mechanisms can be grouped into three levels of control: internal or departmental control, state control, and social control.

Internal control consists of police departments’ internal systems for identifying, investigating, adjudicating, and punishing officers who engage in misconduct. Some departments use early warning systems to identify “problem” officers. A computer data base compiled on officers alerts supervisors when an officer accumulates too many points for things like use of force, reprimands, and civilian complaints. Supervisors then intervene to ensure that the faces consequences such as more training, transfer, or termination.

Another example of internal control is New York City’s COMPSTAT (computer statistics) program. Using mapping software that allows supervisors to analyze crime data within 24 hours of events, COMPSTAT features biweekly meetings during which the police chief holds local commanders accountable for crime trends in their areas.

Social control of the police refers to the various ways that civil society attempts to control the government between political elections. Multiple institutions oversee and seek to influence the police. The most important are the media, civilian review boards, advocacy organizations, and community-based organizations.

The media’s role in holding police accountable for misconduct ranges from reporting statistics of police shootings of civilians to disclosing disciplinary decisions made by police departments. Civilian complaint bodies accept people’s complaints and recommend discipline when appropriate. As for advocacy organizations, civil rights organizations (e.g. NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the ACLU) represent victims of police abuse of power in court cases. These organizations also try to influence police departments and other police organizations to make improvements in their policies and practices relating to specific issues such as police use of force. Finally, community or neighborhood-based organizations invite police to their meetings to both keep the community informed about police efforts to reduce and to communicate neighborhood concerns about public safety to the police.

State control involves multiple agencies of the government, including legislative, judicial, and executive bodies taking actions to control the police.  Heads of police agencies, for example, answer directly to elected officials—mayors, governors, or presidents. Prosecutors, who can be either elected or appointed, provide an indirect form of state control over the police. Prosecutors can establish prosecution policies that guide police practices. For instance, a prosecutor might publish a list of police officers who have a history of lying or falsifying evidence and announce that cases brought to the prosecutor involving any of these officers will not be prosecuted.

The best example of state control is judicial oversight or judicial review.Judicial review is the idea, fundamental to the US system of government,that the actions of the executive and legislative branches of government are subject to review and possible invalidation by the judiciary. In the past it has been an important means for attempting to keep the police accountable to the rule of law. Our political system places a heavy burden for controlling the police on the courts. It relies mainly on the Constitution and after-the-fact, back-end review of police misconduct. Instead of obtaining democratic authorization before acting, the American police act as they see fit until the courts tell them they have overstepped their boundaries (Stone and Ward, .

What Are The Main Difficulties With Judicial Review As A Means Of Controlling The Police?

How did judicial review become the main mechanism for controlling the police? The answer lies in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1960s, a liberal and due process-oriented Supreme Court started to regulate the police. Justices on the Warren Court had become aware of the failure of state legislatures and courts to deal with racial injustices and abuses perpetrated by the police. In a series of landmark decision, The Supreme Court extended the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule protection to state and local law enforcement, recognized the Sixth Amendment right to counsel during police interrogations, guaranteed criminal defendants the right to counsel, and required police to inform suspects of their rights during custodial interrogation.

Due to rising crime rates and shifts in the politics of the country, this period of judicial intervention in order to control the police proved to be short-lived. The conservative and crime control-oriented President Nixon made four appointments to the Supreme Court which led to the Court taking a hands-off approach toward policing. In other words, the Court has tended to adopt a position of deference to the police in most police misconduct cases (Steiker, 1999 and Maclin, 1993).

Beyond the politics of judicial review, judicial remedies have practical limits. In general, judicial remedies don’t do a very good job of regulating standard tools of law enforcement—conducting physical searches of persons and property, and making arrests when necessary. During the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the exclusionary rule to state proceedings and created a federal cause of action for money damages against law enforcement officers for violating citizens’ rights. But today, scholars agree that the exclusionary rule is not very effective.

Courts exclude confessions extracted through force and exclude physical evidence found during improper searches. American courts use the exclusionary rule to deter police officers and other government agents from abusing constitutional rights. According to the exclusionary rule, courts will suppress evidence that the government obtains through unconstitutional conduct—often an unlawful search or seizure.

Most of this is initiated through suppression motions. Suppression motions in criminal cases provide the main way for litigating police misconduct. Yet, most judges seem disinclined to rule for a defendant who has been caught red-handed committing a crime (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015).

Then, too, legal scholar characterize damages actions or civil lawsuits as ineffective. They claim suing the government is costly, time-consuming, and often not worth it. Immunity doctrines often preclude relief. Immunity doctrines also immunize states, making it difficult to sue municipalities and leaving police officers individually responsible for clearly established violations.

Even when money damages are imposed, most officers are indemnified for anything they do. Governments seem content to pay damages awards without requiring police agencies to change behavior. Even when citizens succeed in exclusionary rule cases or civil actions, the Supreme Court often rejects the possibility of making judicial rules that might deter and guide future police violations (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015).

Is Judicial Review Equipped To Deal With The New Intel-Focused Policing?

Policing has changed in significant ways that make it impossible to govern or control solely through judicial review. The law enforcement game has changed, to some extent, from identifying and apprehending individuals who had violated the law, conducting physical searches of persons and property, and arresting people. When policing operates in this way, courts could exercise some control over police misconduct with back-end judicial review.

But judicial review as a protective shield against police misconduct falls apart under an intel-based law enforcement arrangement because the target is no longer a particular individual suspected of a crime. It is all of us. Under traditional law enforcement, individualized suspicion was important. Courts could examine a case and see if police investigation of and searches of a target were justified on the grounds of suspicion and/or probable cause (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015). In contrast, police dragnets intrude upon the privacy and security of swaths of the innocent public. For example, CCTV cameras capture the movements of millions of urban residents. In defending the NSA’s bulk data collection of all Americans, it director said, “You need the haystack to find the needle” (Gellman and Soltani, 2013).

Many people subjected to mass surveillance are unaware that they are being watched. If you don’t know you are being watched, how can you challenge the constitutionality of the watchpersons’ behavior? Technology complicates things more. Certain technologies—such as bulk data collection, CCTV cameras, and drones—exist on the fringes of rights that the Fourth Amendment protects. Some courts have found that no reasonable expectation of privacy against aerial surveillance exists and that bulk data collection does not constitute a Fourth Amendment search. Then, too, the same is true of technologies such as Stingray GPS tracking devices and electronic license plate readers, which dramatically expand the reach of policing (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015).

The Case for Front-End Accountability

Front-end accountability is common throughout the rest of executive government so why shouldn’t the police also be subjected to it? For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asks for public input before it announces new emission standards. Typically, front-end mechanisms for accountability include these features: rules or standards or policies, transparency, public input, and rationality (i.e. they are calibrated to do more good than harm) (Ponomarenko and Friedman, 2015).

What does front-end accountability in policing look like in an ideal world? There are a few examples of public participation in front-end policymaking in policing. In Los Angeles, a civilian police commission makes police department policies. It holds public hearings before it adopts new rules. In some big city police departments—including Seattle’s, Cleveland’s, and Portland’s—consent decrees between the U.S. Justice Department and the departments have required the agencies to create civilian police commissions to present input into police reform.

What does front-end accountability in policing look like in reality today? Compared to lengthy codes covering minute aspects of practice for most other government agencies, laws governing the police are sparse. Typically, a statute authorizes a police agency to enforce the criminal law. That’s it. Such statutes say little or nothing about what enforcement actions police are permitted to take. To be sure, there are specific statutes that govern particular aspects of policing, such as those regulating police use of wiretaps and those pertaining to drunk-driving checkpoints. But such legislation is generally lacking. Assuredly, police agencies have rules. Witness the standard operating procedures (SOP) of any police agency.

Yet, these SOPs are often silent on essential aspects of policing such as the use of deadly force and high speed chases. Moreover, police agencies lack transparency. People can not supervise officials unless the people know what the officials are up to. Some confidentiality associated with policing is necessary but policing operates under a veil of secrecy. A few police departments post their SOPs or policy manuals on the Internet but these are the exception rather than the rule (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015).

For any other agency of government, we would not tolerate this lack of accountability on the front-end. Why do we do it for the police? Why is policing exceptional?

History is one reason. During the “political era” of American police reform, popular control of the police through political machine politics created corruption and incompetence that has led Americans to grant huge autonomy to the police (Friedman and Ponomarenko, 2015). The goal of police reform became the isolation of policing from politics. Reformers argued that if politics was the problem with policing, then the solution was to “professionalize” policing and separate it from politics. This line of thinking had the unintended consequence of driving a wedge between the police and the people. Police acquired the trappings of professionalism—including more training and education, civil service protection, and better technology. The problem was that they became isolated from the community (Ponomarenko and Friedman, 2015).

.           Instituting front-end accountability in policing requires a cultural shift both among department leadership and the rank and file. Because democratic control has been largely missing from policing, chiefs of police and others in command positions will have to get used to not “calling the shots” or making policy by themselves in consultation with police unions. Similarly, the rank-and-file will have to give up the notion that only insiders like themselves have the knowledge and competence to make police policy. Both groups will have to get used to asking the public input into police business (Ponomarenko and Friedman, 2015).

This will be challenging due to police culture. In policing, officers protect one another and defend law enforcement against outside criticism. The “blue wall of silence” is a reality. One way to change police culture (and presumably to get more support for community engagement from inside police departments) is to hire women and other members of groups previously underrepresented in law enforcement. Striving to increase workplace diversity in policing is good business. Research shows that diverse teams are smarter. They focus more on facts. They process facts more carefully. They are more innovative (Rock and Grant, 2016)

Without question more community input strengthens law enforcement. Studies show that citizens are more likely to comply with the law and to cooperate with law enforcement when they perceive their actions as legitimate. a key part of legitimacy is the public perception that police are responsive to community values and interests (Tyler and Fagan, 2008).

Imagining front-end accountability in policing necessitates taking stock of the three models of front-end accountability that already exist in American government: the legislative model, the agency model, and the board or commission model (Ponomarenko and Friedman, 2015). The main difference turns on who makes the rules. Under the legislative model, elected officials in federal or state legislatures or municipal councils draft the rules that agencies follow. Under an agency model, the agency itself makes the rules and then solicits public input. Under the board or commission model, an outside agency holds public hearings to gather community input on what an agency’s policies and practices should be (Ponomarenko and Friedman, 2015).


Contrasting democratic policing with a police state gives us a notion of the kind of policing we want to prevent from happening in the U.S. The term police state has been linked to European systems of totalitarianism that scholars treat as the opposite of democracy and a threat to modern political life. Totalitarianism is understood as a political system in which police bureaucracies engage in spying, brutality, arbitrary abuse of power. The term “police state” has been frequently applied to Nazi Germany and, during the Cold War, to the Soviet Union. Later, the South African apartheid system was seen as a police state even though the white South African officials called their government democratic (despite that fact that the majority of the population was barred from participating in the democratic process!).

A police state is a country where the police watch what you do and control your life. Where’s there’s cameras in highly populated and business areas. Where you can be arrested because of something negative you said to a friends about the leaders of your country. Where police stop and search people for no reason. Where you can be detained without charge or trial. Where the police are not subject to the rule of law. Where the function of the police is to assist the ruling party maintain and exercise political power. Where policing crime and politics merge. And where political dissent is criminalized. Where the police become militarized.

Is the U.S. a Police State?

It Can’t Happen Here is a 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis. The novel envisions what it might look like if fascism came to America and the U.S. turned into a police state. Fascism is a form of far-right authoritarian ultra-nationalism characterized by dictatorial power and suppression of opposition.

It Can’t Happen Here describes the rise, against all odds, of the fascist Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip. Windrip is portrayed as a blustery populist demagogue who is elected President of the United States. Windrip sells himself as a champion of “Forgotten Men,” determined to bring dignity and prosperity back to America’s white working class. Windrip loves big, passionate rallies and rails against the “lies” of the mainstream press. His supporters embrace his message, taking their frustrations out on blacks and Jews. In addition, Windrip believes in propaganda, not information. The novel’s plot centers on a journalist’s opposition to President Windrip’s new regime and his struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion (Lewis, 2014).

Contemporary commentators and readers have noted the striking resemblance between the fictional Windrip and the 21st century presidency of Donald J. Trump. During Trump’s campaign for president, Lewis’s book made a comeback. Within a week of the 2016 presidential election, the book was reportedly sold out on Amazon. Lewis’s most powerful message in the book is that if the U.S. ever becomes a police state, everyone should resist (Gage, 2017).

Because there are different political perspectives as to what is the right balance between individual freedom and national security in a democratic society, there are no definitive standards or tipping points to determine when and if a country is a police state.

Other literary treatments of the police state provide some guidance. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, presents a picture of Britain under a totalitarian government. This novel invokes perpetual war as a justification for subjecting the people to mass surveillance, policing, and manipulation of language in order to make dissent impossible. Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 portrays the U.S. in the future as a police state which enforces censorship, suppresses free thought, and burns books.

How Life Imitates Fiction

Sometimes real life imitates fiction. In October of 2019 students at Georgia Southern University (GSU) burned the books of a Cuban-American author Jennine Capo Crucet on a grill following a lecture in which she argued with participants about white privilege and diversity. This University of Nebraska professor had visited the GSU campus to discuss her 2015 novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, which students were assigned to read for their First Year Experience program. Following the book burning, Capo Crucet tweeted: “This is where we are, America.” (Vera and Johnson, 2019).

Signs of a police state have also been identified in the social science literature. For example, sociologist James Petras (2002) lists mutual suspicion, scapegoating, and executive dictatorial powers as hallmarks or distinguishing characteristics of a police state.

Police states foster a state of mutual mistrust in which society is turned into a network of secret police informers. Perhaps the closest the U.S. ever came to this state of affairs happened in the aftermath of 9/11. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) soon after September 11, 2001 exhorted every U.S. citizen to report any suspicious behavior by friends, neighborhoods, relatives, acquaintances, and strangers.

Scapegoating refers to a process by which a person or group is unfairly blamed for something that they didn’t do and, as a result, the real source of the problem is either never seen or purposefully ignored. A prime example is President Trump’s scapegoating of immigrants. Despite a plethora of evidence showing that both undocumented and legal immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens, Trump accused Latino immigrants of being drug dealers, gang members, criminals, rapists, killers, animals, vermin, job stealers, and terrorists (Rieger, 2018).

With respect to executive dictatorial powers, in a police state a supreme leader seizes dictatorial powers, suspends constitutional rights (citing “emergency powers”), empowers the secret police, and vastly strengthens the powers of the regular police (Petras, 2002).

Is the Militarization of the Police Creating a Police State?

Blurring of the line between police and military institutions began in the 1980s and has intensified since. Policy rhetoric calling for a “war on crime,” “war on drugs,” and “war on terror” has reinforced this trend. Police forces have acquired military equipment and implemented military operations in disadvantaged communities with little to no accountability.  SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams have proliferated.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s (2014) War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing examined the indiscriminate use of SWAT-style tactics on citizens who are suspected to be too dangerous to handle by conventional law enforcement means. The report states that “the use of hyper-aggressive tools and tactics results in tragedy for civilians and police officers, escalates the risk of excessive violence, destroys property, and undermines individual liberties.” There seems to be an over-use of these “ninja”-like tactics by SWAT teams within communities of color (Enloe, 1977).

What began as a socially useful expansion of the military approach to traditional law enforcement—using paramilitary units PPUs) to respond to rare situations such as hostage taking, terrorist, activity, or “active shooter” scenarios—morphed into an active role in normal police operations such as patrolling “hot zones,” serving search warrants in drug cases, and performing stop-and-frisk procedures (ACLU, 2014).

National debates over militarized policing have been framed as a trade-off between civil liberties and public safety. While advocates claim militarized policing protects officers and deters violent crime, critics say these tactics target racial minorities and erode trust in law enforcement. Research shows that militarized SWAT teams are more often deployed in communities of color and provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction. Relatedly, research shows that seeing militarized police in news reports erodes public opinion toward law enforcement. Taken together, these findings suggest that curtailing militarized policing may serve the interests of both the police and the public (Mummolo, 2018).

From the standpoint of democratic policing, police militarization is big problem. It alienates and intimidates local residents; disproportionately impacts communities of color; gives the impression of an invading army; perverts police culture to the extent that officers are trained to think like soldiers instead of community service providers; and escalates violence putting lives at risk (Dansky, 2016).

Additionally, police militarization has occurred with little to no public oversight. In a democratic society police should not be able to obtain heavy military equipment without the communities they serve having an opportunity to weigh in on the advisability of receiving such equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense. The Obama administration took steps in the needed effort to rein in police militarization. It put in place a requirement that requests for military equipment be accompanied by a certification that a local governing body consents to the acquisition of the equipment (Dansky, 2016).

Do New Technologies Make the Police Less Democratic?

Given powerful new technologies, police may become less democratic. New information extraction technologies make it possible to have a society in which inroads are made on liberty, privacy, and autonomy. In recent decades, subtle, less coercive forms of control have emerged. These include video surveillance, computer dossiers, and forms of biological and electronic monitoring and environmental manipulations.

Technology makes the police more efficient. Computer data bases that analyze crime patters help solve crimes and local perpetrators; new forms of identification involving DNA help convict the guilty and free the innocent. New technologies can help control police. For example, having police wear cameras might enhance police accountability in the area of police-citizen encounters. Cameras might deter police deviance and provide a new form of evidence in disputed accounts. However, body cameras also might have a boomerang effect. That is, body cameras might make the police hesitate to intervene and reluctant to take risks.

Will new technologies be used to protect rather than to undermine democracy? Because technology can be implemented silently and invisibly, the answer will be difficult to ascertain. A basic question Americans must answer is: How efficient do we want police to be?

Traditionally, our American democratic society has been willing to sacrifice a degree of order for increased liberty. Similarly, Americans must ask themselves: What am I willing to give up in order to remain protected?

These questions take us back to the tension that our democratic society experiences between order and liberty. Both are necessary. A repressive society in which there is order but not liberty would be a police state. A totally free society with liberty but no order would be anarchy (Marx, 1995). Then, too, when we consider the role and purpose of intelligence in a democracy, we are confronted with a conundrum: whereas democracy calls for political neutrality, transparency, and accountability, effective intelligence agencies must operate in secret (Cristiana Matei and Halladay, 2019).

Democratic societies seek liberty and security for their citizens. To achieve these goals, they put into practice the values of freedom, rights, diversity, transparency, and accountability. At the same time, these societies also build intelligence agencies to protect their national security.

Paradoxically, however, to serve democracy, intelligence agencies must engage in clandestine activities or exploit secret sources and methods—measures that seem inconsistent with the values an open and free society. Such activities pose a danger to democracy. Secrecy, for example, may facilitate abuse and insulate the agencies from monitoring.

Additionally, secrecy and clandestine activities may encourage the politicization of intelligence agencies. This leads to misuse of intelligence agencies by the executive branch for its own political ends. Politicization can happen “down” (i.e. policymakers dictate to the intelligence professionals what product they want) or “up” (i.e. intelligence professionals know what executives want and they give it to them). A case of politicization involves intelligence agencies acting as political police for the government. There have been instances in U.S. history of governments using intelligence agencies as political police, in particular in the 1970s—including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) monitoring American citizens (Cristiana Matei and Halladay, 2019).

Finding a trade-off between intelligence and democracy translates into democratic reform of intelligence-or intelligence democratization. Democratic reform of intelligence is a combination of two requirements: democratic civilian control over intelligence and, respectively, effectiveness of the intelligence agencies (Bruneau and Cristiana Matei, 2012). Democratic civilian control of intelligence is conceptualized in terms of authority over institutional control mechanisms, oversight, and the inculcation of professional norms. Oversight is exercised on a regular legal basis by the civilian leadership to keep track of what the intelligence agencies do and to ensure they are following the direction and guidance from civilian elites. Oversight is exercised not only by formal agencies within the executive, legislative, and judicial branches but also by the independent media, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks, and even international organizations as courts of human rights (Matei and Halladay, 2019).


Critical thinking, connection to the past, and self-discovery are just three of the proven benefits of a visit to museums. We all hear the news—police need more training in use of force, communications skills, knowledge about how to execute legal search warrants. Can police officers in a police academy afford to take a whole day, or even half a day, out of training to visit a museum? What’s the point?

Early in his tenure as Commissioner of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department in 1998, Charles H. Ramsey visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum. This museum is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the World War genocide of European Jews. Between 1941 and 1945, across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany murdered some six million Jews. The museum is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.

As Ramsey toured the museum, he noticed pictures of police officers and realized for the first time their involvement in the Holocaust. It dawned on him that the law enforcement profession is good at training new recruits: Through curricula in the police academy, new law enforcement officers are taught skills in self-defense, firearms proficiency, and standard operating procedures for all kinds of situations they encounter on the streets. Yet, at the same time, Ramsey realized that law enforcement falls short when it comes to teaching police officers to be compassionate, civil, and just human beings. To do this, requires teaching police how to think critically, how to empathize, how to judge, and how to connect with the public. To foster such changes, Ramsey thought that having police officer tour the Holocaust Museum might jolt them into a change of heart and mind.

Three pictures, in particular, stood out.

Photograph 1: Complicity.

The first picture shows a police officer and a Nazi militia soldier walking a muzzled dog. Most people do not appreciate how the local police were complicit in the Holocaust. To be complicit is to help commit a crime or to do wrong. It is used to describe people who are folded or twisted together in some sort of wrongdoing. The point of the picture is that the police played a key role in perpetrating atrocities against the Jewish people by passively permitting them to take place and by actively participating in many of them.

How, in Germany in the 1930s, did things get to the point that police did not intervene when people were destroying life and property? How was such complacency  or apathy possible?

Historical explanations point toward a trend in Germany at the time toward nationalization and politicization of policing. If these trends have a familiar ring to them, it’s  because those same trends pose challenges to policing in the U.S. today.

Relatedly, the brand of crime control that the Nazis practiced was “zero tolerance policing” taken to its extreme. The Nazis moved from zero tolerance for criminal behavior to zero tolerance for those people the Nazis scapegoated as responsible for crime, disorder, and other social problems—in this case, Jews, gays and lesbians, people with mental illness, and those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Zero tolerance is in vogue today in some law enforcement circles and in some schools in the U.S.

Ramsey thinks this picture warrants special attention because it suggests a clash between zero tolerance policing and the democratic ideal of tolerance—tolerance of different people, different cultures, different viewpoints. Today in the U.S., in the name of zero tolerance policing, some police and sheriffs’departments crack down on minor misdemeanors, select underprivileged neighborhoods for mass incarceration and/or mass deportation, and profile people of color. If American police are to stand for any type of zero tolerance, Ramsey says it should be zero tolerance for the kind of racism that led to the Holocaust 70 years ago and the kind of neo-Nazi and right-wing extremism that feeds hate crimes in U.S. today.

Could the Holocaust have happened without the passive injustice and active cooperation of the local police in Germany?

Who knows? But, according to Ramsey, one thing is for certain: local police in Germany operated by a set of values that contradicted the mission of police in a free, democratic and pluralistic society. Ramsey encourages people to reflect on the fact that the German police were part of a police state and to ask themselves whether or not they think that the U.S. could ever become a police state.

Photograph 2: Resignation

A second photo that Ramsey thinks deserves attention is a 1945 photo of a prisoner who has just been liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. He is sitting and eating rice from a bowl. Ramsey’s interpretation of this photo is that when viewers look into this man’s eyes, they can sense he has endured profound suffering and that he will never be fully liberated. The anguish that Ramsey sees in this liberated prisoner’s eyes is the conviction that the human tragedy that was the Holocaust should have never happened. From the look on this prisoner’s face, it seems as if the liberated prisoner has given up hope. Something bad has happened and cannot be changed. From the look on the prisoners’ face, he seems to be crying out, “I surrender. Because of the inhumane things that have been done to me and that I’ve witnessed, I’ll be submissive for life.”

Ramsey encourages observers to ask “What if” questions as the contemplate the meaning of this photo: If only the police who were supposed to protect the rights and liberties of the Jewish people had stopped the Nazis. If only that had happened, then perhaps atrocities would not have taken place

Ramsey also advises observers to ask themselves if it is possible that Americans who reside in our country’s most disadvantaged communities today reflect a similar resignation and hopelessness. Is there a disconnect between the police and the people who live in these communities? Is the alienation or estrangement of these people made worse by a lack of trust between the police and the people?

These are questions are, in Ramsey’s view, conversation starters for those who tour the museum.

On a deeper level, Ramsey wants observers to compare the German police of Nazi Germany and the American police of today. He wants observers to be cognizant of the fact that in their daily routines U.S. patrol officers spend considerable time with the most vulnerable in American society—people who are poor and undereducated; immigrants who may speak a different language; people who don’t trust the police. Rather than rounding these people up like cattle, Ramsey recommends that observers of the second photo imagine the police show compassion. Instead of stopping and frisking, this would require the police to treat people with empathy, dignity and respect.

Photograph 3: Bystanders

A third photo that Ramsey draws attention to shows soldiers standing by a man who is on his knees in a hole, about to get shot in the back of the head. The man has dug his own grave and is about to be buried in it. What should we make of these bystanders? A bystander or a chance spectator is one who is present but not taking part in a situation or event.

Again, Ramsey encourages observers to ask “What if” questions.

What if some of these bystander-soldiers had attempted to stop the murder of the man who had dug his own grave? What if an American police officer is a bystander when another police officer beats up a suspect? What is going on in that bystander’s head and heart that prevents him or her from stopping the assault and arresting his or her fellow officer? Who does the bystander-police officer owe his or her allegiance to—the brotherhood or sisterhood of police the Constitution, or the American people?

Take-Away Value

In cooperation with the Holocaust museum and the Anti-Defamation League, the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. created a one-day education program to give officers a chance to spend a day at the Holocaust museum and reflect on the role of police in a democratic society. Law enforcement officers from a range of federal, state and local agencies have been through this program.

This program serves as a reminder that local police must never become so politicized—as they became in Nazi Germany—that they think their main role is doing the bidding of political leaders or looking the other way when political authorities deny fundamental citizens’ rights. Further, this program is intended to drive home point that police power, authority, and legitimacy come not from the political parties but from the people. It follows, according to Ramsey, that the main police role should be to protect and preserve the rights of the people.

If police are going to play more of a guardian of Constitutional rights role, as Ramsey recommends, integrity needs to take center stage in the police mindset and changes must be made in the reward structures of police organizations. When it comes to policing in the U.S., we think of courage and bravery as confronting an armed gunman. We think less, according to Ramsey, about courage as doing what is right. What Ramsey has in mind is the institutionalization of Marine Corps integrity in American policing. This means police should be trained to do that thing which is right, when no one is looking. Moreover, our police systems and police cultures often fail to reward the kind of courage it takes for an officer to report the misconduct of another officer to internal affairs. Too often, those who speak up wind up being ostracized by other police. This must change, according to Ramsey, if we are to achieve the ideal of democratic policing.

Point/Counterpoint #7: Does Perspective Matter in Police Accountability?

When you are seated in a circle, around a table, it is easy to grasp the idea that those sitting somewhere else in that circle will have a different view of whatever is going on. The Circle of Viewpoints (COV) approach helps students with the process of identifying different viewpoints and perspectives on an issue. (Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison, 2011). Before one can be skilled at perspective taking, one must be able to identify different perspectives present in a situation. This exercise is intended to help learners to identify and consider diverse perspectives involved in and around police use of deadly force. The purpose is to create a greater awareness of how others may be thinking and feeling. It reinforces that people can and do think differently about the same things.


  1. Select one of the following deceased victims of police use of deadly force: George Floyd, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Jr., Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, and LaTanya Haggerty. For whichever case you select, search YOUTUBE and other sources, for videos and other portrayals of what happened in the encounter between the victim you have chosen and the police. As you watch videos and/or read other accounts, jot down simple notes of your ideas about what happened.
  2. Identify viewpoints. Mainly, focus on the viewpoints of the victim and the police. If a bystander videotaped the incident,include her as a viewpoint-holder as well.
  3. Explore at least two different viewpoints. First, type Now explore the incident from the victim’s viewpoint. Put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Pretend you are the victim. What were you thinking while all of this was going down? Imagine that you are puzzled by the way the police are handling your situation. What, if anything, scares you about how things are moving in this situation? Assume you have time to ask the police one question before the shooting begins. What would that question be? Now switch roles. Type POLICE OFFICER. Step into the police officer’s shoes. Pretend you are the police officer. What are you thinking? From the police officer’s perspective, what puzzles or scares you about this situation?
  4. Do you think that more than one viewpoint of this incident is possible and can indeed be valid? Why or why not?
  5. What was the outcome of this case? Do you think the police were held accountable in this case? Why or why not?
  6. Do you think racial bias or racism played a part in the case you studied? Please explain.
  7. According to Lynne Peeples’s article in Nature, what do the data say about racial bias and police shootings? List what you think are the three most important points.

Suggested Sources:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The enduring myth of Black criminality.” The Atlantic, Published September 10, 2015, (Youtube)

Lynne Peeples, “What the data say about police shootings,” Nature, September 4, 2019. Available at:


  • Democratic policing is the ultimate reform because the values that guide law enforcement should be consistent with the values that our country is founded on.
  • Asking the dumb question of whether or not the U.S. is a democracy leads to the answer that this dumb question is debatable.
  • By recognizing the equality is a neglected factor in most discussions of policing, we can identify two critical areas—over-policing and under-policing—that warrant the attention of police reformers.
  • Judicial review is no longer an effective way to control the police.
  • Front-end mechanisms show more promise than back-end mechanisms when it comes to holding police accountable.
  • Preventing the emergence of a police state drives a good deal of scholarly interest in studies of democratic policing.
  • Signs of a police state should be heeded.
  • Perspective matters in police accountability.


  1. In your ideal world, what would be the relationship between the police and democracy?
  2. How would you explain democratic policing to someone who has never heard the term before?
  3. Compare and contrast democratic policing and police state policing.
  4. What signs of a police state, if any, do you see in the U.S. today?
  5. How can knowing the argument in favor of front-end police accountability make you a better citizen?
  6. Have museum tours helped you personally to learn in the past? Do you agree or disagree with Charles Ramsey that police can learn about the heart and soul of democratic policing from touring the Holocaust Museum? Explain the reasons for your answer.
  7. Why does perspective matter in police accountability?


Democratic policing. A model of policing defined by what it avoids—it shuns torture and terrorism—and by what it is guided by—the rule of law and the principle of equality.

Democracy. A society that values the rights of the individual, the rule of law, equality, universal suffrage, free and fair elections, competing political parties, an independent judiciary, checks and balances on the government and civilian control of the military. Democracy also means government by the people, who may rule either directly or indirectly, through elected representatives.

Racial profiling. The systematic use of race (usually along with other factors) in picking out persons for investigative attention.

Affirmative action. A policy that directly or indirectly awards jobs, promotions, and other resources to individuals on the basis of membership in a protected group in order to compensate those groups for past discrimination.

Separation of powers. The idea that political representatives in the legislative branch who are elected by the people make the laws that people are expected to obey; police and other officials within the executive branch enforce the laws; and courts from the judicial branch decide if the actions taken by the other branches is consistent with the law.

Front-end accountability. Transparent rules made with public input that exist before officials act.

Back-end accountability. Making sure the rules are obeyed through judicial review and other mechanisms.

Judicial review is the idea, fundamental to the US system of government, that the actions of the executive and legislative branches of government are subject to review and possible invalidation by the judiciary. .

Police state. A country where the police watch what you do and control your life. Where’s there’s cameras in highly populated and business areas. Where you can be arrested because of something negative you said to a friends about the leaders of your country. Where police stop and search people for no reason. Where you can be detained without charge or trial. Where the police are not subject to the rule of law. Where the function of the police is to assist the ruling party maintain and exercise political power. Where policing crime and politics merge. And where political dissent is criminalized. Where the police become militarized.


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