Lynn Rhodes, Chief (Ret) California State Parks; Vice President, International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC)
In order to have stable civilization, to govern and be governed there must be a sense of legitimacy and trust by those who are governed. One consideration of use-of-power is not only perceived but actual legitimacy by policing forces. Police authority must have legitimacy and be a compliment to society and in place to protect (society). Increased awareness in the United States, enhanced by the pervasiveness of social media, has illuminated the disparity in which policing is undertaken and the sense of legitimacy by those governed. Police departments nationwide are reacting to impressions or mis-impressions they say are stigmatizing them as out of touch and anti-protection. They are often now characterized as carrying out the law (a judicial role), and prematurely so, as opposed to enforcing the law (fairly and without bias) for public protection and security.
Social order is not possible without a sense of real legitimacy, compliance and cooperation with the laws. For the greater good, society has allowed itself to be policed by consent. In the U.S. this condition is being more openly questioned and challenged.
Factors influencing public trust and the role of policing must be better understood by law enforcement agencies and the public partnership involved. Many agencies are now trying to reframe their roles as guardians as opposed to being known as police. A guardian is an ally, someone that watches, protects and takes appropriate action. Discretion and trust is fundamental and essential to their role. But making a wholesale transition to an active role as guardian from that of police will not be done quickly. It will require institutionalizing new learning, training and partnerships.
In ancient societies, there was no official law enforcement function and very little, if any, attempt at organization. Instead, individuals, families and clans took it upon themselves to take revenge against those who may have inured or offended them. The idea of crime prevention was almost non-existent in the early history of law enforcement and criminology. Worldwide, civilizations throughout the ages have contributed significantly in the development of criminal justice in society as early as 8000-4000 BC in the middle east, through the rise of the Roman Republic, to Robert Peel’s 9 principles of policing in London, and how we have evolved to the current time.
Legitimacy of policing forces and permission to conduct policing services is an issue front and center for today’s free societies.