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Capacity to Use Force as the Core of the Police Role (From Moral Issues in Police Work, P 15-25, 1985, Fredrick A Elliston and Michael Feldberg, ed. - See NCJ-99027)

NCJ Number
E Bittner
Date Published
11 pages
The authorization of the police use of force in a society dedicated to peace is based on the designation of criminals as enemies of social peace who must be subdued by a state-sponsored, superior professional military corps mandated to use coercion against enemies of peaceful social order.
The police are best understood as a mechanism for distributing nonnegotiable coercive force in accordance with an intuitive grasp of situational threats to social order. This definition of the police role presents a difficult moral problem; setting the terms by which a society dedicated to peace can institutionalize the exercise of force. Apparently two conditions make a coercive police corps acceptable in such a society. First, the targets of police coercion are perceived as enemies of the planned social order, and the coercive advance against them is viewed as legitimate protective warfare. Those who wage the war are then imbued with military virtues and the glorious mission of protecting society. The second condition that justifies the use of a coercive police corps is its professionalization, so that police work becomes a public trust requiring the exercise of professionally responsible decisions and actions. Seven notes are listed.


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