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Policing by Command: Enhancing Law Enforcement Capacity Through Coercion

NCJ Number
Law & Policy Volume: 28 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2006 Pages: 420-443
Julie Ayling; Peter Grabosky
Date Published
October 2006
24 pages
After reviewing various ways coercion is used by the state to achieve citizen cooperation in law enforcement, along with some of the unintended consequences and costs of such coercion, this article presents guidelines for assessing the appropriateness of a specific coercive measure.
The article discusses the following types of coercion used to force citizen cooperation in enforcing various laws: mandatory citizen reporting of crime, mandatory citizen action to intervene when a law is violated, and the forfeiture of property suspected of but not proven to be linked to a crime. Such laws are based in the recognition that police are limited in their ability to prevent and detect crime and identify its perpetrators. Enacting laws that require citizens to engage in specific actions to increase public safety or be punished in some measure can educate the public about their responsibilities to prevent harm to fellow citizens and coerce them to behave appropriately. The negative consequences of such coercive measures include restrictions on citizen freedom of action, requiring actions people are not trained to perform, or that either do not solve or may aggravate the public safety problem being targeted. One issue that should be considered in devising such coercive measures is whether the public safety problem being addressed warrants the coercive measures devised. A second consideration should be whether the coercive measures specified have been proven effective in addressing the targeted problem. Other issues to consider are the use of the least restrictive coercive measure, the cost of the coercive measure, and the use of procedural safeguards to prevent abuse of the coercive measures. 41 notes and 95 references