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Principles of Democratic Policing

NCJ Number
P B Heymann
Date Published
16 pages
After describing two types of democracies ("weak" and "strong"), this paper explains how the type of democracy is influenced by the type of criminal justice system; it then discusses what outsiders, such as the United States, can do to help develop an effective criminal justice system and thus a strong democracy.
A "strong" democracy is supported by the strong demands of its people, and a "weak" democracy is maintained only by the fear its opponents share of the international repercussions of either a coup or the election of a nondemocratic party. Guatemala is an example of a weak democracy since the elected president's survival has depended on the good will of the Defense Minister, who has been chosen by the army. A strong democracy depends on a deep and widespread loyalty to democratic institutions by the public and all influential persons in positions of power. Policing or, more broadly, the law enforcement system plays a crucial role in building and maintaining the sense of effectiveness and fairness on which loyalty to democratic institutions depends. Criminal justice systems fail when system procedures are badly flawed; when case processing procedures regularly fail due to inadequate resources; when they are vulnerable to abuse by wealthy, powerful, influential or ruthless parties; and when the society itself is deeply divided. The United States can help build a stronger and fairer criminal justice system in a foreign country by providing financing for needed human and material resources, providing technical advice, providing hope and energy to a system that is despairing and immobile, and bringing international and domestic pressure to bear on local elected leaders and military leaders. Appended information on providing advice across law enforcement cultures