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What's Law Got To Do With It? Some Reflections on the Police in Light of Developments in New York City (From Hard Cop, Soft Cop: Dilemmas and Debates in Contemporary Policing, P 193-207, 2004, Roger Hopkins Burke, ed. -- See NCJ-206005)

NCJ Number
Graham Smith
Date Published
15 pages
This chapter critiques recent arguments and reforms associated with police strategies in the context of changing constitutional perspectives of the 21st century, with attention to the model of "zero tolerance policing" exemplified in New York City under the Giuliani administration and about to be extended in the United Kingdom.
The chapter first critiques the development of the doctrine of constabulary independence in Great Britain and the process by which police services have become increasingly unaccountable to the public. With the introduction of measures to restrict police autonomy in the last decade, however, concerns have been raised about the absence of checks and balances in the emerging arrangements of police control and the trend toward centralized state power. The chapter advises that although it is possible to distinguish between "hard" and "soft" strategies in policing, a strict adherence to either strategy will undermine police effectiveness and public safety. Further, the author argues that pronouncements by Labour ministers in favor of "zero tolerance policing" have contributed to the politicization of policing. This occurs because the necessary feature of a formal aggressive policing policy is political rhetoric to gain the support of an ambivalent electorate. A balance between "hard" and "soft" policing is necessary in a democratic society that makes the police accountable to the public. For policing to be effective over the long term, it must serve the needs of all segments of the population. This only happens as the police become responsive to the public safety needs of all citizens. This does not occur when a policing strategy is centralized and imposed upon a public that has little input or control over police policies and procedures. 15 notes