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Pop Quiz. Bittner argues there are 3 traits commonly associated with police work which affects how people view the police. Provide me with one of them (or impress me and provide all three). The First Sentence.

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Presentation Transcript
pop quiz
Pop Quiz

Bittner argues there are 3 traits commonly associated with police work which affects how people view the police.

Provide me with one of them (or impress me and provide all three).

the first sentence
The First Sentence
  • “The abandonment of the norm-derivative approach to the definition of the role of the police in modern society immediately directs attention to a level of social reality that is unrelated to the ideal formulations.”


police definitions
Police Definitions
  • The police are an agency of government which enforces the law and keeps the piece
  • The police are a bunch of hot shots who get their kicks from hassling minorities, college students, and other people who are trying to have a good time
  • The police are a bunch of brave men and women who fight the forces of evil and make the world safe for decent people
  • The police are a weapon of the state, used to oppress the working classes, the poor, and minorities
the problem
The problem
  • Definitions are normative—that is, they are based on what we think the police are (the ends), not what they actually do (the means).
  • We often think of police as upholding the law, but what they actually do are largely independent of this objective. This causes problems for police.
structural traits
Structural Traits

3 structural traits commonly associated with police work: (leads to normative definitions)

  • Police work is a tainted occupation
  • Police work is morally ambiguous and calls for quick solutions to complex problems
  • Police surveillance is inherently discriminatory
a better definition
A better definition

Bittner’s objective definition:

“The role of the police is best understood as a mechanism for the distribution of non-negotiably coercive force employed in accordance with the dictates of an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies.”

primary function use of force
Primary Function: Use of Force

Bittner’s 3 arguments:

  • It fits better with the demands made of the police.
  • It gives better accounting of the actual allocation of police manpower and resources
  • It lends unity to all police activity
in sum
In Sum
  • We value peace, and have banished violence from the CJ process, but know that force must still be used, so we’ve created the police.
  • The police are the only occupation in the country which can legitimately employ force against the citizenry. This is a special trust endowed by society, and police should be largely judged on how well they administer their coercive capacity.
  • Problem: how can a society of peace acceptably judge force, when it is largely opposed to it?