Policing the Police: U.S. and European Models

Issue Date October 2020
Volume 31
Issue 4
Page Numbers 166-181
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America’s hyperlocalized system of policing both upholds and corrodes democratic principles. Local control fosters responsiveness to local norms and preferences. However, local elites leverage greater power over public affairs to direct policing toward the enforcement of racial segregation and domination. Local financing incentivizes aggressive policing, while the ethos of local control leaves state and federal authorities ill-equipped to enforce constitutional standards. Centralized West European policing, by contrast, emphasizes uniform national (or state-wide) standards in pursuit of equality and international human-rights obligations. Although full administrative centralization is a non-starter in the United States, U.S. citizens crave centralized enforcement of rules against abusive policing.

About the Author

Paul Hirschfield is associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, where he is also affiliated with the Program in Criminal Justice.

View all work by Paul Hirschfield