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  arrow pointing to the right   Home arrow My Thoughts arrow Politics arrow Politics arrow Humanistic Policing


Humanistic Policing PDF Print E-mail

Humanistic Policing

What do we want our police to do?

There is a better way. Humanism

Keep us safe of course. But they don’t always do that. Sometimes the police are the problem. So what kind of person do we want policing us?

Ideally, someone who is fair, responsible compassionate and courageous. We want them to help us, which requires compassion. We want them to be fair, so that if we are accused, they treat us with compassion even though we are a suspect.  We want them to be responsible and respond promptly, fairly and professionally.  And we want them to be courageous so that if they are called on to use force to defend themselves and others, they will do so.

Our current approach towards governance and policing is based on the work of John Locke -  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/ - people are “naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property. Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments.”

In other words, we have given police the authority to police, but that authority is conditional on their performance.  This is a pretty good statement of humanistic expectations regarding the police.

Where we run into problems isn’t in our expectations, it’s in how best to accomplish our objectives of stable, comfortable enjoyment of our lives without undue governmental interference in the form of the police.  It’s also clear that some of us enjoy more undue governmental interference than others and that skin color has a tremendous impact on whether or not you are subject to repeat undue interference.

Which brings us to the topic of humanistic policing.  Wouldn’t it be nice if police treated everyone the same. And didn’t shoot unarmed people because they were afraid of them because of their skin color?  Yeah, that would be nice.  So how do we get there?

It turns out humanistic policing is being increasingly seen as a good approach. See: http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=971&issue_id=82006

The article cited by the above article found that college education has a humanizing effect on law enforcement personnel. They are less authoritative, more flexible and better able to use their discretion, which is important, because law enforcement requires officers to use their discretion and judgement a lot! It’s a central part of the job.

Humanism is a valuable trait to have in a police officer because the officer’s ability to empathize with diverse individuals is vital to their success. According to the book: Policing by Carol Archibald on page 82 (https://books.google.com/books?id=2r_kk4e_tQwC&pg=PA182&lpg=PA182&dq=humanistic+policing&source=bl&ots=vAbPdeuEev&sig=KZ6nAiJQ1mVPw0xTm9XGAu-O2zg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBWoVChMIi77boO-oxwIVxKceCh3jQAWl#v=snippet&q=humanism&f=false) a variety of research dating back to the 70s shows that education helps officers be more accepting of minorities, more professional in their conduct, and more ethical.  All traits we want in officers.

So how do we encourage more the police to become more humanistic? The answer is education. Specifically, a humanistic education.


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