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Ethical Issues in Policing

Miller, Seumas
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Hants, England: Ashgate.

This book, as Seumas Miller and John Blackler state at the outset, is a contribution to the literature on police ethics. They write from the perspective of applied philosophy. Miller is a professional philosopher. Blackler was for a long time an officer in the New South Wales (Australia) Police Service. As such, they hope to bring to their subject a unique and integrated mix of ethico-philosophical analysis and practitioner knowledge and experience. Their fundamental point in the book is this: the central and most important purpose of the institution of the police is the protection of moral rights. In substantiating and elaborating this point, they concentrate on a normative account of the institution of the police. That is, they do not attempt to provide a descriptive account of what the police have actually done or really do on a day to day basis. They want to detail what policing ought to be about in essential orientation and practice. Likewise, they do not seek a theory about police methods or strategies – that is, best practice in policing. They focus, rather, on what they conceive to be the proper ends and distinctive means of the police as an institution. In this framework, they examine the following topics: a theory of policing based on the enforcement of moral rights; authority and discretion in policing; the moral justification for the use of deadly force in policing; privacy, confidentiality, and security in policing; corruption and anti-corruption in policing; and restorative justice in policing. In their chapter on restorative justice and policing, they note that imprisonment is one of the most obvious harmful methods employed by police. To the extent that restorative justice is seen, at least in part, as a response to the perceived failure of imprisonment to effect positive change in offenders, Miller and Blackler construe restorative justice in policing as an attempt to redress the imbalance that occurs when the moral rights of victims are harmed by offenders.


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