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Ideas / Police

The Police

Crime-fighters?

The criminal world is massive. Far too big for the police, or any sort of publicly accountable body, to have any sort of an impact on. So what are the police as 'crime-fighters' for?

I think we can understand them better if we view them not as an opposition to the world of crime, but more as the general public's representation in the world of crime.

We can't eliminate crime, but given that it's there, we have to take part, or be taken apart.

I think this explains certain behaviours of the crime-fighting police quite a lot: they're in an impossible situation. On the one hand they have to be publicly accountable and behave in the public interest. On the other hand, they have to be functioning participants in the criminal world, which almost by definition, is not working in the public interest.

And in a sense, criminals who work for the police are better for the public: we can keep tabs on them much better than we can keep tabs on non-police criminals.

This whole discussion begins to undermine the meaning of the word 'crime', 'public' and the role of governments in relation to criminal organisations. But I think it undermines it in a fruitful direction.

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Page last modified on June 01, 2007, at 09:08 PM