How to Avoid De-professionalisation of the Police

Author:Priit Suve

Police reforms in Europe in recent decades have demonstrated that most such reform is loosely linked to problems of safety and that it seldom, if ever, captures police strategies. Reasons for reforms to police structures and operations lie hidden in the economy, politics, or some other domain rather than that of public order or crime – the realm that traditionally is associated with the police.... (see full summary)

Priit Suve
Estonian Academy of Security Sciences
Tallinn University
How to Avoid
of the Police
1. Introduction
Although the origin of contemporary police in Anglo-American and continental European cultures lies in vari-
ous ideologies, the core mission of the police at the general level is to enhance and advance the safety of a par-
ticular country. The guiding principle of contemporary policing is that the (civil) police should be separated
from the military.*1 However, the question of safety is not constrained to merely topics falling under public
order or crime. That was so centuries ago, at the time of the birth of Continental police culture in France or of
the Anglo-American police culture in England*2, or when the cock crowed at the dawn of police science*3 early
in the last century*4. The concept of safety has widened from the traditional crime-centred view to a multidi-
mensional and hard-to-de ne issue that embraces all aspects of society. Also, it is complicated to distinguish
internal safety from external. The latter was most strikingly demonstrated during the latest military con ict
in Ukraine, wherein ‘little green man’ without any distinguishing badges or markings but with machine guns
walked the territory of the country. Another problem arises in connection with the inherent complexity level
of safety problems. The police have to deal with simply de ned problems such as shoplifting but also with
vaguely de ned ones such as corruption or terrorism. The latter is known in the social sciences as an example
of ‘wicked problems’*5 – problems ‘that are complex, unpredictable, open ended, or intractable’*6.
The literature about European police reforms from the last few decades expresses a noteworthy ten-
dency quite clearly – the police reforms have not been driven to address safety issues or designed to do
United Nations General Assembly. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement O cials. Resolution /, of December ;
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The European Code of Police Ethics. Recommendation (), of
 September . Council of Europe Publishing
See J.-P. Brodeur. The Policing Web. New York: Oxford University Press . – DOI:./acprof:
There is no single de nition of police science, nor is de ning the term the purpose of this article. For this article, police sci-
ence can be understood as ‘the scienti c study of the police as an institution and of policing as a process’ (T. Bjørgo et al.
Perspectives of Police Science in Europe: Final Report. European Police College ).
See A. Vollmer. The scienti c policeman. – The American Journal of Police Science , pp. ; A. Vollmer. Police
progress in the past twenty- ve years. – Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology , pp. .
See H.W. Rittel, M.M. Webber. Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. – Policy Sciences () / , pp. .
B.W. Head, J. Alford. Wicked problems: Implications for public policy and management. – Administration & Society 
() / , pp.  (on p. ). – DOI: DOI:./.

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