1st Edition

The Police Identity Crisis Hero, Warrior, Guardian, Algorithm

By Luke William Hunt Copyright 2021
    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book provides a comprehensive examination of the police role from within a broader philosophical context. Contending that the police are in the midst of an identity crisis that exacerbates unjustified law enforcement tactics, Luke William Hunt examines various major conceptions of the police—those seeing them as heroes, warriors, and guardians. The book looks at the police role considering the overarching societal goal of justice and seeks to present a synthetic theory that draws upon history, law, society, psychology, and philosophy.

    Each major conception of the police role is examined in light of how it affects the pursuit of justice, and how it may be contrary to seeking justice holistically and collectively. The book sets forth a conception of the police role that is consistent with the basic values of a constitutional democracy in the liberal tradition. Hunt’s intent is that clarifying the police role will likewise elucidate any constraints upon policing strategies, including algorithmic strategies such as predictive policing.

    This book is essential reading for thoughtful policing and legal scholars as well as those interested in political philosophy, political theory, psychology, and related areas. Now more than ever, the nature of the police role is a philosophical topic that is relevant not just to police officials and social scientists, but to everyone.


    Introduction: A Multifaceted Theory of the Police

    Chapter 1: Heroes

    Death and Duty
    A Police Case Study
    A Brief History of Philosophy and Psychology
    Old and New Heroism
    Conclusion: Epistemic Entitlement

    Chapter 2: Warriors

    War and Police
    Consequential Policing
    Police Militarization
    The Warrior Ideal
    Objections and Positional Requirements
    Conclusion: Fear and Force

    Chapter 3: Guardians

    Whom and What to Guard?
    Plato’s Guardians
    The Guardian Category Mistake
    Police Archetypes and Individuation
    Conclusion: Democratic Policing and its Limits

    Chapter 4: Algorithms and Justice

    The Conflation of Fact and Value
    Policing by Prediction
    Prediction Problems
    Justice through Human Rights
    Legitimacy and Security of Person through Public Reason
    Conclusion: Public Reason through (Procedurally Just) Community Policing

    Epilogue: Reorienting the Police Identity

    Defunding the Police, Abolishing the Police, and Other Political Reforms
    Recruitment, Training, and Values
    Seeking Justice Collectively


    Luke William Hunt is a member of the faculty at the University of Alabama, where his work lies at the intersection of philosophy of law, political philosophy, and criminal justice. He is the author of The Retrieval of Liberalism in Policing (Oxford, 2019). Prior to entering academia, he worked as an FBI Special Agent.

    "As the role of the police has become a hotly debated issue facing American society, this book identifies the various lenses through which contemporary law enforcement may be understood, each with its own implications for policy and practice. The author offers a well conceptualized framework that draws upon the nexus of law, philosophy, criminal justice, and field experience, blending real-world examples with philosophical context in a most engaging read. Relevant to scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and the public, this book will shape many future conversations about the law enforcement role."

    Stephen S. Owen, Interim Chair, Department of Political Science, and Professor of Criminal Justice, Radford University

    "From the psychology of archetypes, to an examination of warrior masculinity, the tenets of political liberalism, and the "blue wall of silence," Luke Hunt provides a perspective on policing that only someone with his unique set of experiences can provide. This book is personal, political, and deeply insightful all at once."

    Barry Lam, Slate's Hi-Phi Nation podcast and Associate Professor and Chair, Vassar College, Department of Philosophy

    "It is hard to imagine a timelier book than this engaging and illuminating meditation on the current 'identity crisis' of the police. Luke William Hunt provides a clear overview of a range of police self-understandings (hero, warrior, guardian), each of which is contextualized within a richly-described philosophical and psychological history, before developing his own conception of a police role rooted in the tradition of liberal democracy. A vital and rewarding read."

    Brian R. Clack, Professor of Philosophy & A. Vassiliadis Director of the Humanities Center, University of San Diego

     "Though a philosophical literature on policing dominated by law enforcement voices would lack critical distance from the subject, a literature devoid of such voices would have its own limitations. It would rely on a narrower range of perspectives and miss out on potential insights that come from having diverse points of view. The discipline benefits from having in Hunt an astute observer of both the dangers and promises of policing, informed by firsthand experience wrestling with that tension.

    In The Police Identity Crisis, Hunt considers and ultimately rejects four candidates for how police should understand themselves—as heroes, as warriors, as guardians, and as officials guided by algorithms. These identities are problematic in different ways, but they all are part of a larger problem of police seeing themselves as distinct from their communities and in conflict with them. As Hunt puts it near the close of his book, the fundamental question for policing comes down to this: "Are the police at war with the community, or are they collectively seeking justice as members of the community?"

    Ben Jones, The Pennsylvania State University, in Ethics 133:4