The Police Identity Crisis : Hero, Warrior, Guardian, Algorithm book cover
1st Edition

The Police Identity Crisis
Hero, Warrior, Guardian, Algorithm

ISBN 9780367700249
Published March 31, 2021 by Routledge
182 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $160.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

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.

Table of Contents


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

View More



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