Good Faith as a Normative Foundation of Policing

Criminal Law and Philosophy 17 (3):1-17 (2023)
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The use of deception and dishonesty is widely accepted as a fact of life in policing. This paper thus defends a counterintuitive claim: Good faith is a normative foundation for the police as a political institution. Good faith is a core value of contracts, and policing is contractual in nature both broadly (as a matter of social contract theory) and narrowly (in regard to concrete encounters between law enforcement officers and the public). Given the centrality of good faith to policing, dishonesty and deception on par with fraud are justified only as a narrowly circumscribed investigative tool that is constrained by institutional commitments to the fair distribution of security and the rule of law. The practical upshot is the preclusion of most dishonest and deceptive police tactics on par with fraud, leading to an institution that is less proactive and more reactive.

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Luke William Hunt
University of Alabama

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