The Retrieval of Liberalism in Policing

New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press (2019)
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There is a growing sense that many liberal states are in the midst of a shift in legal and political norms—a shift that is happening slowly and for a variety of reasons relating to security. The internet and tech booms—paving the way for new forms of electronic surveillance—predated the 9/11 attacks by several years, while the police’s vast use of secret informants and deceptive operations began well before that. On the other hand, the recent uptick in reactionary movements—movements in which the rule of law seems expendable—began many years after 9/11 and continues to this day. One way to describe this book is an examination of the moral limits on modern police practices that flow from the basic legal and political tenets of the liberal tradition. The central argument is that policing in liberal states is constrained by a liberal conception of persons coupled with particular rule of law principles. Part I consists of three chapters that constitute the book’s theoretical foundation, including an overview of the police’s law enforcement role in the liberal polity and a methodology for evaluating that role. Part II consists of three chapters that address applications of the theory, including the police’s use of informants, deceptive operations, and surveillance. The upshot is that policing in liberal societies has become illiberal in light of its response to both internal and external threats to security. The book provides an account of what it might mean to retrieve policing that is consistent with the basic tenets of liberalism and the limits imposed by those tenets. [This is an uncorrected draft of the book's preface and introduction, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.]

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Luke William Hunt
University of Alabama

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