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From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2015
16 pages
One in a series of papers that will be published from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety, this paper describes a training model for police that will assist in transforming the law enforcement culture from a "warrior" orientation to that of "guardian" of democratic ideals.
Much of the contemporary culture of policing has promoted law enforcement officers as "warriors" facing a cauldron of crime that must be suppressed by the tactics and weapons of force and control that parallel those of military "warriors" facing a hostile enemy. This warrior/militaristic culture is also reflected in the traditional hierarchical police organization that parallels the ranking and authoritative structure of the military. This paper advocates the transformation of the police culture into the posture and functions of a "guardian," which involves implementing the concepts of "procedural justice." In acting as a "guardian," police officers treat each individual fairly and consistently. Fairness relates to the protection of human rights, which includes equal treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of human rights and the worth of each individual. As Tyler and colleagues explain, "If legal authorities exercise their authority fairly, they build legitimacy and increase both willing deference to rules and the decisions of the police and the courts and the motivation to help with the task of maintaining social order in the community." The transformation from the "warrior" mentality to the "guardian" mentality in the police culture is being facilitated at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. It has established a training model that emphasizes "justice-based policing," "crisis intervention," "tactical social interaction," and ""the respect effect." A 5-year longitudinal study of the effectiveness of this training model is being conducted.

Date Published: April 1, 2015