Sociology Publications

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One of the problems that has plagued policing researchers over the past few decades – ourselves included -- is the interminable question of ‘what do police do?’ Some ideas, tasks, roles, institutions and other social creations are easy to define. Policing has not been one of those. In part, it’s because it’s not only a descriptive problem, it’s also a normative one. Once you start to address the question of what do police do, then you also have to wrestle with the much meatier issue of ‘what do we want police to do’? In this paper, we exercise our theory chops in order to advance a new conceptualization of who police are, what they do and what do we, citizens, want them to do. Drawing on the relevant literature, and on our own individual and combined experiences, we argue these questions can be answered in one simple over-arching concept: the modern police institution exists to un@ck people’s problems.