Good Cop, Bad Cop?

by mbish3 on March 14, 2014 - 12:53am

In the article by Meares (2013), she discusses the issues concerning police and crime rates in the past and to date, as well as ways to help crime rates. She discusses how crime rates have significantly dropped in the past twenty years, which could be because of new procedures placed inside police departments. However, she argues that certain elements should be present to deter crime. Lawful or effective policing should be prevalent, where crime is fought effectively and police follow lawful procedures. There also should be a legitimacy aspect to policing and fighting crime. Police officers should have a legitimate reason for arresting or confronting an offender. Another aspect that should be present, Meares (2013) argues, is that police should act rightfully when at the same time acting legitimately and lawfully. Acting rightfully means that the officer should treat the individual with respect and dignity. This aspect of policing is not taught in academy, therefore is lost in many areas of policing. Combined with the other two aspects, this results in the proper procedures to carry out police action. When this happens the community and the public observes the police behavior and consequently approves, therefore has a better attitude towards the police, in turn helping the police fight crime. Overall, the main point is that when police combine these three aspects, they have public approval and respect, as well as a reduction in crime rates in a community. Failure to carry out these procedures in policing can result in the ‘Bad Cop’ persona, but what people look for is the ‘Good Cop’ persona, which can result from these procedures (Meares, 2013).

            The main purpose of this article is that Meares (2013) is attempting to communicate to the public the ‘Good Cop’ persona, and what it means for a police officer to exhibit this persona. In her article, she discusses the theoretical aspects needed, her empirical work, and a combination of the two to create a way to govern police that is democratic. She explores the aspects that make a police officer a ‘Good Cop’ and what the affect is on the relationships and crime within communities. She believes that the public cares about rightful policing, and that good policing positively affects the community. This article is aimed at the general public, because everyone has relations to the police in one way or another. One of her main points is that more police are needed in society, to bond with communities, while carrying out these theoretical procedures to create the ‘Good Cop.’ In the article Meares (2013) claims,

“No doubt I make some uncomfortable by promoting the notion that police should be involved in this work—especially those who believe that having less police is always better. What we know, however, is that police are involved in the business of constructing community identity. The empirical distinctions we demonstrate between lawfulness assessments of police conduct on the one hand and fairness assessments on the other powerfully suggest that people understand police treatment of citizens in the constitutive manner that Loader and Walker describe. Moreover, we know that there are potentially negative consequences of this kind of psychological processing. Too often, identifiable groups---typically minority---receive the short end of the stick in this constitutive process. At the very least, we should take what steps we can to address the consequences of this reality on the ground and aspire to promote the Good Cop.”

Meares (2013) also states that the police should not be only concerned with crime reduction, but with the constitutive and social aspects as well. When police are concerned with these aspects it creates what she calls ‘rightful policing.’ A strategy to change police conduct is to change the legal rules that govern the way police officers behave. That way is more effective and uses less resources, compared to educating the public on the theoretical manners. The latter way also would take more time and effort. Her article lays out her argument in a cohesive manner that consists of all of the aspects pertaining to her purpose. She clearly has a purpose, all segments are relevant, and her research in the article is significant as well as realistic (Meares, 2013).


Meares, T. (2013, October). The Good Cop: Knowing the Difference Between Lawful or Effective Policing and Rightful Policing — And Why it Matters. William and Mary Law Review, 54(3), 1865-1886.         


This is a very interesting post as you emphasize the importance that police officers do hold in creating and fostering a community. Though it’s true that many people feel that less police is always better, as there is a seemingly inherent distrust in how police forces operate (police brutality, corruption, extortion, etc.), I do agree that a police presence in high crime rate neighbourhoods is a necessity. I say that, however, with the understanding that the police should not simply be a force that interests itself solely in finding perpetrators of crimes and locking them up. Like Meares suggests, any police officer should have to develop the right attitude towards his job and act not only as an enforcer of the law, but also as a civil servant.
Though this may seem unrelated, there is an interesting article by Lauren Kirchner posted on the website Pacific Standard, which does a summative of the “broken windows theory.” As a quick background, Police Commissioner William Bratton utilized the aforementioned theory in the 1990’s in New York City, in an effort to substantially reduce the crime rate that had gripped the city during the crack epidemic of the 1980’s. It provides a nice perspective on this controversial method, which some say only enforces principles of strict policing rather than anything else.

Link to Article:

Interesting perspective. I agree that police are a necessity in society for civil structure and order, but do you really feel more safe with police around? When you're driving down the road and you pass a cop, do you feel more safe or are you nervous regardless if you know you didn't do anything illegal? I believe that cops are not motivated by the original purpose of forming a police department, to protect and serve the people. Instead, I believe that they operate off of quotas and under self appointed superior rules that they are above the law. I believe they take advantage of the notion that they "are the law" and hide behind the badge. After all, shouldn't they be equal citizens given a duty to protect within their authority. So this brings me to my point, why do cops worry about petty crimes when major crimes still take place? Absolutely I believe cops need a presence in high crime rate areas, but I think they need to prioritize severeness of crimes. I believe the justice system is majorly flawed, in that the people that operate it overuse their authority in manners that don't protect civilians. With all this being said, I believe if reformations were made to prosper more 'Good Cop' acts, society would greatly benefit and crime rate would sub seed naturally. Interesting article, any proposals on what could be done to fix this problem?

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