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On Democratic Policing

Publication Date

August 1999


Jerome H. Skolnick


The transition of police from a security force to a democratic institution is not easy. When police forces are making the transition, we must ask: Are there any fundamental principles of democratic policing, and, if so, what are they? The first principle, openness to the free and the poor, should be a master ideal of democratic policing. The second is accountability. Police should be accountable to the communities being policed, to the taxpayers who pay the bills, and to the legal order governing their authority. Democratic policing is always in a tension among the touchstones of public safety, openness, and accountability. As the police enforce the laws of democratic governments in a free society, the balance among these touchstones should be properly maintained to reflect democratic values.

Recommended Citation

Skolnick, J. H. (1999). On democratic policing. National Policing Institute. https://www.policinginstitute.org/publication/on-democratic-policing/