Philosophy and Public Affairs 49 (1):26-50 (2021)

Jake Monaghan
University of New Orleans
The structure of police agencies, especially how the boundaries of their authority are drawn, is a crucial element of their legitimacy. Poorly drawn boundaries encourage unjustified police power and illegitimate police agencies. Claiming that realized political entities in developed democracies are illegitimate is fraught, in part because the difference between legitimate and illegitimate political power can be subtle in practice. To overcome this difficulty, I propose thinking in terms of “legitimacy-risk profiles.” I develop a way of determining a measure of risk to legitimacy associated with various kinds of police power and agency structure. I then use it to explore the institutional boundaries recommended by the legitimacy-risk profiles of different kinds of policing. The result is a normative framework for thinking about political legitimacy at the realized—that is, not the fundamental and idealized—level.
Keywords political legitimacy  policing  risk
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DOI 10.1111/papa.12181
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