Aspects of non-democratic policing: the rise of the NAZI policing system

Special Issue New Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice

ISBN: 978-1-84855-652-2, eISBN: 978-1-84855-653-9

ISSN: 1059-4337

Publication date: 25 August 2009


The study of policing in Anglo-American societies has been severely restricted in the last 20 years to quasi-historical overviews, studies of policing in times of stable, non-crisis periods in democratic societies that in turn had survived the crisis as democracies. Perhaps the epitome of this is the sterile textbook treatment of policing in Canada and the United States – a sterile rubble of functions, duties, training surrounded by clichés about community policing. Scholarly writing on democratic policing and its features is severely limited by lack of inclusiveness of the range of contingencies police face, and many respects this work is non-historical and non-comparative. In the present world of conflict and strife that spreads beyond borders and challenges forces of order at every level, the role of police in democratic societies requires more systematic examination. In my view, this cannot be achieved via a description of trends, a scrutiny of definitions and concepts, or citation of the research literature. Unfortunately, this literature makes a key assumption concerning police powers in democratic societies: that the police are restricted by tradition, tacit conventions, and doctrinal limits rooted in the law or countervailing forces within the society. While these constraints are sometimes summarized as a function of “the rule of law,” this assumption is much deeper and more pervasive than belief in the rule of law. It is possible to have a non-democratic police system that conforms to the rule of law and reflects the political sentiments of the governed. It is also possible to have non-democratic policing emerge from a quasi-democratic system as I show in reference to the transformation of the police in the Weimar Republic to the police system of the Third Reich. The complex relationship between policing and a democratic polity remains to be explored.


Manning, P.K. (2009), "Aspects of non-democratic policing: the rise of the NAZI policing system", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Special Issue New Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 47), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 27-70.

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