The Double-Edged Sword
In an in-depth research paper on The Double-Edged Sword, begin by discussing the paradoxical nature of the public’s perception of law enforcement.
Since the advent of civilized society, humans have recognized the need to disallow certain types of activity and behavior. These proscriptions and limitations have always engendered some degree of enmity and disgruntlement among the populace, who often resent and bristle against the perception of restricted liberties. However, it has also long been widely recognized that placing certain specific limitations upon the actions of the citizenry has the effect of improving the situation of the group as a whole. In other words, laws that limit individual freedoms have the ultimate effect of benefiting society, and for this reason, they have been a shared feature of all of the cultures recognized as representing civilization for millennia.
Although the myriad social benefits of developing, imposing, and enforcing a body of laws are clearly apparent, there has always been a significant degree of tension and strife that has existed among the public and the institutions or organizations charged with the responsibility of ensuring the public’s compliance with laws. At the same time that most people recognize the need for law enforcement, and even express respect for police and other law enforcement officials in the abstract, this endearment can quickly fade in a real-world encounter with an officer of the law.
At the current historical and cultural moment, the disconnect between this abstract level of respect for the important social function of law enforcement and the public’s perception and treatment of actual law enforcement officers and agencies is at an all-time high. The second half of the twentieth century, in particular, gave rise to growing tensions between police departments and the communities they serve. Such discord has been especially prevalent in poor, minority, or otherwise socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities.