Role Dilemma of Police in Police-Community Relations

Role Dilemma of Police in Police-Community Relations

According to Carter (2002), “What the police do and how they do it is probably the most important determinant of the status of police-community relations” (p. 121). This quote is important in analyzing the role dilemma in law enforcement because the role dilemma describes the relationship between the police and the community. The police are given authority by the community, and in turn the community provides police with the power to carry out social control. However, a dilemma exists concerning exactly how this authority and power is to be used. Historically, the police are to prevent crime and protect society, and in another sense, the police are to maintain order and enforce the laws (Carter, 2002). And even another duty is to provide social service to the community. So which is it? The role of law enforcement is highly debated; therefore, a role dilemma exists.

For example, politics play a huge role in policing. The government has its own goals and objectives for policing, and law enforcement agencies and administrators have their own agendas. Law enforcement must abide by the requests from government officials; therefore, if government officials tell them to reduce crime, they must do so. In turn, the police create policies in order to control crime. One policy is broken windows policing. Broken windows policing calls for law enforcement to be harsh on quality of life crimes such as public intoxication, loitering, or even selling loose cigarettes on the corner. The community sees these policies as discriminatory; therefore, the police are seen as enemies in the community. Instead of being a positive influence, the police have a negative influence. This creates a dilemma. We all agree crime should be suppressed; however, the community disagrees on “What the police do and how they do it…” (Carter, 2002, p. 121).


Carter, D. L. (2002). The police and the community (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Translate »