The Liberal Limits of Policing

Hunt, Luke William, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Simmons, A. John, Philosophy, University of Virginia

This project examines the moral limits on modern police practices that flow from the basic tenets of the liberal tradition in political and legal philosophy. The thesis that is defended is that the police’s power in liberal states is limited by a liberal conception of persons coupled with particular rule of law principles. In defending this thesis, an argument consisting of four informal premises that correspond to four central chapters will be employed. Chapters 2 and 3 constitute the theoretical backbone of the project, with chapter 2 setting forth the methodology (ideal and nonideal theory) and chapter 3 setting forth a development of that methodology (the priority of liberal personhood). Chapters 4 and 5 are applications of the theory, with chapter 4 illustrating an example of a departure from the methodological constraints (the police’s use of confidential human sources) and chapter 5 using the example of sting operations to establish a test for the liberal limits of the police’s power to break the law. The final chapter concludes by emphasizing liberalism’s commitment to a conception of persons that is based upon multiple foundational stances—thus showing how liberal personhood likewise constrains the police’s power from multiple foundational stances.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
jurisprudence, political philosophy, law, criminal justice
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