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University of Detroit Journal of Urban Law

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Traditionally, police departments have been among the most independent and important of administrative agencies. Operating under broad public mandates, they have exercised considerable discretion in the definition and performance of their responsibilities. With little legislative oversight to monitor their activities, police have charted their own courses, checked only by court enforcement of constitutional constraints embodied in procedural law. In addition to benefiting from a traditional legislative reluctance to interfere in administrative activities, police department independence has been fostered by the general conception that police are merely ministerial agents enforcing legislatively prescribed codes. As one leading student of police activity has written: "Despite the extensive policymaking by the police, the continuing assumption by the community and by the police themselves has been that the police do not make policy."

Police autonomy has been further secured by both a continuing public focus on the police as crime fighters, and by a failure of the public and legislative bodies to recognize that the theoretical concept of police responsibility for the maintenance of a maximum degree of individual freedom is not shared by the police.



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