Why does law enforcement have the right to employ these types of control? “We give it to them” is the easy answer. Police power is a governmental right invested in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. It means that these organizations, unlike almost any other except perhaps the military, have the right to control citizens’ movements to the point of using physical and even deadly force to do so. To best understand power and discretion, we need to define a few terms.
Authority is an unquestionable entitlement to be obeyed that comes from fulfilling a specific role. Power is the right inherent in a role to use any means to overcome resistance. Persuasion is the use of signs, symbols, words, and arguments to induce compliance. Force is the authority to use physical coercion to overcome the will of the individual. Discretion is the authority to make a decision between two or more choices.
Social contract is the concept in which the state of nature is a “war of all against all” and, thus, individuals give up their liberty to aggress against others in return for safety. Communities can increase perceptions of procedural justice by training police to interact with citizens in a less authoritarian manner and provide training on de-escalation and implicit bias. Public perceptions of police misconduct influence the public’s trust in the police and the recognition of police as agents of legal and moral authority.