Nineteenth century disciplinary reform and the prohibition against talking policemen

Willem de Lint

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Police in liberal democracies are both free citizens and accountable public agents. They are under strong restrictions of accountability in their exercise of authority but also have a powerful right to make decisions about individual freedoms; while labouring under tight legal and administrative constraints, they are themselves individually free. The unique role of the public police officer in this balance between private freedoms and public constraints has been an accomplishment which has required pro‐active policy. Such policy has had to maintain the police officer in the public/private divide while adapting broad transitions of liberal governance. This paper examines nineteenth century disciplinary reforms in policing in Canada and the prohibitions on the discourse between the police and the public. It is contended that this prohibition acted as a mechanism in the maintenance of the balance of this divide in police professionalization. The prohibition is consistent with Foucault's view of discipline as the other side of freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-58
Number of pages26
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Police accountability
  • Police administration
  • Police discretion
  • Police history
  • Police organization
  • Policing


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