52 Tex. L. Rev. 703 (1973-1974)
Approach to Legal Control of the Police

handle is hein.journals/tlr52 and id is 725 raw text is: Observation

An Approach to Legal Control of the Police
Kenneth Culp Davis*
The nation's 420,000 policemen are administrators, and their
40,000 separate agencies are administrative agencies. They should be
subject to the established principles of administrative law, 'but they
generally are not. The governmental know-how that has developed
around our most advanced administrative agencies should be applied to
both police and prosecutors, who are among our most backward agen-
cies. We should fully exploit all the promising potentialities of the
simple idea that administrative law thinking can be profitably applied
to criminal administration.
The police are among our most important policymaking admini-
strative agencies. They make policy for peacekeeping and service ac-
tivities that consume most of their time, and they make policy for law
enforcement that takes less than half of their time. One may wonder
whether any other agencies-federal, state, or local-make so much
policy that so directly and vitally affects so many people.
The quality of police performance varies considerably. Much of
it is admirable. All of us on occasion appreciate police zeal, skills, and
heroism. Most officers are able and conscientious, 'but some are not.
The police sometimes seem in a class by themselves in the extent of
their abuse of power. Charges of brutality and sadism directed against
the police often appear well supported.
Five basic facts about police policy are astonishing: (1) Much
of it is illegal or of doubtful legality. (2) Subordinates at or near the
bottom of the organization, not top officers, make much of it. (3)
Copyright 1974 by Kenneth Culp Davis
* John P. Wilson Professor of Law, University of Chicago. A.B. 1931, Whitman
College; LL.B. 1934, Harvard University; LL.D. 1971, Whitman College. This obser-
vation derives from the seventh annual Orgain Lecture, delivered at the University of
Texas Law School on March 25, 1974.
The Will E. Orgain Lectureship was established by the family and friends of the
late Mr. Orgain as an endowment fund through the University of Texas Law School
Foundation. The annual lectureship consists of a single lecture on a subject related
to law delivered by a distinguished scholar.

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