At no point in our nation’s recent memory—and certainly not in the memories of the millennials who comprise this magazine’s staff—has policing been as contentious an issue as it is today. The killings of black men from Trayvon Martin to Philando Castille at the hands of officers have thrust conversations about racial bias in law enforcement into the national spotlight. Only just having occupied the Oval Office, Donald Trump has taken command of a White House determined to make policing U.S. borders a hallmark of his presidency.
However, to paint policing as a solely American problem would be to ignore that challenges that communities and nations across the world face in balancing security, rule of law, and individual rights. Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs in the Philippines, honor killings in South Asia, a fierce crackdown on gangs in El Salvador—all pressing cases of agents wielding authority in an attempt to discipline those who don’t follow the rules. Wherever power dynamics exist, the role of police is central.
And it’s never sexy. Enforcing the law is dirty, perilous, and polemic at times and mundane at others. Being policed, on the other hand, can be frustrating, restrictive, and even oppressive. Striking harmony between these two groups—the policers and the policed—is an ongoing project here in America and beyond.
In this issue of the HPR, writers examine the work of police operating in diverse contexts around the globe. Mfundo Radebe discusses South African president Jacob Zuma’s unforgiving use of police for political protection and advancement. Samuel Kessler probes policing on the Internet, noting the troubling lack of international norms regarding law enforcement in cyberspace. Finally, Anirudh Suresh adopts a healthy skepticism of media reports on police violence, employing raw data to challenge popular narratives.
This magazine is the first of four to be produced by the HPR’s 49th editorial board. The articles that follow, spanning six sections, are as varied in content as they are remarkable in quality. This is a testament to the brilliance and passion of our staff, who continue to renew our status as the nation’s finest college political publication. I am confident that the work done here reflects the very best of their efforts. Thank you for appreciating its importance.
Image source: Wikimedia/Jamelle Bouie