Herman Goldstein, Fundamental Objectives of Policing: Are They Relevant Today? I Say Yes!

The fundamental objectives of policing (also referred to as the mission of the police or the core functions of policing) are the ultimate purposes for which police agencies have been created. Goldstein was one of a number of scholars who recognized and articulated the breadth and complexity of the police mission. He synthesized the understanding of the multiple objectives of the police in his seminal work; Policing a Free Society, a precursor to his writings on problem oriented policing. Drawing from earlier work he had done, Goldstein (1977) characterized the fundamental objectives of the police in free societies as follows:

  1. To prevent and control conduct threatening to life and property (including serious crime);
  2. To aid crime victims and protect people in danger of physical harm;
  3. To protect constitutional guarantees, such as the right to free speech and assembly;
  4. To facilitate the movement of people and vehicles;
  5. To assist those who cannot care for themselves including the intoxicated, the addicted, the mentally ill, the physically disabled, the elderly, and the young;
  6. To resolve conflict between individuals, between groups, or between citizens and their government;
  7. To identify problems that have the potential for becoming more serious for individuals, the police or the government; and
  8. To create and maintain a feeling of security in the community.

While there are other ways to characterize the police mission, both in greater and lesser detail, Goldstein’s formulations remains a comprehensive and useful reference for guiding police actions and are very, very relevant still, or even more today.

Stay Oriented!

Fred