Robert Peel wrote about 200 years ago that “Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.” As police officers it is our duty to prevent crimes and arrest violators when crimes are committed. Cops sometimes get into trouble when it appears they are straying into the realm of the judiciary. Street justice is not justice; it is revenge or even just brutality.
When officers forget their role and step into the role of punishing suspects they are in great danger. They may be punishing the wrong person. They may be punishing someone who does not deserve the type of punishment the suspect is receiving. The criminal case against the suspect may suffer, even be tossed out of court if the officers overstep their roles.
The criminal justice system has several different components. Officers have their role to play. Judges have their role to play. The penal system has its role to play too. Each part of the system needs to focus on its unique roles and not stray into the area of the other. Officers need to remember that street justice is not justice, and it’s not their job; that’s what the SGT Says.