Police state

From Encyklopedia Administracji Publicznej

POLICE STATE (→ police) – this term has two meanings. In the period of absolutism, the police (p.) meant the general state authority or the whole regulation carried out by the state in all areas of life (through prohibitions and orders) by means of legal provisions, in order to ensure social well-being. Its synonym is the concept of state administration. From the 18th century, people began to talk about “welfare police” and “security police” (ensuring security for citizens). This second concept is the source of the later concept of “police state”. P. began to be perceived as the supervision of the state over society, which in the 19th century had a strong connection with the birth of organisations fighting, also in conspiracy, by methods of armed fights, with the existing absolutist order (Russia, Austro-Hungary, Prussia). P. dealing with the protection of the political order began to be called the “political police”. It was equipped with the right and instruments of public surveillance, including secret surveillance (eavesdropping, supervision of correspondence, secret agents in political organisations, etc., tracing) and the use of coercion (arrest). In pre-modern times, Russia in the times of Ivan the Terrible (Oprichnina) could be characterized as the police state. P. as an organised formation existed in European countries from the 18th century (France, Russia) or 19th century (Great Britain). The essence of the p.s. is not the use of police by the executive authority or the ruling party to ensure social order and protect the constitutional order, but rather its functioning without control by law and society – enabling arbitrary action. P. independently (without supervision) and most often implicitly selects the means of action (procedures of wiretapping, interrogation, detention), there is no possibility for the citizen to question (e.g., in front of courts) both the measures taken by p. towards him/her, and the use by p. of supervision over socio-political life (supervision over parties, associations, universities). P. supervises the whole social life, gathers information about citizens without any control, often is not subject to civilian, and especially democratic social and political control. The goal is to eliminate the opposition and political opponents of the ruling group and to exercise control over, or even eliminate, civic freedoms. The powers of police and special services have a very wide and uncontrolled range and are often arbitrary and discretionary. Examples of p.s. are foremost absolute states (e.g. Tsarist Russia – Ochrana), authoritarian (Napoleonic France – police of Minister Fouche) and dictatorial states (authoritarian and totalitarian), although not in each one of them the political police is the main subject of power. Certainly, the Third Reich (the role of the SS and the Gestapo), the Stalinist Soviet Union (NKVD), and Iraq in times of Saddam Hussein can be included in this group. The methods of the p.s. – although under the control of the party (party state) – are/were used by most of the undemocratic states, both in the past – e.g. the People’s Republic of Poland, the GDR (Stasi), and now – authoritarian Arab or Asian states. The opposite of the p.s. is the rule of law, in which administrative bodies (including p.) operate on the basis and within the limits of the law established by democratic authorities, especially the parliament. [D. Długosz]

Literature: B. Chapman, Police State, London 1970 ■ H. Głębocki, Policja tajna przy robocie. Z dziejów państwa policyjnego w PRL [Secret police at work. From the history of the police state in the People’s Republic of Poland], Kraków 2005 ■ J. Larecki, Wielki leksykon służb specjalnych. Organizacje wywiadu, kontrwywiadu i policji politycznych świata, terminologia profesjonalna i żargon operacyjny [A great lexicon of special services. Organisations of intelligence, counterintelligence and political police in the world, professional terminology and operational jargon], Warszawa 2007.