Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Jill Delston


Eric Wiland

William Dunaway


A police officer's badge is the emblem of a shield, meant to protect and serve citizens from violence and crime. Yet today, so many citizens feel their shield is absent, if not weaponized against them. This perception of malfeasance has become evident in the waves of outrage and protest that followed high profile applications of coercive and lethal force by the police in recent years. One need only look at the armor and munitions police deploy in the searches of citizens and on perimeters of protests as evidence that the tools of the police mission are converging with those of a soldier's mission. Such tools and tactics of the soldier are typically designed to treat people as potential combatants rather than citizens entitled to due process; yet we do not ask the same combat discipline of police as we do soldiers. Considering that these arsenals and tactics have been adopted in the advent of policy pushes coined as the War on Drugs and War on Terror, it stands that police officers and citizens will benefit from a more comprehensive theory regarding justification of force. In this paper, I argue that the just war tradition, modified for domestic policing, can fulfill this need and solve the issues the citizens and activists have with police use of force. The following paper shows that under just war principles, the current ease police offers have in applying force to citizens cannot be justified, that certain threats posed to police cannot justify lethal force, and current principles governing the use of force ultimately undermine the police mission. I offer an introduction to Just War Theory and explain benefits of just war principles in Section I, modify them into just force principles appropriate for domestic policing in Section II, justify why said principles are accurate to apply to police as opposed to other sets in Section III, apply said principles to certain case studies and theory of policing in Section IV, and finally deal with potential objections that can be made to this application in Section V.