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The unique legacy of a cosmopolitan thinker

Tributes to Jean-Paul Brodeur
Benoit Dupont
Traduction de Joseph Grades
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’œuvre singulière d’un penseur cosmopolite

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1This collection of articles is a tribute to Jean-Paul Brodeur who passed away on April 26, 2010. Above all, it is a reflection of his insatiable and uncompromising intellectual curiosity, developing a distinctive thought structured by an ethics of action. Emerging from his roots and headed for a very promising career in philosophy, Jean-Paul Brodeur decided to branch off in an atypical direction in 1978 to an emerging field of studies: criminology. He made this decision during a period in Quebec’s history when the social sciences were breaking free from a long reign of subordination to Thomistic philosophy (Fournier, 1976). He never regretted this audacious decision, even though he sometimes disapproved of his new colleagues’ ‘sloppy’ thinking, as Philip Stenning recalls later in this issue.

  • 1 See the annex for the complete list.

2As an author and editor of 26 works including special issue journals1, Jean-Paul Brodeur tirelessly continued his work until the end, never surrendering a moment to the disease he discovered he had a few months before. His greatest satisfaction was finalizing what he considered his Magnum opus, his object of predilection, the sum of his research and thoughts that occupied him throughout his career on policing. He never had the chance to flip through the pages of a hardback copy of his book The policing web (Brodeur, 2010). An oeuvre he reflected upon for years and frequently revised due to his desire for perfection, which was published by one of the most prestigious English academic publishing houses. However, what he originally intended as a modern treatise on policing will make his intellectual heritage heard by giving all who contemplate the functions of police activity a very rich theoretical and empirical framework.

3It would be simplistic to confine Jean-Paul Brodeur’s body of work to his research on methods of policing, even if they are his most known works. The question of sentencing also played an important role in his career. From the mid-1980s until the end of the 1990s, he demonstrated this through his will to make criminal justice fairer and more humane. Instead of confining himself to the comfortable position of an outside observer, where critics can freely situate themselves without fear of interfering with the dull unforeseen contingencies of the political-administrative world, he chose the role of adviser by working alongside Anthony Doob and a few other‎‎ criminologists for the Canadian Sentencing Commission (1987). This resulted in the construction of clear principles designed to assist in the creation of a fairer penal policy. This perilous exercise required the accommodation of opposing points of views, and undoubtedly tested Jean-Paul Brodeur’s determination. But his pragmatic nature allowed him to arrive at compromises that became evident. As Anthony Doob recalled, he liked to quote a Rolling Stones song to illuminate the machinery of this pragmatic approach: “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometime, well you just might find / You get what you need."

4Offering scientific support to practitioners was an anchoring point in his career, whether he worked with political decision makers responsible for reforming the criminal justice system, the heads of public commission of inquiries mandated to expose the malfunctions of police, military and intelligence institutions or directors of those same institutions wishing to improve the quality of their public services. Collaborating as often as he did could have easily dulled the critical sense of a less experienced scholar, however these interactions nourished his thoughts. Traces of this are evident in the many publications targeting a purely academic readership.

5Jean-Paul Brodeur’s role as interlocutor was not limited to the interaction between the fields of research and application. He equally felt it his obligation to respond to the numerous requests from the printed press (of which he was an avid reader) and electronic media on questions related to police work and terrorism. He believed the public had the right to explanations allowing them to reject the noise of sensationalism and catastrophes that normally contaminate such debates. He was a writer for a bimonthly feature on a Radio-Canada morning show from 1999 to 2001. Afterwards, he wrote a bimonthly column on criminal justice published in the journal Le Devoir from 2001 to 2003. He was not content to be used as a foil for the purposes of the journalists who interviewed him. He purposefully rephrased the questions asked of him, offering an alternative of scientific clarification in opposition to the media's injunction to simplify. Various news professionals paid homage to him publicly. Some, like Michel Lacombe of Radio-Canada, even devoted a long segment of their show to him who they admired for his ability to bring together the roles of the intellectual and the citizen. But maybe the most eloquent display of respect was given by the radio talk show host Michel Desautels during his end of the day national news segment. He interrupted his program to announce Jean-Paul Brodeur’s death. He said that Jean-Paul Brodeur "allowed (journalists) to appear more intelligent and listeners to be better informed." He was undeniably a prominent voice in Quebec public debate and his influence extended well beyond the borders of la Belle Province.

6His publications, which were equally divided between French and English, were unavoidable references on questions concerning policing and security on both sides of the Atlantic. He regularly attended the annual American Society of Criminology conferences. He was a guest professor in many English speaking institutions and was an author of entries on police and police technologies in the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also worked along the side of Dominique Monjardet and Frédéric Ocqueteau to develop international and comparative events for the Institut des hautes études de la sécurité intérieure (IHESI). He greatly influenced police studies in Belgium. And during the 1990s, he put a lot of effort into establishing projects to develop and strengthen human rights in Africa.

7The diversity of the contributors gathered in this issue (Canada, France, United States and Australia) clearly illustrates his propensity throughout his career to weave together privileged connections with collaborators from worlds and academic traditions that generally ignore each other. This ability permitted him to play the role of an intellectual broker. It allowed him to impose on the Anglo-Saxon world, for example, the eminently continental concept of high policing, or to nourish his French speaking colleagues’ thoughts on the myths and realities of police work, with data taken from North American empirical research. The contribution of his research and the innovative dimension of his work were acknowledged unanimously by his peers. They commended him in 1990 at The Royal Society of Canada and granted him a Killam Scholarship in 2002, which is hands down the most selective and prestigious academic funded program in Canada, all fields considered.

8His highly active participation in scientific and editorial affairs was accompanied with significant administrative responsibilities. From 1988 to 1996 he became the head of the International Centre for Comparative Criminology, one of the most important groups of researchers in the field. He then took up the post again from 2004 to 2010, facilitating its development in a very tight budgetary environment. He was never willing to sacrifice the quality or integrity of research for the sake of financial constraints. In this aspect, he was a fierce negotiator and a cunning strategist whose relationship with the administrative authorities was one of esteem tainted with suspicion and awe.

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Texte intégral alBrodeur J.-P., 1983, High Policing and Low Policing: Remarks about the Policing of Political Activities, Social Problems, 30, 5, 507-520.

Brodeur J.-P., 2007, De grandes espérances, Criminologie, 40, 2, 161-166.

Brodeur J.-P., 2010, The Policing Web, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Commission canadienne sur la détermination de la peine (1987), Réformer la sentence : une approche canadienne, Ottawa, Gouvernement du Canada.

Fournier M., 1976, Les conflits de discipline : philosophie et sciences sociales au Québec, 1920-1960, in Panaccio C. (dir.), Philosopher au Québec, Montréal, Les Éditions Bellarmin, 207-236.

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List of works and special issues of journals written or edited by Jean-Paul Brodeur

Brodeur J.P. (2010), The policing web, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Leman-Langlois, S., Brodeur, J.P. (Eds.) (2009), Terrorisme et antiterrorisme au Canada, Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal.

Brodeur J.P. (Ed.) (2006), Air transportation and risk management, special issue of The Canadian Journal of Criminology, 48(3).

Brodeur, J.P., Jobard, F. (Eds.) (2005), Citoyens et délateurs. La délation peut-elle être civique ?, Éditions Autrement, Paris.

Brodeur, J.P., Mingasson, L. (Eds.) (2005), Sanctions, special issue of the journal Informations sociales, 127.

Brodeur J.P. (Ed.) (2005), La police en pièces détachées, special issue of the journal Criminologie, 38(2).

Brodeur, J.P., Rigakos, G. (Eds.) (2005), Security, policing, and governance in Canada, special issue of The Canadian Journal of Criminology, 47(1).

Brodeur J.P. (2003), Les visages de la police, pratiques et perceptions, Les Presses

de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P., Gill, P., Töllborg, D. (Eds.) (2003), Democracy, law and security; Internal security services in contemporary Europe, Ashgate Publishing Company, Aldershot.

Brodeur, J.P., Monjardet, D. (2003), Connaître la police. Grands textes de la recherche anglo-saxonne, La Documentation Française, Paris.

Brodeur J.P. (2002), Como reconhecer um bom policiamento. Problemas e temas, NEV-Nucleo de Estudos da Violencia, Sao Paulo.

Brodeur, J.P. (1999), Comparisons in policing: an international perspective, Avebury, Brookfield.

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1998), How to Recognize Good Policing, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Brodeur, J.P. (1997), Violence and racial prejudice in the context of peacekeeping, Commission of inquiry into the deployment of Canadian forces to Somalia, Government of Canada, Ottawa.

Brodeur, J.P. et al. (1994), Canada 21. Canada and Common Security in the 21st Century, Centre for International Studies, Toronto.

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1993), Michel Foucault et la post-modernité, special issue of the journal Criminologie, 26(1).

Brodeur, J.P., Monjardet, D. (Eds.) (1993), L’insécurité : la peur de la peur, special issue of the journal Revue Internationale d’Action Communautaire, 30(70).

Brodeur, J.P. (1991), Access to Justice and Equality of Treatment, Law Reform Commission of Canada, Ottawa.

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1987), La détermination de la sentence, special issue of the journal Criminologie, 20(2).

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1984), La police après 1984, special issue of the journal

Criminologie, 17 (1).

Brodeur, J.P. (1984), La délinquance de l’ordre, Hurtubise HMH, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P. et al. (1977), Le syndicalisme universitaire et l’État, Hurtubise HMH, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1976), Philosophie au Québec, Bellarmin, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P., Nadeau, R. (Ed.) (1975), La philosophie et les savoirs, Bellarmin, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P. (Ed.) (1973), Culture et langage, Hurtubise HMH, Montréal.

Brodeur, J.P. et al. (1970), Québec occupé, Parti-Pris, Montréal.

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1 See the annex for the complete list.

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Benoit Dupont, « The unique legacy of a cosmopolitan thinker », Champ pénal/Penal field [En ligne], Vol. IX | 2012, mis en ligne le 11 mai 2012, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/champpenal.8277

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Benoit Dupont

International Centre for Comparative Criminology, Université de Montréal. Contact:

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