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Trends In Policing Essay, Research Paper

Since the founding of this country, to the wild west, and up to the present, the agenda of the policing bodies have been clear: to uphold and enforce the laws of our society. Of course the way they do this today had undergone changes from the first police forces of early America, law enforcement has seen trends come and go.

Law enforcement is divided into three major eras throughout history. These eras are the political era, the reform era and the community era. The political era that took place between 1840-1930 was characterized by five points, which was the authority was coming from politicians and the law, a broad social service function, decentralized organization, an intimate relationship with the community, and the extensive use of foot patrol. The downside to the political era was that the police got its authority from the politics and the law, the close tie with politics posed as a problem.

In New York, for example, the first chief of police could not dismiss officers under his command. The tenure of the chief was limited to one year. Consequently, any early New York cop who was solidly supported by his alderman and assistant alderman could disobey a police superior with virtual impunity. So while the British were firing bobbies left and right for things like showing up late for work, wearing disorderly uniforms, and behaving discourteously to citizens, American police were assaulting superior officers, refusing to go on patrol, extorting money from prisoners, and releasing prisoners from custody of other officers…

Klockars (1985, p. 42)

Needless to say that corruption became a big problem in American law enforcement. Probably the biggest factor that underlined the problem of corruption during this era was the soils system, whose motto was, To the victor go the spoils. This resulted in gross political interference with policing. For example, the winning party was under the impression that its members should be immune from arrest and given special privileges in naming favorites for promotions and they assisted in carrying out personal vendettas against other political opponents. So what happened is that this system led to the politicians staffing the country s police forces with incompetent people as rewards for support and fixing arrests, or making sure arrests were not made which secured their immunity from supervision.

As for the role of minorities in this era of law enforcement, African-Americans served as police officers as early as 1861 in Washington D.C. Most of the minorities were first hired in the larger cities, and by 1900 made up 2.7 percent of all watchman. That number declined by 1910 when less than 1 percent of police officers were African-American. During this era, minority police officers were hired exclusively to patrol black areas and were only aloud to arrest other black citizens and actually could only patrol in cars marked Colored Police. Very few of the African-American officers were ever promoted or given special assignments.

The role of women in this era was restricted mainly to processing female prisoners and to positions as police matrons. Police department didn t see women as regular police officers until the turn of the century, and by the end of World War I, more than 220 cities employed police women. Women were actually welcomed into the police departments where they were assigned to handle cases involving children and women.

The second era in law enforcement was known as the reform era which took place in 1930-1980. This era is recognized by the characteristics of the authority coming from the law and professionalism, crime control as their primary function, centralized, efficient organization, professional remoteness from the community, and an emphasis on preventive motorized patrol and rapid response to crime. A major advocate of this era was a man by the name of August Vollmer, who was the town marshal and then police chief in Berkeley, California, from 1905-1932.

Vollmer is often called the Father or Dean of Modern Police administration. Some of his important contributions include the early use of motorized patrol and the latest advancements in criminalists. He suggested the development of a centralized fingerprint system that was established by the FBI; he established the first juvenile unit, was the first to use psychological screening for police applications, and was the first to emphasize the importance of college-educated police officers.

Roberg and Kuykendall (1993, p. 71)

Vollmer developed the first degree-granted program in law enforcement at San Jose State College, and was also an advocate of police officers being social service workers and actors in crime prevention by intervening in the lives of potential criminals, especially juveniles.

Like Vollmer, the reformers of this era wanted to disassociate the policing from politics. Police were to become professionals whose charge was to enforce the law, fairly and impartially. As time went on, some departments mounted an all-out war on crime and the social service function became of lessor importance, and in some cases nonexistent. The two keys to this war were preventive patrol in automobiles and rapid response to calls, which is the style of policing that most Americans are familiar with and have come to expect.

With this new area also came many technological advancements. The use of automobiles became more practical with the introduction of quality roads, the use of computers in law enforcement, and the scientific aids which became available in the use of gathering evidence. It is because of these advancements that made law enforcement a more professional field and proved Vollmer s theory that officers should be college educated.

The use of automobiles has its advantages and disadvantages, just as any other method of patrol does. The uses of an automobile patrol are many, it has a very fast response time to service calls, it is an excellent way of providing traffic control, it is the ideal way of transporting individuals, documents and equipment and it is the most economical way of patrolling. The downside to it is that limits the police officers access to certain areas, unless it is a motorcycle unit where the officer could easily maneuver through congested areas of traffic and alleyways. The major downside to the automobile patrol is that it limits the contact with the citizens which is necessary for effective police work.

Another type of patrol that we have seen incorporated into law enforcement is the use of aircraft as a method of patrol. It has been said that an airborne unit is as effective as 15 patrol cars because of the fact that it has 30 times the visual range of the ground unit, the downside to that is, of course, that the airborne officer just can t do what the ground troops do. Because of the high visibility of the aircraft patrol, it is very effective in stakeout situations, search and rescue, and even pursuits. Aircraft patrol is very expensive however and most of the time is only used in large cities.

Computers has made a more significant impact on law enforcement in the last decade than any other single factor during the present century. They have become such an important part of the job that younger officers sometimes have a hard time imagining what police work was like in the pre-computer era. We are now living in an age where it is not uncommon to see computers in the patrol vehicles themselves which are called mobile data terminals (MDT s). Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) enhances calls for service from the public and the dispatching of police cars and personnel, it can verify addresses, determine the beat of incidents, give a case number and the priority of each call and some systems even report dangerous history. Mobil digital communications (MDC) provides a nonverbal way of transmitting dispatch and status messages between a communication center and patrol units and can access data files from the communications centers or the patrol units. Automatic vehicle monitoring (AVM) gives the location and status of the vehicle, such as pursuit, enroute to scene, door open, and so on. Regional communication system (RCS) is the networking of a number of law enforcement agencies in creating a common way of communication. The computer has even changed the way police officers write up their reports with the invention of the word processor. There has been hardly no aspect of law enforcement that has been immune to the reforms that the computer has brought to the job.

This information age has also changed the way evidence is gathered. There is now the technology to trace an individuals DNA, rather than just getting fingerprints from a crime scene. Fibers from clothing can now be traced, paint transferred from one object to another during the commission of a crime, and ballistics from a firearm are just a few of the scientific advancements that aids the police in the war against crime.

Not all the changes in this era of reform have been positive ones, we have seen the escalation of the use of drugs during this era, the gang problem and growing violence, just to name a few. Law enforcement must adapt to fight back against these problems that have come into effect in this era.

There have been many plans that have been discussed when it comes to combating the drug problem in America. The main ones are legalization, a two-market approach, increased law enforcement, asset forfeiture programs, and enlisting public support.

Those for the legalization of certain drugs claim that the cost of what the drug problem is on our government can be used to make treatment centers for addicts if they were legalized. Organized crime would declined because legalization would wipe out their source of funds, Foreign affairs in Latin America would get better because the crackdown on drugs strains out relationship, and the revenue of the taxes placed on drugs could be used for treatment programs.

Those opposed to the legalization of drugs argue that the exposure of cheap, available drugs would increase addiction, it would also lead to the sale of synthetic drugs such as crack, the health care costs would be tremendous, and it would cheapen out social mores.

The two-market approach to the drug problem is the supplement of drugs to addicts from a clinic, but not to nonaddicts. This is used in the British system were heroin addicts are supplied with methadone.

Increased law enforcement on our borders to stop drugs from being smuggled into our country or from being sold here is another option that has been discussed to help fight the drug problem. This posses as a problem when America has 12,000 miles of coast line which would need to be patrolled.

The Asset Forfeiture Program was enacted in 1984 and allows the Justice Dept. to share seized assets with the state and local law enforcement agencies that participated in the investigations and arrests. In 1994 the nondrug property seized was valued at approximately $647 million.

Enlisting public support to end the sales of illicit drugs is another strategy where the public gets involved, mainly with youths, which include not only the police, but educators, health and mental practitioners, and juvenile justice agencies to reduce the availability of drugs.

The community era (1980-present) is the third era of law enforcement. This modern-day era is characterized by the authority coming from community support, law and professionalism, provision of a broad range of services, including crime control, Decentralized organization with more authority given to the patrol officers, an intimate relationship with the community, and the use of foot patrol and a problem-solving approach.

With changes being made to the business world, many police departments are beginning to become customer-oriented, viewing the people within the community as consumers of police services, and, just as in business it is important to know what the customer wants and needs, so in policing it is important to know what citizens want and need.

So instead of policing being reactive like it was in the reform era, it has become proactive by seeking to find the causes of crimes and to rectify those problems which would deter, or even prevent crime.

The human factor has assumed greater importance as police agencies cope with the tensions and dislocations of popular growth, increasing urbanization, developing technology, the civil rights movement, changing social norms and a breakdown of traditional values. Because of these factors law enforcement has become enormously complicated and the need for more professional officers critical.

It is said that change is the only constant. Alvin Toffler draws an analogy between the three revolutions which have changed the world (agricultural revolution, industrial revolution, and the technological revolution) and waves in the ocean in his book The Third Wave, Tafoya notes:

A rough correspondence to Toffler s wave analogy can be drawn with respects to the historical changes in law enforcement. Passage of the Metropolitan Police Act if 1829 in England marked the beginning of the first wave of major law enforcement reform. Robert Peel and Charles Rowan were two visionaries who brought order and the military model to policing.

A century later, in the 1930 s, August Vollmer and O.W. Wilson, two American police pioneers, advanced the goal of prof

Since the founding of this country, to the wild west, and up to the present, the agenda of the policing bodies have been clear: to uphold and enforce the laws of our societyessionalizing law enforcement. Their efforts ushered in the second wave of major law enforcement reform. Standardization, specialization, synchronization, concentration, maximization, and centralization, dominated law enforcement during this era…

The civil unrest of the mid-1960 s through the mid-1970 s was the impetus for the advocacy of the third wave of major law enforcement reform.

The third wave is now. The question is, will it bury us or carry us boldly forward into the twenty-first century?

Tafoya (1990, p. 15)

Works Cited

Klockars, C.B. The Idea of Police. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1985

Roberg, R.R. and Kuykendall, J. Police and Society. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993.

Tafoya, W.L. The Future of Policing. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (January 1990): 13-17.

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