The Role of Police in America

The Effectiveness of Law Enforcement Officers

In the history of society, members developed various sets of rules with varying degrees of severity based on the values of the community. Members were expected to adhere to the rules, and violation resulted in a minor loss of status. Once an elite society came into power, they sought to enforce these rules to ensure order in the community. The rules were set with specific forms of punishments also known as laws. Along with the laws, law enforcement officers were required to ensure that people did not break rules and to maintain order. Thus, as conceptualized along this continuum, the police in the United States play a critically significant role in the law enforcement and crime prevention system among other areas. As part of their duties, the police monitor criminal activities, perform community patrols, respond to emergencies, investigate crimes, make arrests, and testify in court among others.

Crime Prevention

Crime impedes development and discourages investors. Conversely, effective crime prevention ultimately reduces crime incident, leading to enhanced development within the society. Crime prevention is one of the mandates of the American police since the invention of the modern style police agency. Literally, the police do not prevent crime; rather they collaborate with various groups to come up with strategies to prevent crime. Instead, as Welsh & Farrington note, crime prevention involves early interventions to prevent individuals from engaging in criminal activities. The programs and policies are designed in a way to revolutionize the institutions that influence offending or to modify the physical environment to reduce opportunities that encourage crime. In light of this, the police use different strategies, which include community policing, hotspot policing, crime control strategies, and problem-oriented policing among others to help them in crime prevention.

Community Policing

The public expects the police force to accomplish several things among them curbing of violent crime alongside public disorder, drug abuse, drug dealing, and any other criminal activity affecting the community. Recently, the police have come to view crime and disorder as a community problem and recognize the importance of involving the community in preventing crime. Alongside this context, the police use community-policing strategies to maintain order and prevent. Virtually, community policing is an approach that involves the citizens in the design and implementation of law-enforcement strategies (Gill, Weisburd, & Telep, 2014). The strategies, which are supported by the Community Oriented Policing Services office, involve collaborating with community members, the transformation of the police, and evolution of problem-solving activities in a bid to prevent crime. The law enforcement philosophy realizes that the police are not limited to the traditional law enforcement, and are allowed to draw support from the community to prevent crime. By using the community policing strategy, the police collaborate with the local community, which in turn helps the police to effectively maintain order, solve conflicts, and solve problems within the community. Ideally, community-policing strategies have become increasingly popular in the United States and are associated with increased citizen satisfaction and trust in the force, as well as reduced disorderliness.

Hotspot Policing

Along with community policing, the police also use hot spots policing as a countermeasure to curb disproportionate crimes happening in specific parts of the United States. Essentially, research shows that crime is not evenly distributed and some areas have higher crime rates than others. According to Braga, Papachristos, & Hureau (2014) if crime can be prevented in these hot spots, then it might be possible to reduce the rate of criminal activities in the United States. Studies further suggest that crime and incarceration rates in the U.S. can be reduced if resources are shifted to policing as opposed to concentrating them on imprisonment. The police have realized the importance of concentrating on hotspots to reduce crime rates. In this sense, the police are collaborating with residents and business owners to identify crimes and employ immediate response when crimes occur.

Crime Control Strategies

Just like several other countries, the United States also suffers from organized crime.  Criminals are involved in activities such as drug dealing, gambling, arson, robbery, extortion, human trafficking, and bribery, counterfeiting, and money laundering among other federal offenses (Gabor, & Canada Department of Justice, 2003). The police understand the network involved in organized crimes and use various crime strategies to try and control these criminal activities. For instance, it is the work of the police to investigate, arrest, and prosecute individuals involved in organized crime with threats of long-term jail sentences. The police may also arrest and prosecute well-known kingpins involved in organized crimes for minor offenses. Usually, the police arrest these individuals to pave the way for further investigations and as a way of getting the people involved at the lower levels to speak and testify against the head of the organization. The other way that the police can nub organized crime members is using taxation laws. Ideally, the law expects citizens to file tax returns, make declarations, and maintain business records for proper accountability. When individuals cannot account for their income, police are more likely to launch investigations to establish the source of the increased source of income. By doing this, the police can then catch people involved in the illegal business by investigating their legitimate revenue and tax returns. In addition to the above, drug trafficking in the United States is one of the profit-motivated crimes that generates billions of dollars every year. The risks associated with the accumulation of large sums of money are that the government may seize assets and instigate criminal prosecution. Individuals involved in these illegal activities understand this and normally result to money laundering schemes. The criminals often use the funds to acquire assets that look legitimate. The police alongside various agencies play a key role in combating money laundering offenses. They work in collaboration with other stakeholders to unveil suspicious cash transactions and launch investigations and arrests if they detect criminal activities.

Problem-oriented Policing

In addition to the above, the police also use problem-oriented policing where the officers take a proactive role in identifying, understanding, and respond to problems within the community. Ideally, the concept of problem-oriented policing is analytical in that; police develop strategies that focus on reducing crimes. Under the problem-oriented policing, the police understand that a recurring criminal activity is a problem that causes harm to the citizens as well as the police (National Institute of Justice, n.d). In light of this, police officers routinely and systematically analyze the problem instead of dispatching their officers to come with a possible permanent solution.  More precisely, the police are likely to survey neighborhood residents to establish the time of day when criminal activities occur and to determine the specific areas where crimes occur. The surveillance also helps determine the offenders and reason for favoring the area. The findings then form the basis for developing a response to the problems and design enforcement techniques.

Other strategies used by the police in crime prevention include broken windows policing, where they focus on strict enforcement of laws against minor offenses and disorderly behavior such as prostitution, aggressive behavior in public among others. Ideally, the reasoning behind broken-windows policing is that if a crime is tolerated and no one cares about fixing the problem, then serious offences are likely to follow.

Law Enforcement

Essentially, laws are made as a way of governing people, discouraging criminal activities, and maintaining order within the society among others. The nature of human beings is such if the laws were not enforced people would do as they wish because no one will be there to punish them for their offenses. Law enforcement is a system of administration where some members of the society are mandated by the authority to enforce the rules and regulations (Chambliss, 2011). While the act involves various law enforcement agencies such as the courts and prisons, it is mostly used with police officers who engage in surveillance and patrol activities to dissuade crime. The police rely on the criminal justice system to investigate and punish offenders. Ideally, law enforcement can be an effective way to maintain order and punish offenders, as members of the society are required to comply with the law or face consequences. In the United States, the police are at the forefront of fighting people who break law in speeding, stealing, loitering, drunken driven, and drug users among others.

Maintaining Order

As conceptualized along the continuum of providing security to its citizens, the government of the United States has the mandate to ensure orderliness within the society (Steverson, 2008). Without proper order among the communities, other values may be jeopardized. In the United States, the order is maintained by the institutionalized police force. Ideally, the police spend most of the time dealing with issues of disturbances, public demonstrations, labor-management issues, homeless people, drunk people disturbing the peace of the neighborhood, among other activities involved in peacekeeping. In the context of maintaining order, the police engage in activities that are necessary and sometimes controversial to meet the demands and expectations of the citizens from the government. By controversial, it means that the police can use coercive force to impose a solution on problems, disturbance, or judgment as they feel is necessary and as mandated by law.

Use of Force

The current world displays distaste on the use of force to control or direct other people’s behavior. Democracy ensures that war is less tolerated as a way of solving conflicts. Nonetheless, despite the need to eliminate violence, the police have the right to use physical force, and their members are trained and encouraged to use force when necessary. When conducting activities aimed at maintaining public security, law, and order, the police can sometimes resort to various strategies including the use of force. The term as defined along the continuum of law enforcement involves physical constraints imposed on individuals or use of a restraining device or weapons to restore law and order. According to the National Institute of Justice (2016), use of force by the police force is only allowed when no other means are available to produce the intended result. Ideally, there is no universal guidance on situations or ways in which the police are authorized to use force. Instead, as the National Institute of Justice, the International Association of Chiefs of Police describe the use of force as an amount of effort used by the police to compel individuals to comply with the law. Along with that, law enforcement officers should only use force to mitigate criminal activities, protect themselves, or make arrests. The level of force used varies depending on the situation. In this context, the NIJ notes that no two situations are the same. For instance, in a politically threatening situation, officers will quickly respond through force to curb the problem from escalating. By virtue, the goal of the use of force is to regain control when protecting the community. Use of force should be the last option, and when there is an alternative, the officer is required by law to use that method.  

The police force plays a significant role in the growth of national economy and social development by providing and maintaining public security and keeping peace among other factions of the security system. In the United States, the role of the police is to prevent crime, maintain order, enforce the law, and use of force when necessary. All these roles also tie back to the strategies used in crime prevention, which include community policing, hotspot policing, crime control strategies, and problem-oriented policing. The police also use various tactics and tools such as collaborating with the community, crime analysis, criminal investigations, arrests, and prosecution of lawbreakers as one of the ways of mitigating criminal activities.

References

Braga, A. A., Papachristos, A. V., & Hureau, D. M. (2014). The Effects of Hot Spots Policing on Crime: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Justice Quarterly, 31(4), 633-663.

Chambliss, W. J. (2011). Key issues in crime and punishment. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage.

Gabor, T., & Canada Department of Justice. (2003). Assessing the effectiveness of organized crime control strategies: A review of the literature. Ottawa, Ont: Dept. of Justice Canada.

Gill, C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., Vitter, Z., & Bennett, T. (2014). Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 10(4), 399-428.

National Institute of Justice. (2016). Police use of force. Retrieved from: https://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/officer-safety/use-of-force/pages/welcome.aspx

National Institute of Justice. (n.d). Problem-oriented policing. Retrieved from: https://www.crimesolutions.gov/PracticeDetails.aspx?ID=32

Steverson, L. A. (2008). Policing in America: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif: Abc-Clio

Welsh, B., & Farrington, D. P. (2012). The Oxford handbook of crime prevention. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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