The Law Enforcement ProfessionAbstractIn order to understand comptemporary law enforcemment, we shouldrecognize the conditions that impact our profession.
It is agreed upon by manyscholars that major changes in law enforcement occur every five years. Policingis sometimes characterize”… like a sandbar in a river, subject to beingchanged continuously by the currents in which it is immersed.
..” (Swanson,Territo and Taylor, p.
2). However, in recent years some major changes haveoccurred in a shorter time period.Innovations in law enforcementDuring the past two decades, I have observed major changes in theviewpoint of society towards police officer’s as the symbol of trust and dignity,the technological advances of communication and information systems in lawenforcement, and the revision of selection and hiring practices for policeofficers. Organizational change occurs both as a result of internal andexternal agents (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, p. 664). These changes havemanifested both positive and negative reverberations in the way we perform ourjob.Police officials have contemplated for years over the key to maintaininga positive image for their organization. Unfortunately, several incidents inthe past years have altered society’s perception of police in some communities.
Police in America are no longer strangers to innovation born of scandal. Lawenforcement agencies nationwide have repeatedly been shaken by controversy andforced to make undesirable concessions. Has law enforcement failed to maintainthe high standards required by the profession? The cost of public trust is high.It increases each time faith must be regain.Historically, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation haveexperienced periods of low confidence in communities preceding episodes deemedto be a breach of trust. Early pioneers in law enforcement history such asAugust Vollmer (1902 – 1932). Berkeley Police Department and J. Edgar Hoover(1924) the Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous advancements towardsimproving the professionalism of law enforcement (Anderson and Newman, p.
119 -120). Other attempts were made in 1956 by the International Association ofChiefs of Police adopted “The Law Enforcement Code Of Ethics” (Wilson andMcClaren, p.8)Examples of several historical events locally have attributed tosociety’s decline in respect for police. For example, nine members of a LosAngeles County Sheriff’s Department special narcotics squad were charged withmisappropriating tens of thousands of dollars confiscated in drug raids (L. A.Times, p. 4, Sept. 9, 1989).
Another local incident involved 80 Los Angelespolice officers stormed and wrecked an apartment and allegedly beat severalresidents on “Dalton Street.” The city was forced to settled in a civil lawsuit by the resident with a settlement of $3 million dollars of taxpayers money(L. A.
Times, p. 1-2, August 1, 1988). This incident generated major outcryfrom the minority community to overhaul the use of force policy and procedurewithin the department.
Nationally, five New York City police officers were charged with murderin the slaying of a suspect in Queens. All five officers were arraigned onmurder charges in the death of Federico Pereira, 21 years of age, a car theftsuspect who was punched, kicked, and strangled as he was being arrested. Thisis one in a string of accusations of bruality made against New York officers inrecent years (The New York Times, March 21, 1991, p. A 1). In the south,the incident of Officer Donald Jeffries who was honored as Mississippi’s officerof the year in 1993. He alleged that mental stress was a factor in his robberyof a bank, however, a federal judge in Mobile ruled that he was competent tostand trial for the charge (USA Today, May 13, 1994, p. 8 A).
The case of Arthur McDuffie (Dec. 17, 1979) in Miami, a black maledied after a high speed police chase. The police reports indicated thatMcDuffie died from being thrown from his motorcycle during the chase.
Theresults of an investigation disclosed that the McDuffie’s death may have beencaused by police instead of an accident. After being indicted and found notguilty by an all white jury, riots broke out in black neighborhoods,especially Liberty City resulting in arson and looting that left 18 persons deadand more than 300 injured. This catastrophe forced the Miami PoliceDepartment to reexamine and revise their use of force policies and procedures(CQ Researcher, p. 645).The Jeffrey L.
Dahmer Case characterize a situation when the police failto properly handle a call of a suspicous nature. Dahmer was charged withmurdering at least 15 young males. On May 27, 1993, two Milwaukee citizensreported a naked young male in the middle of the street bleeding and unable tostand. The boy name was Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14 year of laotain boy.Dahmer was able to persuade the officer that the boy was a live in lover. Theboy was later slain by Dahmer in his apartment after the officers left the scene.A storm of portest came from the minority and homosexual communities accusedthe officers of displaying racial prejudice. The officers were also criticizedfor dismissing the incident as “a boyfriend-boyfriend thing” (CQ Researcher, p.
637).One of the most celebrated cases in recent times was the beating of ablack motorist by several white police officers in Los Angeles. It stirrednationwide concern about police brutality.
On March 3, 1991, Rodney Glen King,25 years of age, was severely beaten by Los Angeles police officers after beingstopped at the termination of a vehicle pursuit, which was originally started bythe California Highway Patrol. A videotape of the incident is shown repeatedlyon television over the next few days. The aftermath of the trial that acquittedthe officers involved in the Rodney King beating speaks highly of the sentimentfelt in the minority community (ICLAPD, p. 14-15).Another discouraging sign that little has changed is the continuingpattern of police abuse. Most recently on July 29, 1994 Compton Police OfficerMichael Jackson was captured on videotape striking a 17 year old male in thehead with his baton.
This scene did not win sentiment from the public norrevitalize the compassion felt by many after the Rodney King incident. Whilethis incident appears unjustified and even later deemed to be justified, itwill not help the image of law enforcement.Some citizens truly believe the police represent the wealthy and not thepoor.
Two researchers Geoffery P. Alpert and Roger G. Durham (1988) examineddifferent ethics diversed communities in Miami. There, they discovered muchmore negative and suspicious attitudes toward the police and regard them as”representatives of the majority class”, not “agents of social control” (CQResearcher, p. 650). The media have also contributed to the fracturing byplaying up dfferences and tensions.As citizens spend more time working with the police, they learn moreabout the police function.
Experience has shown that as citizen’s knowledge ofthe police increases, their respect for the police increases as well. Thisincreased respect, in turn, leads to greater support for the police. Theimage of the police might benefit from the implementation of Community-InvolvedPrograms in today’s organizations. The Los Angeles Police Department and manyother agencies are exploring Community-Based Policing to help heal the woundsleft by conduct perceived by the public as police brutality (Los Angeles Times,April 17, 1994). Police administrators must be aware of public opinionbecause..
. Public confidence in a police department is directly related to theimage that citizens have of their police, and these images are formed from theimpressions people gain about law enforcement…” (Earle, p. 20).As society changes, technology changes to address the enormous demandsof the world.
Police managers across the country are faced with the dilemma ofdecreased fiscal resources and the same responsibility to maintain high servicelevels. In order to be effective, law enforcement agencies must aggressivelyexploit the new technological advances in radio and telephone systems. For thelast two decades several technological advances have aided law enforcement inbecoming more efficent and effective in serving their communities.For example, in November 1992, the Morgan Hill Police Department’simplementation of mail-out reports were handled by the computer system.
Thedepartment made minor modifications to their PC network-based Computer aideddispatching (CAD) system. The process begins when the police dispatcherreceives a call from a victim and types the basic report information into thecomputer. The computer automatically generate a partially completed, pre-addressed incident report form, which is then mailed to the victim. After thevictim completes the form, he or she returns it to the police department. Thedepartment received a favorable response from the community on its CitizenAssisted Reporting System (CARS) (California Peace Officer, p. 15).The new technology and equipment available to law enforcement is onlylimited by the imagination. Several years ago California was the poineer in theuse of mobile data terminals (MDTs) in its patrol cars.
These low-band radio-driven systems allow officers to access all of the available law enforcementdatabase systems to receive and send messages. Officers could type messagesmeant just for the dispatcher, and they could send typed messages back andforth to other mobile units (California Peace Officer, p. 13).With the introduction of radio and satellite driven system on the market,law enforcement agencies will be able to link each patrol unit through a laptopcomputer to a broad array of databases and systems which include NCIC, DMV,CLETS, CJIS, PIN, county records, departmental databases and more.
Somesystems are capable of displaying a geopgraphical map depicting all previouscrimes in an area by type and where they occurred. The reports of all crimes inthe last 48 hours can be called to see what was written about the occurrence.These Personal Data Terminal (PDTs) or Mobile Data Computer (MDCs) can also beused to input, transmit or download reports at the station (California PeaceOfficer, p.
13).The more advanced mobile computer terminals feature built-in peripheraldevices such as mobile printers, automatic vehicle locator (AVL), fingerprintscanner, mobile camera, magnetic stripe card reader, and bar code scannerwith a color display screen.In summary, the profession of law enforcement is continually changingbecause of the demands placed on it by societyLaw