Why We Need Police Officers Essay Example



The two biggest reasons why officers have such an important role in society are that they pave the way for crime control and order maintenance (Pollock, 112). Jurisdictions and agencies comprise a series of intricate pathways that represent American law enforcement.  These jurisdictions and agencies may be categorized into federal law enforcement, state law enforcement, county law enforcement, municipal law enforcement, special jurisdiction law enforcement agencies, and private law enforcement (Pollock, 124-128). Trust, accountability, and legitimacy are undoubtedly the backbone of the sociological view of police officers from an individual, internal, and community perspective.  

Trust has become a harbinger for the deterioration of relationships between police officers and everyday citizens, particularly minority groups including Blacks and Hispanics.  For quite a long time, there has existed a contagious belief that police officers treat African Americans and, to a lesser degree, Hispicanics, harsher than Whites. Decision making by any member of society can be influenced by individual prejudices and perceptions. This primarily targets groups susceptible to increased antagonization such as women, minorities, and homosexuals. That being said, the question still remains whether or not this translates to police and how their potentially skewed world views harmfully influence they way they perform their jobs. 

When police are said to allow prejudice to affect their job, they are cited as being discriminatory when they enforce the law differentially or take away the law’s protection and benefits. Many recent news stories have also come out with evidence that officers have “texted racist and homophobic messages, including death threats, calling Black citizens “monkeys” and making jokes about lynching” (159). There also stands the issue within the structure of police departments that officers are required to uphold departmental codes of conduct which require police to meet higher behavior standards.  Implicit bias is also quintessential in that police may not be directly aware of how they treat Blacks and minorities different from other citizens, but that they may be in reality since racist statements may fundamentally support their worldview.  

Police Subculture 

The police subculture which comes into play any time a group has a set of values, beliefs, and possibly even language which differs from that of a dominant culture explains many instances of police misconduct. In turn, this has led to a call for implementing new practices to hold officers accountable for their actions (153). This subculture is defined by police often forming a homogeneous social group, having a distinctly stressful work environment, and participating in a primarily closed system of socialization (154). An element of the subculture which has a greater importance in day to day life is “the blue curtain of secrecy”. This explains a tendency amongst officers to cover up misconduct by other officers.

The reality is also that internal expectations of officers cause them to act out. Some of these themes include staying in line with the law regardless of offender identity, service, the importance of the law, and personal conduct.  Some examples of police corruption which promote holding officers accountable for any wrongful doings while performing their duties include graft, gratuities, noble cause corruption, testilying, and ends-oriented thinking (156).  These explicit offenses involve exploiting one’s role through the acceptance of bribes or protection money, receiving high value items because of one’s role as an officer rather than as a result of a personal relationship with the giver, illegal actions and violations aimed at getting the criminal off the street, lying in affidavits or during testimony, and thinking that “the end justifies the means” regardless of the severity of the means.  

Public And Police 

Relationships between the police and the public explain why it is so often challenging to promote accountability amongst police officers. They have also spurred a great deal of recommendations regarding police training and standards and procedures to avoid abuses of power by police.  Of these, the ones that stood out to me as being crucial to accomplish this goal were creating more oversight from the inspectors’ general offices, requiring more education, establishing civilian review/complaint boards, and instituting an early warning or audit system.  On the boards, citizens with no connection to the police department sit in groups and “monitor how police investigate citizen complaints”. The early warning or audit systems get a hold of the numbers of complaints, force and weapon reports, as well as reprimands.  These are used to pick out trouble prone officers. This eventually leads to increased supervision, training, or counseling for these officers. 

A significant proportion of rules regarding policing serve as an impetus for the legitimacy of the police force. More specifically, training has expanded exorbonately to 600-700 or more hours of understudy in the academy. There are also standardized tests in academic subjects, and skills training in firearms and driving. The training for recruits also entails learning about topics like domestic violence, law, operations, mental health assessments and intensely practicing physical combat. At the end of this vigorous upbringing through the academy, a new recruit is paired with an FTO. The trainee is then supervised by this field training officer for anywhere between weeks and months (145-146).  

Practices such as saturated patrols have been found to be effective at creating a residual effect and displacement effect (148). During this, a certain area is targeted for constant patrol through the use of “hot spots” identified by crime reports. The persistent patrol continues until crime levels in an area fall again to acceptable levels. Crime has also been found to continue to fall after saturated patrol ends, meaning its effects are residual. No displacement effect has been found either which would mean following this period of saturation, crime would simply move to another part of the city. Lastly, the CompStat program garners more respect for police officers as it “uses computer-generated crime statistics and daily or weekly meeting of division heads to hold these (crime) managers responsible for the crime in their districts”(150-151).  

Types of Justice

Finally, procedural justice promotes a much more respect-oriented societal view of police officers. It shows that individuals have a positive view of what happens to them, despite the outcome not always being in their favor, so long as the process is said to be fair. This could not be a community viewpoint of police if it were not for organizational justice which incites a widespread perception that the police organization is fair, makes decisions equitably, and treats its employees with respect. This correlates with greater job satisfaction and organizational leadership amongst officers which in turn leads to better interactions with the individuals whom they deal with. 

Community policing, the SARA model, and “guardian” model follow through with the concept of community engagement in policing. They call for developing partnerships between police officers and community members to solve neighborhood problems, along with scanning, analysis, response, and assessment in approaching crime problems. The “conceptual dichotomy” of the guardian emphasizes that police should never approach their role as being “at war” and instead act as guardians of citizenry, along with the sustenance of law and democracy (137-139).

My hometown is Dedham, Massachusetts, which is classified as one of the larger towns in Norfolk county. The divisions of this police department include animal control, bike patrol, communications, detective, honor guard, metro lec team, patrol division, and traffic division.  Of these, probably most relevant to our study of the criminal justice system is the patrol division.  Within the patrol division, which is first and foremost responsible for responding to calls for service, and crime reporting and investigations, a specific police cruiser is assigned to a distinct dector of Dedham. These include cruiser 621 for Washington Street/Route 1 between the Dedham and Westwood line, cruiser 622 for Riverdale, 623 for Greenlodge/Oakdale/Manor sections, and 624 for East Dedham.  

Granted that Dedham is a rather suburban area, they center their policing around practices that are in the best interest of employees and the surrounding community.  Some of the police department’s core values among many are communication and cooperation, community service, concern for employees, partnerships, problem solving, and professionalism. Of all of the concepts I have previously outlined, this mentality appears to fall in line best with the “guardian model” of policing. The officers in this town take pride in protecting and serving as role models for effective implementation of law in a democratic society as opposed to being in frequent retaliation against wrongdoers in the system. 

They work in tandem with residents to ensure that procedural justice is instituted. Organizational justice also seems to set the foundation for the employees of the Dedham Police having a positive outlook and taking that into their jobs on a daily basis. The biggest problems police in this town deal with is property crimes and theft as they have 427 and 397 recent reports, respectively. The other end of this extreme is that the chances of becoming a victim of violent crime in Dedham is only 1 in 2536 which definitely speaks highly of this town being a safe place for all, particularly families with young children.  

Dedham also seems to be particularly effective at drug enforcement, specifically drug trafficking, for which a sergeant in the town received a special achievement award from the Narcotic Enforcement Officers’ Association in 2015. Problem-oriented policing, especially saturated patrols and the SARA model could both be effective in Dedham. They could be used to identify the areas of the town that are most susceptible to property crimes, theft, or possibly even drug abuse specifically of heroin and opioids, as that is known to be the most widespread epidemic in the town. From there, more patrol vehicles could be on duty on a very frequent if not constant rotating basis until the numbers of these crimes goes down.  

The police department could find out when these crimes are finally decreasing in numbers by using the CompStat program. This would adequately represents how an SARA model of policing should be put into place. The CompStat program would generate frequent reports of the most prominent crimes in the local area, and then, if the community adjusted its departmental structure, meetings could be held on a daily or weekly basis to hold managers from the district accountable for tracking and reducing those crimes. Potentially even “terry stops” would be useful as they would only require reasonable suspicion as opposed to probable cause necessary to make an actual arrest. This would be very helpful for quick searches especially for drugs or stolen property from the suspect’s car while that suspicious person is detained.