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Policing and justice: New developments in the 21st century
In this paper, I will address my definition of justice as it relates to law enforcement. I will address how my two years of study at the University of Phoenix has contributed to my personal definition of the concept. I will discuss three current practices of law enforcement that demonstrate the successful achievement of justice. Further, I will discuss three examples of changes law enforcement has undergone as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Lastly, I will address the three biggest challenges in the next ten years for the law enforcement community.
Pursuing criminal justice: History of law enforcement and justice
When civilization first began, ‘might made right’ and victories were won by the strongest, regardless of property rights or morality. The first notions of ‘justice’ or giving every person his or her due can be seen in the earliest written law codes, such as the Law of Hammurabi which famously stated that ‘an eye should be extracted for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ Later, the laws of ancient societies such as Greece and Rome would become less harsh. Laws specified the obligations of citizens to the community and to the state, as well as indicated what individuals were prohibited from doing. Some restrictions, such as those placed upon women and slaves, were particular to certain social classes.
Laws without the ability of the state to enforce them mean little, however. In some ancient societies, the army was the main mechanism of securing possible criminals before trial. “Foreign slaves were often employed to police the cities of ancient Greece. Greeks found it uncomfortable to have citizens policing their own fellow citizens. Often Greeks relied on citizens to report crimes. After reporting a crime, if an arrest was made, an informant would receive half of the fine charged to the criminal. In Athens, criminals were tried before a jury of 200 or more citizens picked at random. Criminals were punished by fines, their right to vote taken away, exile, or death. Imprisonment was not typically used as a punishment” (Law enforcement in Ancient Athens, 2004, History Link). The lack of imprisonment for a long duration as punishment reduced the need for a permanent police force. In Rome, punishments were similar in the sense that imprisonment was rare. Likewise, in the Middle Ages as well, there was no modern police force. “The tithing was a group of ten people. Everyone had to be a member of a tithing and each had to take responsibility for the others. Thus if any one member of the tithing broke the law the others had to take responsibility for getting the accused to court. If they failed, they would face punishment themselves” (Medieval police, 2011, Medieval travel). While this system may seem primitive, it contains within it the seeds of the notion of neighborhood watches and community policing that exists today.
The development of a modern police force that formally upheld the laws of the land came much later. The first truly modern police force originated in London, to address the needs of modern, industrial societies with few kin loyalties: “The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 set up an organized police force for London, with 17 divisions, each with 4 inspectors and 144 constables. It was to be controlled from Scotland Yard and answerable to the Home Secretary” (Crime, punishment and protest through time, c.1450-2004, 2004, Learn History). Within the contemporary United States, representatives of the police force are present at almost every level of government, and the police force is highly segmented in terms of specialized functions. This allows the police to fulfill a community function, as embodied in early citizen policing, and also to act independently of other government agencies, as police forces are separate self-governing entities. They are beholden to their own institutional norms — and to the law.
To me, the need to serve the community and the laws and to not merely serve a political interest embodies the function of modern policing. Justice means enforcing the laws equally, so every person has his or her ‘due’ regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or social status. My studies at the University in Phoenix have expanded my notion of justice. I have come to realize that the community has a role as an enforcer of justice. There is a clear need for members of the community support the police in their daily actions. Fairness, community involvement, and proportionality in responses to crimes are three core components that are critical in the enforcement of justice.
Community Policing: Communicating with local agencies and leaders, dealing with racial profiling, improving community relations
Community policing recognizes that police rarely can solve public safety problems alone. It strives to facilitate the cooperation between members of the police force and community organizations, spanning from governments, to activist groups, schools, and other neighborhood associations. It may also involve the media and private businesses when creating a structured program of community law enforcement and promoting the plan to the public. Police officers educating students about the dangers of illegal drugs might be one example of a community-based program.
Community policing is a decentralized approach to policing, given that other institutions have input into how policy is shaped. “Community policing emphasizes proactive problem-solving in a systematic and routine fashion. Rather than responding to crime only after it occurs, community policing encourages agencies to proactively develop solutions to the immediate underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems” including poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence (Community policing defined, 2011, Department of Justice).
The need for community policing is especially acute given the concerns that have been raised regarding negative actions of the police, such as profiling and police violence. “The practice of racial profiling has no place in law enforcement. It is an activity that undermines the public trust vital for an effective community policing organization. Police must be perceived as both providers of public safety and deferential to the civil liberties of those they have sworn to protect and serve” (Leach 2011:1). There must also be a sense of proportionality in police responses to community events. A police officer that resorts to maximum force when intervening will impinge upon, rather than build trust and ultimately breed suspicion amongst even law-abiding members of the community, which can put fellow officers at greater risk in the long run.
Formal, written policies prohibiting profiling and promoting community outreach and positive community relations by law enforcement personnel are essential. Offering a formal complaint system to the public, conducing vigorous Internal Affairs investigations, instituting patrol car videotapes, and keeping track of data regarding arrests are all methods that can be deployed to ensure that profiling and needless violence in the enforcement process is not taking place.
Community policing to proactive policing
Of course, community policing cannot satisfy all law enforcement needs. However, community policing can support more proactive policing measures in a positive fashion. Furthermore, working with other government agencies in a coordinated fashion can be an important way to relay how to respond to an emergency to the public. Working with other government agencies can create a more effective police response as a whole. As well as firearms and biohazard suits, exchanging information between government agencies is essential to improve disaster mitigation efforts.
For example, existing entities such as the Centers for Disease Control “Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) leads the agency’s preparedness and response activities by providing strategic direction, support, and coordination for activities across CDC as well as with local, state, tribal, national, territorial, and international public health partners” (PHPR, 2011, CDC). The Department of Homeland Security was established in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 to better coordinate responses to ongoing threats like terrorist attacks. Some of the DOH’s activities include the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center “which offers consolidated interagency law enforcement training to over 80 federal agencies, as well as agencies on the state, local, and international levels,” improving the federal Air Marshals program, improving border control and other efforts that require joint efforts to achieve (Law enforcement, 2011, The Department of Homeland Security).
Preventing a terrorist attack: Community policing, federal training of local officials, better inter-agency communication
Preventing a terrorist attack requires both community policing as well as proactive policing techniques. Community residents are often the first sources of information regarding potential terrorist attacks, and police must keep open lines of communication with such residents to ensure that information is accurate and timely. This is one reason that not stimulating hostilities through racial profiling is so essential, so that residents see police as ‘friendly’ rather than hostile to their fundamental interests. Justice as a community concept can thus serve the interests of the police force and the nation and simultaneously…