In addition, today's police officer faces different challenges from police officers of even two decades ago. One of these 21st century problems facing law enforcement is terrorism. Almost every community across the nation has some building or government location that could be considered a target of terrorism, and large metropolitan areas have many of these targets within their boundaries. Because of this, police models may have to change to be more involved in preventing terrorism from occurring, rather than responding once a terrorist act has been committed. Community policing can aid in this by allowing community police officers to become familiar with their neighborhoods and citizens, and knowing exactly what targets lay in their area. To create better police officers, training in terrorism and how to recognize typical terrorism suspects must be stepped up and addressed in all communities.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing many officers is the use of deadly force. That issue recently came under public scrutiny with the shooting of a black man on the day of his wedding by a number of New York police officers. Some of the officers involved in the shooting have been charged with using too much force in connection with the incident. Most officers do not want to use their gun against a criminal, but understand the necessity of using that gun if it is absolutely necessary. Most new recruits learn about using restraint and how to recognize dangerous situations. In addition, many departments are issuing Tasers, stun guns, and/or pepper spray to officers in an attempt to control the use of deadly force except in the most demanding situations. The use of deadly force should not be taken lightly, and officers who are forced to shoot someone should always receive counseling and support from the department if the shooting was justified.
Two Strategies for Creating Better Police Officers
The issues of police criminality, corruption, and brutality seem never to go away. Another writer notes, "Of course, as long as police officers are human beings, there will always be individual cases of police corruption" (Leuci, 1999, p. 216). There is simply no way to eliminate every temptation and every person of questionable character. However, there are some strategies that can help create and improve law enforcement officers in the future.
One way to ensure these issues are not present in officers is to ensure they are not present in the department. Author Leuci continues, "Police officers' behavior is often defined by the behavior of others: their partners, their immediate supervisors, the more experienced and streetwise officers within their units, and, most important, their commanding officers" (Leuci, 1999, p. 218). Thus, a department must be scrupulously honest in every area, from narcotics to the patrols. A corrupt department staffed with commanding officers who look the other way when brutality or corruption occurs will only breed more of the same. Therefore, one strategy for new police officers is for the department to make sure that it is totally above board and "clean," and stays that way, so the new officers have no temptation or implied approval of bad behavior. This internal accountability may be the most important way to control the ethics and morality of the entire department. Ethics training of new officers would also help ensure that officers are sound mentally, psychically, and morally.
Another strategy could be increased training in sociological and psychological skills for new officers. This would include more public service training on how to deal with members of the community, as well as how to recognize specific social problems within the community, such as abusive relationships, gang activity, and a host of other problems officers might eventually encounter or uncover. In addition, it seems that officers are extremely vulnerable to stresses that occur with the job, and if they could receive more psychological training, it might help them recognize certain destructive behaviors in themselves and fellow officers. Stress management techniques as a part of this training would be extremely effective. After initial training, stress management activities within the department might also make a difference. For example, the department might offer free off-site yoga classes, or other stress management activities officers and their families could participate in if they chose. It would also help to include some family counseling activities for family members who are suffering stress from their loved ones' jobs, since dissatisfied family members can be another source of stress for the officer. Most people understand the role of a police officer is stressful, but many young recruits may not anticipate the many stressful situations that appear in every aspect of the job, and so, they may not be able to deal with all of them as effectively as they could. Stress management training and continued support could help all the officers in the department.
In conclusion, community policing seems to be the wave of the future. It presents a problem solving approach to the diverse problems modern police officers face within their communities. It also creates a new "breed" of police officer who is more involved and understanding of the community and the community's problems. It also involves the citizens, who are often the best source of information in a community. This model makes sense, which is why so many police departments are utilizing it today.
Bucqueroux, B. (2007). Community criminal justice: What community policing teaches. Retrieved from the Policing.com Web site: http://www.policing.com/articles/ccj.html26 March 2007.
Gianakis, G.A., & Davis, G.J. (1998). Reinventing or repackaging public services? The case of community-oriented policing. Public Administration Review, 58(6), 485.
Glenn, R.W., Panitch, B.R., Barnes-Proby, D., Williams, E., Christian, J., Lewis, M.W., et al. (2003). Training the 21st century police officer: Redefining police professionalism for the Los Angeles Police Department / . Santa Monica, CA: Rand.
Leuci, R. (1999). 13 the enemies within: Reflections on institutionalized corruption. In Police and policing: Contemporary issues, Kenney, D.J. & McNamara, R.P.…