Reducing Citizen Complaints a Growing Essay

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #49002943

Excerpt from Essay :

g. A Police Office in a large metropolitan area like New York will have different duties and dangers than a County Sheriff in a rural Oklahoma area) (Barlow, 2000).

Rightly so, modern society has a certain level of expectations for its military and law enforcement branches. While it is known that both must, at times, deal with the underside of society, it is also assumed that the group will rise above base and animalistic reactions and upload both the law and a sense of compassion -- coupled with self-preservation and safety. Officers are often in danger of infectious disease, motor vehicle fatalities, apprehension of persons under substance abuse, and line of duty deaths are not uncommon. For instance, approximately 200 police officers die per year in the United States, with over half of those deaths from direct assaults from suspects or criminals (Robert, 2008). Still, individuals are sociologically drawn to police work for numerous reasons: the desire to serve and protect the public and resulting social contract; a desire to hold a position of respect and authority within their own community, abhorrence for crime and rule breakers, and the professional challenges that daily interaction with a certain side of the public may have. While society expects those officers to be respectful, follow the law, and prevent crime before it happens, the reality of the stresses upon members of law enforcement are varied and often serious (Blum, 2000). Law enforcement officers are human, and like most humans, vulnerable to stress. Some scholars believe that the rate of alcoholism is double that of the regular population, and nationally, twice as many police officers commit suicide as are killed in the line of duty (Henry, 2004).

One of the sociological challenges of studying a group such as this is the code of silence that pervades many aspects of law enforcement. Besides their sworn duty, law enforcement often has a unique internal code designed to both protect the structure of the agency and organize the individual. Society does not expect its police officers to be weak or vulnerable, yet being people they are placed in extreme stress, have family problems, and the same sociological issues as everyone else. However, to set themselves apart, their internal language, behavior sets, expectations, even ways of dealing with each other, are all designed to perpetuate a certain strength and internal stoicism (Gilmartin, 2002).

Looking at law enforcement from three different sociological paradigms allows one to see how the very structure of society can influence the manner in which police organization can be defined. Utilizing the Structural-Functional Paradigm, one can view law enforcement as part of the symbiosis of an organized group. The police are a part of the social function of society at large, and this model shows law as one part of the organization that takes individual actions and combines them to be greater as the whole rather than the sum of each individual part. Modern society is continually evolving; it rarely has equilibrium and balance. Because of this, within this model of social behavior, the police forces are the actions that adjust in order to ensure that the balance of the whole is maintained in a more even manner. The complexity of ethnicity and economic behavior within a city requires adaptation -- race, gender, sexual preference, social class, and even age differentiation change societal values to which law enforcement must react. Within this cooperative model, then, the very idea of law enforcement can be considered a balancing agent to maintain the peace between changing societal mores, and may even reach out through community programs and policing (Maguire, 1997).

When society is viewed as the product between the regular actions and interactions of individuals and their associated groups, a Symbolic-Interaction Paradigm occurs. There are three major parts to this theory that deal directly with law enforcement. First, if individuals within society act towards things based on the meanings they give to those things, the idea for law enforcement is to establish the definition of "police" to be respectful and part of societal organization. Too, if meaning is derived from social interaction, then it is important that law enforcement regularly interact within the societal paradigm. Finally, it meanings occur and evolve through interpretation; it follows that it will be law enforcement's duty to communicate their message through the appropriate media (Blummer, 1986). Essentially, though, this approach can be viewed more as a microcosm of a medium and large police force as opposed to the macro view of the manner in which law enforcement has evolved into the 21st century. It has value interdepartmentally in the manner in which communication occurs, but really does not take into account the evolution of society and expectations of law enforcement in the post-911 world. Additionally, when viewed using police as part of a hierarchical structure in society, the model fails to allow for success or failure based on action/interaction (Robert).

Community Policing -- a Model to Reduce Citizen Complaints - One of the ways a number of police department have both reduced citizen complaints and involved the community into the sociological and cultural aspect of policing is through community policing. Community policing is, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Looking inwardly from the sociological basis of the community, however, it means that there are a number of partnerships that must be put in place at the collaborative level. These partnerships must be between vibrant and robust institutions within the community and the entire law enforcement cadre (local police, county sheriff, etc.). The goal, of course, is that both sides trust each other, so that in problem areas, a great cooperative liaison will be formed (Miller, 2007).

Collaboration between various forms of law enforcement and society is neither new nor novel. The idea of collaboration between the community and the larger rubric of law enforcement is neither new nor novel. Many times, largely due to lack of adequate human resources, historical police groups counted on citizens as deputies, posses, and assistants. Statistically, it is impossible for a police force to be everywhere there is potential crime, and thus the community must be involved in a certain aspect of the justice system. There are, of course, times when this goes to the extreme, as it did in Stalinist Russia where estimates less than jokingly noted that it was likely half the population was spying on the other half (Solomon, 1996).

Modern law enforcement, though, tends to view its job as more public safety than public punishment, thus encouraging the relevance of such partnerships. The potential of these types of cooperative efforts is vast and has the very real probability of improving trust, relationships, and overall community feelings for both sides. There are, in overview, five major ways that differing partners can become effective in this sort of program: Interface with other governmental agencies; interface with the community member individually and community groups; nonprofit organizations and service providers; private businesses and their employees, and the media.

Increasing partnerships between local law enforcement and other governmental agencies can help identify individual community concerns and offer a number of alternative solutions. For example, organizations that are both community, state and regionally oriented (law enforcement or not) can usually address their concerns in a more robust manner under the template of community/police cooperation (Briggs, 2008).

Community Members and Community Groups often are some of the most pivotal individuals within a community. They are often the types who volunteer, are activists for change, are formal and informal leaders of groups, and even residents who are able to identify problem areas and significant urban problems. It is often seen that with these individuals, engagement within the community fosters more trust, helps the store owners and allows the police to do a better job of helping to keep the peace as opposed to reacting to those who break the peace (Peak, 2007).

Organizations that, by their very nature tend to be advocates for community improvement, such as Churches, service clubs, victim groups, issue groups, etc. can be very critical and powerful partners in community policing. These groups are often composed of the type of individual that will go out of their way to ensure that their community as a whole prospers, and who will devote time, energy, and resources of their own to see that things are improving and that they support law enforcement (see the section on law enforcement and church in Miller, 2008).

Local owned, private businesses typically have a larger stake in maintaining safety and a sense of order within the community -- keeping it health, robust, and the streets free of crime. This segment typically enjoys a cooperative relationship with police who support a climate that is low in crime, and therefore conducive to business. It is essential, most law enforcement scholars agree, that private business owners communicate with local police in their own security and use the police as advisors to "prevent" crime rather…

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