Policing Issues Affecting 21st Century Law Enforcement Officers Research Paper

Length: 9 pages Sources: 9 Subject: Criminal Justice Type: Research Paper Paper: #77159469 Related Topics: Police Intelligence, 21st Century, Superheroes, Police Training

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Militarization of Police The 21st century has provided in a very short time, major changes to the way society interacts and operates. Governmental structures and institutional principles have also greatly swayed in recent decades. It is apparent that the world is drastically changing and evolving into a new form of culture and society that presents many problems and issues, especially in cases of the law and law enforcement.

The law is changing rapidly and the requirements that are placed on law enforcement professionals in this extremely turbulent time in history have grown and expanded to many different areas of responsibility. Terrorisms and the threat of massive societal upheaval are potential threats to the current and accepted way of life and the burden to protect society from these threats often falls I the hands of law enforcement professionals.

The purpose of this essay is to explain the gradual and sustained militarization of the police, its development, its effects and the ultimate impact that can be foreseen in the 21st century. This essay will examine how this militarization affects the law enforcement community and the individual law enforcement professionals themselves. This essay will describe a very critical time in the evolution of the rule of law and the role that enforcers of these laws must play in order to achieve peace and sustainable living, the desired outcome of any rational and reasonable set of societal standards.

Background Issues

The foundations of what Americans knew to be safe and secure literally crumbled on September 11, 2001. This horrific day in history ushered in a new age of an ever increasingly complicated world. Those who bore witness to these events were transformed immediately into a new paradigm where nothing or no one was deemed immediately safe and aligned.

Technological advances that played a role in those attacks have also significantly contributed to this new idea of the rule of law. Massive connectivity and instant communication are now tools available to those who wish to threaten the public peace. New weapons, biological, psychological, chemical and conventional have mushroomed into this newly created but distorted and vague battlefield.

The old rules of law have also come into questions significantly contributing to this discussion. Thousands of new laws have been created in the short 12 plus years since the terrorist attacks. The increase of international conflict as witnessed in the Middle Eastern wars currently being waged has set the world on edge and has increased paranoia in a global and widespread fashion. Paranoia runs deep through the policy makers and law enforcers at the strategic level as the war drums reverberate through the domestic home front.

Bernick (2012) decried this new attitude and how it has apparently mediated through the domestic law enforcement channels that were once known as officers of the peace. He wrote "Today, America bristles with thousands of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams. Federal agencies as unlikely as the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Education have them. State and local governments use military-grade hardware and tactics to arrest nonviolent offenders and conduct regulatory inspections. Such widespread militarization is completely unjustified.

The warrior motif is very strong in American culture these days. Superheroes and dramatic police shows dominate the media airwaves that serve to create new role models and examples of conduct that reverberate with the heroic themes of war and battle. The human spirit has had a history of this behavior however and perhaps it is deeply engrained within the psyche. Literature and art throughout the ages depict man's struggle with existence in terms that situate him in a warrior state of mind. This human element contributes greatly to the current militarization of the police because understanding these more subtle signs can surely assist in finding a reasonable and practical solution to many of the problems that are developing because of this dramatic shift towards war, militarization and conflict.

To fully grasp the problem at hand, it is necessary to gather a consensus to what is actually happening. It is reasonable to suggest that different areas of the country have been affected in different ways by this ongoing war on terror, and some of the actions that are being taken in more high risk areas such as New York City and Washington D.C. are quite stark compared to the more rural and serene places that remain generally unaffected.

Balko (2013) explained how things are being developed in the militarization of domestic law enforcement tactics and techniques. He argued that isolation from the community itself...


He suggested that "Too many police departments today are infused with a more general militaristic culture. Cops today are too often told that they're soldiers fighting a war, be it a war on crime, on drugs, on terrorism, or whatever other recent gremlin politicians have chosen as the enemy. Cops today tend to be isolated from the communities they serve, both physically (by their patrol cars) and psychologically, by an us and them mentality that sees the public not as citizens police officers are to serve and protect, but as a collection of potential threats." This separation between citizen and police officer has long been a problem in areas where crime has been a serious problem. The new global terrorist problem puts law enforcement in a difficult condition where everyone is a suspect. The fusion of technology and increases in individual political expression and freedoms puts the law enforcement professional in a critical and delicate place in society. The law essentially is carried out by police and when there is a massive political uneasiness in the air, emotions will often run high.

This division in society has been often rooted in the racial struggles that seem to haunt this country. The Rodney King trial, which sparked a massive riot in LA some years ago demonstrated the potential for political upheaval and strife. Not much healing and understanding has taken place in that time since as the police approach appears to have become more forceful, mean-spirited and ultimately less effective.

The tactics of the law enforcement agencies now in practice are very military in style and effect. Their appearance is often drastic, powerful and deadly. Police look like soldier in many cases. New weapons and vehicles with powerful ammunition are being distributed throughout domestic police forces creating a tense situation. It is understandable that no one appreciates a tank or armored personnel carrier rolling down their neighborhood. It is not a pleasant event in most cases.

Stillman (2013) recognized that SWAT teams are a large part of this image problem that police forces seem to be experiencing. She wrote "what, fundamentally, are SWAT teams for? When does it make sense to use machine guns, armored vehicles, and flash-bang grenades on a crowd of people or on a family, and how are these warfare-inspired approaches to law enforcement changing America?" These poignant and hard hitting questions are at the root of the background issues behind the militarization of police.

While there may be rare examples when this type of response is necessary, the real important issue is that it is so rare and impractical that there is really no significant reason to promote such aggressive behavior. These tactics seemed to have become routine and something appears to have been lost along the way.

Changes In Society

Bernick (2013) recently wrote about these societal changes that have occurred so rapidly in the beginning of the 21st century and are currently dictating the quality of law enforcement. He suggested "Dangerous people must be dealt with accordingly, and in a way that protects law enforcement and the general public. But history has shown that when federal money for military hardware is available in bushels, many agencies and departments will seek to acquire more firepower, and use it more readily, than they need to handle dangerous people.

America has its roots of virtue steeped in violence and aggression. This must be understood in order for the environment to truly register what is happening. Absolute power will most likely corrupt absolutely, a lesson that is always being learned throughout the discussion of history. Restraint and patience are desperately lacking in today's society where everything can be acquired in very short time spans. This sense of immediacy and coercive action is very one-sided in its approach and as a result, the changes in society are reflecting this quality.

It is a strange and curious trap that society has set for itself. On one hand, the need for safety and insurance is in high demand and people expect an unreasonable amount of protection. Life is dangerous and there are no guarantees that equality and fairness are presented in the same way. On the other hand, individual freedom and liberty are very much at risk with the increase in militarization of the police forces.

This is overkill pure and simple. Prudence and appropriate responses have been lost with all the powerful and deadly gadgets that industry as…

Sources Used in Documents:


Baker, A. (2011). When the Police Go Military. The New York Times, 3 Dec 2011. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sunday-review/have-american-police-become-militarized.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Balko, R. (2013). Too Many Cops Are Told They're Soldiers Fighting a War. How Did We Get Here? ACLU, 9 July 2013. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-free-speech-technology-and-liberty/too-many-cops-are-told-theyre-soldiers

Bernick, E. (2013). It's Past Time to Scaled Back Police Militarization. The Washington Times, 18 Sep 2013. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/18/bernick-its-past-time-to-scale-back-police-militar/

Clark, J.P. (1972). The functions of the police in modern society. Contemporary Sociology, 1(3), 243 -- 244.
Lockwood, B. (2011). The Militarization Of Local Police. Forbes, 30 Nov 2011. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/bradlockwood/2011/11/30/the-militarizing-of-local-police/2/
Shank, M. & Beavers, E. (2013). America's Police are Looking More and More Like Military. The Guardian, 7 Oct 2013. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/militarization-local-police-america
Stillman, S. (2013). Swat Team Nation. New Yorker, 8 Aug 2013. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/swat-team-nation.html

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