Though not often recognized in many places around the world, the police play a very critical role in making sure that citizens live peacefully and are able to go about their daily activities without fear. The police are generally fighters of crime and criminals in society.
While many people believe that the greatest responsibility of the police is to enforce the law and ensure that criminals are dealt with accordingly, studies indicate that the police must do this without neglecting the task of offering services to the community (Dempsey & Forst, 2013). The police may also be regarded as maintainers of law and order in society.
Important Issues that should be addressed
Three issues that I believe should be dealt with to improve the performance of the police department are removing the interference by politicians, corruption and relationships between the police and members of the public. These three issues are discussed in the following subsections.
According to Rothlein (2008), there are many threats that can affect the ability of law enforcers to uphold ethical standards in the profession. Police misconduct presents itself in many ways. Corruption, for example, is a vice that has dogged law enforcers for a very time. Ordinarily, police officers engage in corrupt activities for selfish gains. Noble cause corruption is one form of corruption where police officers will do whatever it takes to get their way.
As noted by Klockars (1980) the police often find themselves in situations where a good outcome may be achieved using a wrong approach. Ostensibly, this is done without caring about the repercussions. Serious consequences follow the offenders including loss of a job or undergoing trials in court.
Typically, acts of misconduct by law enforcers attract very heavy penalties and those involved in such behavior are investigated and if found to be guilty, they are arrested. As has been argued by some researchers, it may be necessary to deal with police problems from the legal as well as the ethical approach (Dempsey & Forst, 2013).
It is important for police officers to take time and think about the impact of their actions on citizens in order for them to treat members of the community with fairness and dignity. In dealing with noble cause corruption, it is imperative for officers to take ethics training so as to understand what noble-cause-corruption and how to recognize and even how to avoid it (Rothlein, 2008).
It is also necessary for officers to be made aware of the negative repercussions of noble cause corruption. Committed officers should also be recognized and encouraged to keep upholding the standards and values of the police force.
To deal with issues of corruption, it is necessary for police departments to have reliable mechanisms to guarantee a high level of accountability (Henry & Milovanovic, 1999). Internal controls ensure that every officer conducts himself or herself in a manner worthy of the profession. In case an officer is found guilty of an offense, he or she must be subjected to serious disciplinary actions.
Before being subjected to any disciplinary action, officers should be investigated and fairly tried. It may also be helpful to ensure that resources are used in a responsible manner. Another level of control is by the state. Obviously, the state has a major interest in the operations of the police department and provides the resources needed for their operations. It is thus imperative for the state to ensure that law enforcers are not overstepping their mandate.
Rather, they should offer services in line with standards agreed upon. Any officer found to be acting contrary to what has been set, should be disciplined accordingly. Civil society groups also play a very critical role in monitoring the performance of the police department. Where citizens lack confidence in the police department, they should engage with civil society groups and report their concerns.
Cases of misconduct by members of the police force directed to the civil society should then be forwarded to the relevant authorities for action. In case the important issues are addressed as expected, civil society groups have a way of forcing those in authority to act. They may, for example, take the matter to the press in order to get the public aware or involved.
Interference by Politicians
Police reformers argue that politicians should not be involved in the affairs of the police. Interference by politicians kills the autonomy of the police department and affects their operations (Kelling & Moore, 1988).
Close relationships between politicians and police officers increase the level of corruption in the police sector and hinder the pursuit of justice. This is sometimes complicated further by the involvement of the state in hiring occupants of key positions within the police force.
Removing the link between the state and the police department is, however, dangerous in some ways. Without strict monitoring by the state, for example, the police may assume so much power that may be abused. In the process of carrying out their duties, police officers may take advantage of unsuspecting individuals and subject them to unfair treatment.
The operations of the police are affected by politics. Pressure from politicians often pushes the police to act in ways that are not in line with the expectations of the public. Being human, it is also possible for police officers to take sides with political parties. There is a need for a high level of accountability.
According to the broken windows theory, also known as the order-maintenance policing, a society that appears to be lawless promotes lawlessness (Neubauer & Fradella, 2010). To successfully offer their services to the community and curb crime, law enforcers should seal any available loop hole and make it clear to the public that any wrong doing will be punished.
Although not accurate, the broken windows theory has played a big role in ensuring that policies are put into practice. Generally, broken neighborhoods lead to disorder and lawlessness in society (Samaha, 2005). However, the broken windows theory does not consider other causes of crime and disorder in society (Harcourt, 2001). Obviously, there are many other reasons to explain the occurrence of crime in society.
Relationship between the Police and the Public
By and large, the police have been accused of being disconnected from the public and how people feel. As a result, some people see the police as enemies rather than friends who are concerned about the welfare of the community members (Flamm, 2013).
Because of the poor relationships that exist between police officers and the public, the police tend to harass people without caring about the infringement of their rights. Studies indicate that community policing may offer an appropriate solution to this problem (Klockars, 1980).
Community policing is a phenomenon that has been practiced in various places for decades and encourages the police and members of a community to interact and help one another to combat crime and create a healthy living environment. For the community to be successful, the police may apply the iron fist and glove theory by the crime and justice association.
While it is necessary for law enforcers to employ soft skills when interacting with community members, they must use a tough stance when one does contrary to what the law requires (Crank & Caldero, 2010). While the velvet glove represents the soft part of the law enforcers, the iron fist represents the hard stance that should be taken by officers when needed.
Police officers are certainly faced with unique challenges that mostly interfere with their effectiveness. Important issues that should be addressed to improve the performance of law enforcers include corruption, political interference, and relationships with the public. Generally, corruption compromises the integrity of law enforcers and leads to unfairness.
Largely, it is the poor who get affected the most. This may be worsened by political interference when influential politicians demand favors from the police officers. This creates ethical problems and the police bear the heaviest blame for the resultant loss of morality.
As has been explained, it is imperative to have strict measures to ensure that police officers are disciplined enough to conduct their affairs fairly. Monitoring may be done internally, by the state or by civil society groups. While police problem may be dealt with legally, ethics has a part to play in shaping the police force. It is thus important to take the legal approach without neglecting the application of ethical standards.
Crank, J. P. & Caldero, M. A. (2010). Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause. New Providence, NJ: Elsevier.
Dempsey, J. & Forst, L. (2013). An Introduction to Policing. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Flamm, M. W. (2013). Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s. New York: Columbia University Press.
Harcourt, B. E. (2001). Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing. Harvard University Press.
Henry, S. & Milovanovic, D. (1999). Constitutive Criminology at Work: Applications to Crime and Justice. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Kelling, G. L. & Moore, M. H. (1988). The Evolving Strategy of Policing. National Institute of Justice, 4, 1 – 16.
Klockars, C. B. (1980). The Dirty Harry Problem. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 452, 33 – 47.
Neubauer, D. & Fradella, H. (2010). America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Rothlein, S. (2008). Noble Cause Corruption. Web.
Samaha, J. (2005). Criminal Justice. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.