Policing is a crucial function of any governmental system which determines how law and order is observed. It is estimated that there are more than 18,760 independent police organizations in the US with an estimated 1 million employees. The federal government contributes about 15% of the money used to run their operations. Local authorities provide the rest of the funds to police agencies within their jurisdictions. Policing is mainly controlled by states with most cities, towns and rural zones having their own police units. States consolidate or create new police units depending on the law enforcement needs within their jurisdictions (Walker & Katz , 2008, p. 56). Heads of police departments in the U.S. are appointed by a commission on behalf of a city or a town council. On the other hand, sheriffs are normally elected for a term of four years by citizens of counties which they watch over.
Police departments are based in cities and towns while sheriff departments watch over rural areas. There are also state highway patrol units which enforce law and order on inter-state highways. These units are normally under the jurisdiction of local authorities in territories they serve. Police units in the US also perform other functions intended to bring about law and order across the country. For instance, sheriff departments ensure that county jails are properly managed and provide security for court buildings across the country (Walker & Katz, 2008, p. 60). There are also federal agencies which operate nationally to ensure federal laws and regulations across the country are followed.
Most police agencies use a military-style organizational model where officers follow a chain of command when discharging their functions. However, most police agencies conduct motorized patrols in clearly marked cars within their areas of jurisdiction. It is estimated that about 70% of uniformed police officers conduct patrols. Each state has its own training procedures which a trainee must comply with before he or she is allowed to become a police officer. In most instances, an individual needs to have a bachelor’s degree before he is allowed to train as a detective. Detectives have more specialized skills and are normally assigned specific law enforcement duties which are different from those of uniformed police officers. They prepare cases used to prosecute suspects with the help of other police officers (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009, p. 72). Detectives perform complex tasks such as crime scene investigations, analysis of collected evidence, interrogation of suspects and surveillance of criminals when necessary.
There are various issues which affect policing agencies across the country. Some law enforcement jurisdictions have inadequate funds which hinders their police agencies from hiring qualified law enforcement personnel to solve complex crimes. These jurisdictions need more detectives to deal with complex crimes such as; online fraud, money laundering, corporate crimes and human trafficking. In the past, violent robberies, murders and drug trafficking were the most common crimes. Currently, online fraud, drug trafficking, police corruption and racketeering pose a big challenge to many law enforcement agencies. Criminals are very inventive and it is possible that future crimes will be more complex. Police officers need to be trained on advanced criminal law procedures to make them more effective in performing their duties (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009, p. 78). Some police department chiefs in large cities are appointed at the behest of political leaders which affects their performance and integrity. Therefore, this needs to be changed to reduce incidents of corruption, patronage and mediocrity which impact negatively on police performance.
Walker, S., & Katz, C.M. (2008). The police in America: An introduction (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Muraskin, R., & Roberts. A.R. (2009). Visions for change: Crime and justice in the twenty-first century (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.