The notion “police and society” refers to the mode in which the police and the society contribute to the realization of the basic principles of policing. In the modern society, the initial roles of the police in any given society have shifted from traditional role to a community oriented role. This transformation has brought about diversity to police roles in the society. This paper will explore the role of the police in the United States, their success and failures in accomplishing their roles of law enforcement and whether there are still some minorities being victimized.
In the colonization era in the United States, the role of police was basically constables, home guards, night watchmen, sheriffs and slave drivers. As time went by, the society has experienced social, political, philosophical, ideological, economical as well as demographic changes which has contribute to shifting of these traditional responsibilities to community oriented roles (Vita, B & Morris, 1999)
These social changes on the other hand, have had a negative impact on the society; crime rates have increased, law violators have increased, domestic and public violence has increased, drug trafficking and drug abusers and many other social related vices have come up. There was need therefore to expand the role of police to cover roles like enforcing the law, countering such vices, bringing justice to the people as well as offering internal security. In the twentieth century, the United States of America faced periods of unprecedented prosperity.
United States had survived major challenges like the great economic depression, world war one and world war two. This brought about population increment, security and even technology advancement. There was increased urbanization as people went to towns to look for jobs. People were then able to interact in larger societal structures creating new cultural diverse societies. This extended the policing role into guarding these new social structures (Vila B & Morris, C 1999) There have been substantial conflicts between the police and the society.
This has been caused by the rapid cultural diversity the society is experiencing. The United States is experiencing high population growth characterized by new immigrants from around the world. These new people have different cultural backgrounds which they come with. The existing society on the other hand needs a just and equal opportunity distribution. They need equal legal protection. They rely on the police everyday to be providing these rights and to be protected from violation. In such situations, the police have found themselves caught between powerful social forces.
In extreme cases, the public has conducted mass demonstrations, there have risen political and civil rights activists and in most cases the police have found themselves conflicting directly with the society (Vila B & Morris, C, 1999). Despite the fact that the police have had a major role in the society and in the government, major studies have not been done in this policing field. They have been neglected in away, living to them any matters concerning them. The government should be in the front line to encourage such studies but it has not.
Order maintenance is one major function of an acting government and which it can only accomplishes through policing roles. It has however consistently neglected this central responsibility. Police operations are responsible to limit of freedom in a given society a very crucial entity in determining the character of the government. Sufficient and successful Police management of the society is one major expression to any successful government in the world. The police roles are too routine, their clientele too obvious and their presence too pervasive.
Their tasks, including criminal investigations, are dull and repetitious. Their recruitment is based on low educated members a concept borrowed from the traditional practice. This may have contributed to poor administration of their roles in the society. Also, the society might undermine them and their efforts. (Bayley, D H ,1990) All these have contributed to the existing police and society conflicts. The government has not been so implemental in following up police activities. Therefore, some people have found themselves being victimized by the police while others are favored.
The case handling in the police stations have not been satisfying to the victims. Instances of corrupt practices have been recorded, unjustifiable evidence provided and many other unethical situations. Justice and injustices instances have characterized their performance leaving questions to whether they have achieved their set targets or whether they still victimize some minorities. The fact that some are less educated may confuse their authority to use force, physical force when real or threatened in effecting behavior.
There have been cases of sexual insults by the police to the civilians as a form of bribing them against arrest. Instances of racial discrimination have also characterized the police operations. Black people have been associated with some crimes like car jacking and drug trafficking. Some white policemen have even been recorded physically abusing black people in their duties. False confession is another issue in police operations. In the United States, police confessed against six teens over a rape and a murder case that found the victim death on April 19, 1989 over the Central Park Jogger case.
Later in the year 2002, the rapist and the murderer responsible to this case confessed to the authority and where the DNA test was done and the results were positive. Indeed he was the one who was responsible. The kinds had suffered innocently out of police mistakes. Consecutive case related to such police forceful confessions include; Pizza Hut Murder (1988), Corethian Bell case (1999), Jessie Misskelley (1994), Michael Crowel (2002) and many others. The policing goals over the years have been fighters in a “war against crime”.
This has seen crime statistics being a basic measure of police performance (Vila B & Morris, C, 1999) According to United States crime rates from 1960 – 2007, the number of crimes in all analysis; violence, property, murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny theft and vehicle theft, have continually varied as the population number increase for example: in the year 2000, the total crime rates were 11,608,072 with a population of 281,421,906 in 2007 the total crime rate was 11,251,828 with a population of 301,621,157.
This is a decrease in crime rate. This decrease trend has been observed from 2001 to date when the crime number seemed at its peak, 11,826,538. This is a show that the police are doing a tremendous job in law enforcing. Furthermore, the decrease is justifiable as the technological advancement in the police department has grown to be very effective and sufficient. On the other hand, the society can be credited as it is the determiner of the crime rates. (FBI, Uniform Crime Report) This may not be a satisfying measure of police efficiency though.
Such statistics may be subjected to a variety of limitation; biasness, insufficient crime detection or ability for the society to cover up and organize crimes. Therefore, the best measure would be by assessing the public response; are they satisfied with police work, how have they responded to the police, does this affect the numbers of crime in that society. Unfortunately, police efficiency can only be based on society assessment rather than police activity and public safety basement. Police abuse incidents continue to be a burning fact in the US societies.
The media has been in the front line uncovering these instances as well as civil rights movements. According to police related headlines in the month of October 2008, police brutality, injustices and harassment still dominates. These headlines include: “man killed by California police in case of mistaken identity, four charged in Arkarisal college shooting, innocent woman killed in California pursuit, Florida officers cleared of excessive force, mass police probe gun shoe death of child, ‘American sheriff’ faces corruption trial” (Cygnus Business Media)
In March 1991 three policemen were caught on camera brutally beating Rodney King a young man from Los Angeles who was an African American. This incident dominated the media houses, news and magazines calling for civil right intervention. King racial background also raised facts whether police abuse was evenly distributed to all societies in the US. Still six years later incidents of police abuse were evident in 1996 December, two men died in the hands of Florida sheriffs, in January 1997, Nurt Desilva was killed by Rhode Island police in cold blood, in February 1997, James Wilson was severely beaten by Hartford police (Glassers, I)
In general, the police victimization to the society can be classified in to various misconducts; false confession, police brutality, false arrest, falsified evidence, police corruption, racial profiling, sexual abuse, intimidation, political repression and surveillance abuse. Legal authorities should be able to investigate such cases in the police department and be in the front line in prosecuting those police involved in such cases to enhance police-societal relationship.
However, as much as the police – societal relation may look bleached, there is still hope for strengthening it. To fight such victimization, brutality, abuses and injustices would give a solution to the problem. There is need to identify the problem, analyze it, gather some facts and evidence and formulate a solution. This will discourage emerging of new cases giving room for investigation to the already existing cases. The society must also take it as an obligation to co-exist with the police in a respectable way.
They should take it as their responsibility to obey legal procedure to avoid police conflict. On the other hand, they should report incidences of police injustice to legal authority that in turn should make a follow up and bring such injustices to justice. Police should also have an extensive training on obeying civil rights as well as accomplishing their roles accordingly. The government should encourage police – society relationship.
Civil movements, legal bodies’ media and scholars should make effort in seeing justice prevails in the society and the police force. We should all understand that the police are there for us and not to abuse us therefore respecting them. The police as well should realize they are there for us and should have respect for us. By doing so, instances of minority victimization by the police will seize and a prosperous co-existence between the society and the police maintained.