Policing is an important practice which has been around for many eras. In England a system of sheriffs, reeves, and investigative “juries” had developed under the Anglo-Saxons to provide basic security and law enforcement. In 1829, the Metropolitan Police Act had been passed by Parliament, This promoted the preventive role of police as a deterrent to urban crime and disorder. Since then policing has become a vital part in society. As it is now the 21st century, the Police is faced with new important challenges and opportunities.
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This essay is going to look at what the most important challenges and opportunities of the police in the 21st century are. The main topics which will be focused on will be public perceptions and community relations of the police, police equality and diversity, the growth of technological surveillance, the impact of globalisation and the ‘war on terror’. These are the most important challenges and opportunities faced by the police and it is essential to see why they are important and this essay will seek to explore this.
One of the most important challenges and opportunities for the police in the 21st century is the public perception of the police. It has been seen as a concern by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair who has voiced his concerns about the public’s perception of the role of the police in today’s society (Source: No Author, 2008 bbc.co.uk)
The media plays a huge part in community relations as they have the power to enforce ideas in people through all types of media, e.g. films, news and TV programmes. The media’s portrayal of policing is juxtaposed with both positive and negative representations. A complex relationship exists between media consumption and public attitudes towards the police.
Police on routine foot patrol have been put in place so that it makes the public feel safe knowing that there are some authority to keep things in order should the need arise, and also allows the police an opportunity to be able to engage with the public by regaining trust from them. An experiment was conducted ‘The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment’ and the results had shown that while foot patrol may not have reduced a huge number of crimes, however it did reduce citizens fear of crime, the residents felt safer and felt like it was a better place to live and were satisfied with police services. (Source: policefoundation.org) A hand-picked team from CO19, the Metropolitan Police’s elite firearms unit, will walk in gun crime hotspots where armed gangs have turned entire estates into “no go” zones, this being a huge challenge for the police in order to cut down gang crime etc they have been placed there for routine foot patrol this being an important opportunity for the police to tackle this issue of gang crime and any other crimes on the streets in the 21st century. (Source: Moore M, 2009. www.telegraph.co.uk)
As the public perception is vital and is an important challenge to tackle, it has been seen however, in 2009 a Policing Pledge was introduced by every police force. The Pledge is a set of promises made by the police where they reflect on what the public have said they most want from their policing services, a set of requests, for example this scheme has promised that emergency 999 calls will be answered within ten seconds, and that help will be sent immediately (Source: homeoffice.gov.uk 2009). Also an independent Police Complaints Commission Police Reform Act 2002 had been put in place in case of police having done something which the public are not entirely satisfied with.
The Home office states that Diversity is defined as ‘difference’, everyone is different in terms of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, faith and age, people have varied and equally valuable skills, knowledge and experience to put forward. Gender and race have been a challenge for the police in the 21st century, not only in terms of crime but also within the policing institute for example employment for the police. After the uproar of Stephen Lawrence’s injustice in 1993, police have found themselves with many opportunities to rectify their mistakes by tackling Racism as one of the police forces main priority. Quite a few members of the general public have lost all faith in the police, the police are challenged to change this and have the opportunity to help people when dealing with racist crimes. The human rights commission report highlighted that there was a disproportionate number of Black people and Asian people being stopped and searched. Figures in 2007/08 shows 1,035,438 stop and searches were carried out by the police and of the people that had been stopped and searched, figures indicate that 13% were Black, 8% were Asian and 3% mixed ethnicity. (Source: Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2007/8)
Gender and racism within the policing institution are major challenges for the police as there is quite a difference between male and female police officers and also between white and ethnic minority police officers. One of the concerns that had been highlighted in the Equality and Human Rights Commission report showed high resignation rates and dismissals within ethnic minority individuals than white officers within the first 6 months of service, showing that there is an inequality here. 36,187 of the 144,274 officers in England and Wales were female, representing 25.1 per cent of the total, compared with 24.2 per cent in March 2008. Compared to male officers this is a small figure. The proportion of women in the more senior ranks of Chief Inspector and above was 13.0 per cent. As at 31 March 2009, there were 6,310 minority ethnic police officers in England and Wales, accounting for 4.4 per cent of all officers compared with 4.1 per cent in March 2008. (Source: Mulchandani & Sigurdsson 2009 Pg. 5). There’s a sense of a ‘canteen culture’ amongst the police force, this is where there are negative perceptions on the part of police against women and minorities, This term is generally applied to describe the attitudes of some of the lower ranks of the British police force who resist change and are comfortable with what the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence called the Metropolitan Police’s ‘institutional racism’.
As it is now the 21st century, the police have been trying to tackle this challenge. A huge recruitment campaign was carried out by the police to increase the diversity of the police force. There has been an increase on recruitment with ethnic minorities wanting to be recruited to the forces figure had risen to 12.3 Percent in 2007/08 compared to the 8.4 Percent in 2003/04. (Source: Police and Racism Report Pg 13)
Globalisation has become an important challenge and also has made a huge impact for policing, The majority of police functions and practices pertain to local and regionally specific matters of crime and order, However a large number of globalisation developments have crossed the boundaries of national borders. As the nature of crime has become wide, it shows that crime has no limitations and the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack in the United States is a good example of this. September 11th attacks isn’t simply the main occurrence to the globalisation of policing, it was well underway due to many other forces which had occurred before. However since the September 11th attacks, the globalisation of policing did change. Although these attacks happened in the United States it shocked the whole world making the United Kingdom also a prime target (Ritzer, G Pg 380). This fear further emerged even more so after the July 7th 2005 bombings in London. This didn’t become just an issue for individual nations but it became a Global issue. The policing agencies are facing these challenges with the criminal justice and policing systems which are made to police the citizens in a national context.
Police institutions are legitimated in the national states context. As a result, there is a persistence of nationality in international policing in at least three ways. Police institutions rather engage unilaterally in international activities without assistance from police of other nations. The 20th century mostly focused on fugitives from justice who had committed violent and property crimes. Other periods later saw the important shift towards the policing of drugs crimes and the control of illegal immigration. From 21st century and with extreme force since the events of September 11, 2001, international terrorism and technologically advanced crimes, such as cyber crimes and international money laundering schemes, have become the leading focus in international policing. (Source: Deflem, M Pg 972) The need to deal with the global issues relating to terrorism has come into conflict with keeping open borders to facilitate international economic transactions. The national approach to these challenges faced in the UK had revolved around security services in policing, expanded the use of covert policing activities, setting up agreements like bi-lateral and international teams with the UK and USA. The challenge faced by the police would be assuring that international laws are abided to and being able to apply new laws that could help deal with other countries.
The Home Office are responsive to the challenges the police have to meet in the 21st century and want to build our ability to fight global threats such as drugs, trafficking, illegal immigration and the growth of globalisation of crime and terrorism which produced a real security threat to its growth. Global crime control is improving to an extent in various ways, however one challenge that the police face is that there is a great fear of threats to civil and human rights posed by these policing methods such as more intrusive surveillance technologies. (Source: Ritzer, G Pg 380).
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Due to the growth of technological surveillance it has given the police an opportunity to combat crime and this has aided them to achieve this. Surveillance is the monitoring of the behaviour, activities, or other changing information. It’s an observation of individuals or groups by government organizations. Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) is an example of this. CCTV is seen as a vital part of the policing ‘toolkit’. Its preventative power, allowing officers to pre-empt trouble, it’s use as an extra pair of eyes or for intelligence gathering and the deterrent effect were all seen as benefits by the police. Many officers spoke about the time-saving power of CCTV. The reported high number of arrests in CCTV-related incidents points to the efficiency in the use of CCTV, if police are able to make arrests quickly this saves time in investigating an incident. (Source: Levesley T & Martin A 2005 Pg. 11)
One of the challenges faced by the police is that CCTV cameras are a controversial issue, and that people feel as though they have no privacy as they are being constantly watched like ‘big brother’. The growth of technological surveillance is an important opportunity for the police in the 21st century as it has given them the chance to develop new ways to combat crime, for example terrorism, it is to help members of the public feel safer.
CCTV isn’t the only form of technological surveillance which has helped the police in combating crime. There are also audio surveillance technologies, these are used to monitor a room, an individual person, or a telephone conversation. Electronic eavesdropping may be defined as intercepting conversations without the knowledge or consent of the participants. The most commonly used form is wiretapping, the interception of telephone or telegraph messages this is a new form of surveillance technology used a lot in the 21st century which is a important opportunity for the police, audio surveillance technologies in 21st century are mainly used as a tool for counter terrorism.
The War on Terror is the campaign that was launched by the United States of America, and was supported by United Kingdom, NATO and other countries. The campaign had started in reaction to the September 11th, 2001 attacks and had stated that the main objective was to abolish international terrorism. (Source: Deflem, M Pg 972).
The war on terror is probably the most important challenge that the police have faced in the 21st century so far, especially after September 11th attacks and the July 7th bombings in London. These attacks shocked the nation by the significant number of controls, checks and regulations that were put in place. Terrorist activity can come from a range of sources and counter terrorist policing has been a huge priority.
Terrorism involves extraordinary violence. It is intentional and it is to create massive fear which involves a planned attack for a purpose. That is why terrorism is one of the most important challenges for police as like September 11th which 2,973 victims and the 19 hijackers died as a result of the attacks. Also the July 7th bombing in London has made a huge priority for the police to ensure that people in the U.K are safe and to prevent such destruction from occurring again a counter terrorism strategy has been put in place.
The globalisation of crime and terrorism has produced a growing threat. In order to respond to these threats, the UK came up with a Counter terrorism strategy known as CONTEST. CONTEST main focus over the next 5 years is about reducing all threats and vulnerability in the UK. What Global terrorism has demonstrated in the past few years is that it is unlikely to consider that all security efforts will deny every attack every time. Thus the most practical approach is to protect cities as far as possible in doing so by reducing safety and security threats, risks and vulnerabilities. If an incident were to occur, then the mission is to react effectively, this being a huge challenge for the police in 21st century. (Source: security.homeoffice.gov.uk)
One of the future challenges the police will have to face is the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in London. It’s a challenge of security whereby they need to protect London and its guests over the 90 or so days of the Games from all types of threats including potential terrorist attacks.
To conclude it is clear to see that the police face many important challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. One of the prime aspects being the topic of terrorism and this is because it is a huge threat and has the ability to cause major destruction. It is a new challenge which has emerged in the 21st century for the police whereas the other factors mentioned in this essay have existed as challenges for the police industry before the 21st Century. From this essay it is evident to see that there is a growth of technological surveillance which has been put into practice in order to control threats like terrorism. Having said this, all the challenges and opportunities mentioned in this essay are important for the police in the 21st century and should be seen as opportunities in which to regain public favour and trust.
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