Law Enforcement within the Justice System
This paper will be discussing law enforcement as a whole and the problems that have been recently arising within the law enforcement community. There will be studies referenced in this paper to support the claim that law enforcement slacks on the number of training hours they are given and how these lack of hours in the classroom are very noticeable when it comes to difficult situations where they lose their composure. There will also be another study referenced to how people of color feel about law enforcement and their assertiveness compared to Caucasians and how that study varied amongst diverseness in communities. Along with problems being pointed out, solutions will also be given as to what law enforcement can do to improve these weak spots that they have amongst certain races and within their training programs.
Keywords: law enforcement, people of color, trainings
Law Enforcement within the Justice System
Throughout history law enforcement has had events where positive and negative changes have occurred within both the agency and within the community. Since the early 1900s, law enforcement has been a piece of our society that is here to enforce laws and protect the citizens of our country (Ferreira, 1996). Even with the day to day duties of law enforcement the primary goal has never changed, to serve and protect citizens of the United States from harm and danger. With this task to protect the citizens they are faced with dangers every day to complete these task to the best of their ability. Overall law enforcement agencies do tend to provide protection effectively but fall short due to the fact that there is an image that is portrayed by the public. People view those within law enforcement as enemies whose main priority is to dominate and harm the people that they are supposed to be protecting.
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The reality is even though law enforcement has the wrong way of going about situations they are people who are designed to protect the public and administer a specific amount of force. People obviously have to be better informed about the steps law enforcement takes and the reasoning as to why they might take certain actions in specific situations. Today, in society law enforcement is being involved in more hazardous situations which alters the amount of force that needs to be used with a civilian or suspect in order for them to protect themselves. This force can be limited to physical force, persuasion, or intimidation; making a split decision is crucial when it comes to choosing what course of action best suits the situation (Nickel, 2015). This use of excessive force is obviously easy to misuse so this puts citizens in the position of feeling uncomfortable in the presence of law enforcement officers; particular actions of course have to be made because if law enforcement goes and treats even the pettiest things as if they are just that there’s a possibility that their superiors will chastise them. The main problem that’s being addressed is what is the limit and under what circumstance should police use force (Congress, 2003)? Answering this question can help guide police when they have to exert force on people.
When it comes to knowing the amount of force to use this goes back to the training that law enforcement has to endure. Previous studies have been conducted to prove that in present day this issue of overusing force begins with the lack of policing training (Reaves, 2016). This lack of training has been going on since 1977, where there was another study that was conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) where it was estimated that the average time of formal training that a police officer was receiving was under 200 hours compared to reports by The National Advisory Commission that physicians were required to receive 11,000 hours; lawyers 9,000; teachers 7,000; embalmers 5,000; and barbers 4,000 it isn’t being understood where a career that puts people’s lives in their hands has completed less than 200 hours (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 1978). Understandably is this study was conducted almost 40 years ago, so a study was recently conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics stating that in 2009 the average basic classroom training was 761 hours. The topic that received the most attention during this classroom training happened to be firearm training which took up about 60 hours, self-defense averaged at 51 hours and, patrolling procedures was tied with investigation and emergency vehicle operations and took an average of 40 hours (Reaves, 2009). As a society we build police forces in order to maintain order and justice within our various population groups. That’s why each city and state has formed their own departments or hired groups to regulate their people.
Now how these police officers are being trained to treat these civilians fall heavily upon the supervisor of the police force. It is taught that those in law enforcement are supposed to be moral and ethical individuals that, as a society, we should be striving to act like. The first step that needs to be implemented is making sure that everyone around the state is receiving the same trainings and the that they these trainings are being taught more than just 200 hours. If the training hours increase and the topics are broader and explained to a better understanding then possibly that would help with much of the resentment towards police because instead of reacting irrationally, they would have been taught how to handle multiple situations and those they could be similar to them. To make things more equal all around, those that have already been in these shortly hour trainings should be retrained; officers, deputies, sheriffs, etc.
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As stated earlier, most citizens look at law enforcement as a source of protection and service while others view law enforcement with suspicion and distrust (Horowitz, 2016). Those that usually look at law enforcement negatively are those who are profiled as minorities. About 58% of Americans states that they feel as if the criminal justice system fails to treat all individuals equally. This includes 45% of people who believe the system gives preference, or special treatment, to those who are white Americans, while the 13% of people think the system treats black and Hispanic Americans better (Ekins, 2016). In a 2015 nationwide poll was conducted to unravel the following findings; violence against civilians by police officers is an extremely serious problem according to nearly three-quarters of blacks and less than 20 percent of whites (Swanson, n.d.), a significant amount of black’s state that they feel police are too quick to use deadly force and are more likely to use it against a person of color while whites stated that the police officers typically used deadly force only when it was necessary and that race wasn’t a factor when deciding to use forceful actions (Swanson, n.d.).
It’s of course been a national issue when it comes to discrimination within law enforcement. More than half of black Americans have reported being treated unfairly by a person within law enforcement because of their race (Swanson, n.d.). The bad experiences that are happening with these people of color is what has been shaping their views of law enforcement and causing a strong bitterness towards those in the blue uniform. The disconnect that the residents have with law enforcement usually depends on the area that they are living. In a survey it was understood that 33% of Caucasians who live in a more diverse area feel that their police treat and are more likely to use deadly force against a black person compared to the 21% of whites who live in a less diverse area, but even in those less diverse area its stated that the police in their community treat those of minority groups more roughly (Swanson, n.d.). This is also the same when looking at blacks within a more diverse community, with of course those living in a more diversely black neighborhood having a more negative view of law enforcement (Swanson, n.d.). Police rely on the cooperation of community to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods, and to work with the police to devise solutions to crime and disorder problems, if that’s not being done then there is no crime being stopped. Similarly, the community’s willingness to trust the police depends on whether they believe that police actions reflect the community values and incorporate the values of justice and legitimacy (Community Relations Services, 2015).
A solution that could easily fix this problem is the extinction of discrimination, but since that isn’t an easy task the next best thing to do is to improve the connection within the black community and law enforcement. According to Cole and Smith connections between law enforcement and community are important because it makes the people feel safer when they know that the police are there for their protection. Being closely connected will possibly help reduce hostility that has developed between the officers and the residents in many areas (2018). If police and community connection improve many problems would be nonexistent, or even fixed when needed. Taking a step further limiting the number of cars driving through the neighbors and encouraging biking through the neighborhood so that the officers actually become known to the citizens and in return they will choose to cooperate with the police (Cole & Smith, 2018).
Even though all officers don’t engage in the misconduct, it raises questions as to which police are trustworthy enough to control the public without initial abuse. Another major problem is the corruption of power that many officers tend to have (Cole & Smith, 2018). This could be resolved if those who abuse their power be treated with the same way as a regular on the street disobeying the law, this too would make a huge improvement on the level of trust that people have with police officers. In the end, if all police officers would adhere to the code and regulations that they signed up to follow I feel that there would be no question on the loyalty and equality of police, but since there has been a couple of bad apples to taint the name of the good police officers and nothing being done the public is of course not going to trust the police. There’s no reason to if no punishment is being provided to the police who disregarded the laws that he too is supposed to be following.
Throughout all of these studies it can be understood that police are obviously not receiving the required amount of training that they need to be suitable to deal with the crimes that are constantly arising. The lack of training compared to those of other careers shouldn’t be as low as they are especially with the fact that these law enforcement officers have the lives of civilians in their hands and sometimes take that as an advantage. The most logical thing to do in order for civilians to feel safe in the hands of law enforcement is to of course increase the hours of trainings to make sure that these officers are getting the required training, with this required training they should be taught how to handle situations the best way possible this decrease the public mentality that officers are using their power as ways to harm and dominate the population. Creating an image to make officers less threatening in the public eye when it comes to certain situations would also be a great step to having the public feeling more open and dependent on law enforcement instead of resenting them because of their misuse of force. Having law enforcement be approachable, especially in black communities, yet still having a stern hold on the situation instead of losing their composure would be a lesson that could be taught in these training classes; the loss of composure is what causes these unnecessary deaths and shootings that are becoming more of an occurrence all over the United States, which is also causing the public to no longer respect and have more of a fear of police.
- C. (2015). Importance of Police-Community Relationships and Resources for Further Reading. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://www.justice.gov/crs/file/836486/download
- Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2016). Criminal Justice in America (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.
- Congress, N. J. (2003, October 03). Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.justice.gov/archive/crs/pubs/principlesofgoodpolicingfinal092003.htm
- Ekins, E. (2016, December 07). Policing in America: Understanding Public Attitudes Toward the Police. Results from a National Survey. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/policing-america
- Ferreira, B. R. (1996). THE USE AND EFFECTIVENESS OF COMMUNITY POLICING IN A DEMOCRACY. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/policing/use139.htm
- Horowitz, J. (2016, July 14). Race, Trust and Police Legitimacy. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/pages/welcome.aspx
- Nickel, O. (2015). Critical Factors in Police Use-of-Force Decisions. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2269&context=dissertations
- N. (1978, November). Police Job-Task Analysis: An Overview. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/143484NCJRS.pdf
- Reaves, B. A. (2016, July). State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2013. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/slleta13.pdf
- Swanson, E. (n.d.). Law Enforcement and Violence: The Divide between Black and White Americans. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/HTML Reports/law-enforcement-and-violence-the-divide-between-black-and-white-americans0803-9759.aspx
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