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This is a statement made by Robert Reiner that continues to shape the perception of most individuals and may result in reduced confidence in the police force. The claims are primarily as a result of the much disappointment that individuals experience after having high expectations of the police force after any successive reform crusade. Comparing the confidence levels on police forces across the world may disclose that some of the police forces are perceived as more accountable than others. For instance, the police force that has been associated with immoral activities will have its reputation ranking very low. This paper attempts to evaluate the extent to which Robert Reinner's argument that popular and political notions of police as crime-fighters cannot be sustained holds.
The paper is primarily guided by the daily interactions of the police force with the civilians and more importantly the resultant conflicts. It also centers on how conflicts are solved and how well the policies thus generated are implemented. Additionally, the issues of police reforms have raised the question on how well they have been designed to increase the police efficiency in the war against crime and whether they have succeeded. The issues emerging from this point is whether the police reforms have even achieved the set objectives in the first place.
According to Bottoms (2004), the change in the society today has made civilians more critical of the services they get. For instance, he posits out that there appear changes in the number of reported crimes, which takes a positive surge over time. This, he attributes to different possibilities that must be set out clear by the force if required efficiency is to be achieved. It is for this reason that we have many people concerned with policing issues. From the way the police are handling crime and security issues to how they are conducting the investigations that lead up to the convicting and punishment of criminals, the society will be concerned. With this amount of scrutiny, the police force has tried to upgrade through various reforms aimed at ensuring efficient fight against crime in the society. These reforms have also received their dose of criticisms especially on account of ambiguity in the set objectives (Moore 2000).
The first issue to agree upon is the fact that in order for the force to effectively deal with crime and crime issues, there need to be an understanding on the trends in crime. Societies have changed and so has the vices that are found in it. Most importantly, the issue of distinguishing the activities that are punishable under the law of the land can vary from one location to the other or from state to another. If the trends of crime are not studied well and understood by the police officers that are supposed to maintain the law and order, then inefficiencies will ensue.
The Emerging Issue
Some of the critiques on the police force ability to combat crime are exaggerated or may be termed as superfluous. The reason for this is because in as much as the police have failed in the past, there have been some of the changes that are aimed at ensuring that they attain higher standards. A critical evaluation of the changes may however prompt one to reconsider applauding the police force. It has taken many changes and lots of effort to attain the level of policing that we enjoy today. However, the society is changing fast and for this reasons, the society keeps demanding more in terms of efficiency and accountability.
The reforms are the main aspects that constitute the police force. They ought to aid in ensuring that the force is able to handle the society's emerging issues. For instance, there has been the professionalization of the police force where much of the effort has been to ensure that the police force is comprised of more professionals in handling matters of crime aversion as well as law enforcement. The first swing of the reforms aimed at wiping the traditional coercive law enforcement criteria. The extent to which this was achieved can be seen in the perceived more human nature in the police force (Rumbaut & Bittner 2004).
There has been the push for community policing aimed at ensuring that the society is equally involved in the matter of crime prevention in their residences. The police force was in this perspective expected to attain higher levels of interaction with the community. This was aimed at fostering opening up of the individuals relating to issues that have previously been unknown to the police about the society. In a nutshell, effective community policing was supposed to allow the society, or the community members be able to trust the police force enough to disclose any information that would be relevant in the reduction of crime levels in their neighborhood.
The relation with the minority groups of the society is another aspect that the police force has had to impact on as its quest to provide better policing to the society. These relationships that mostly characterize the extent to which people are stereotypical have been a big reason to have the police force reformed. In the way that the police handle the blacks, for instance, contributes significantly to accessing so as to be able to discuss the crime issues in the black neighborhood. According to Raumbaut and Bittner (2004), the very fact that the police subject the minority to extreme surveillance is in itself a factor that diminishes this relationship.
The use of technology as it emerges to curb crime is also in the frontline of the police and crime prevention. It has emerged that with the increased use f the social media, people are more willing to engage the police on issues of crime and crime prevention. A study conducted by Accenture citizen in 2012 revealed just the extent of this willingness. Majority of those interviewed were willing to provide information to the police, provided they believed that the information would help in the reduction of crime in their community. This is seen as a better way of achieving most of the reforms like the increased interaction of the police with those they are supposed to protect.
The police force has made remarkable strides toward the achievement of lower levels of crime in the society. These steps have been majorly in the implementation of the various reforms. The reforms that the police force has successfully implemented can only be evaluated with regards to the perceived community satisfaction in the areas. The various reforms could achieve high end results in the effectiveness of the police as crime fighters. Acknowledging that these reforms are tailored specifically to meet the trends in the society's structural set ups. The society continues being dynamic in many ways. The political and economic environments have taken new turns every now and then. This implies that the crime trends also change (Bottoms 2004).
Social change is also a key driver of the reforms in the police force. Empowering the minority groups, for instance, has its implication. When a minority group is empowered, the demand for better security services to the group rises and consequently the need to adjust the perception of the police toward the group. For instance, the continued empowerment of the blacks to incorporate a black middle class group implies that there is a need to understand the black neighborhoods better if one intends provide security services to them efficiently. For this reason, major reforms have been centered on the structural changes that should not go unnoticed.
For instance, a looking at the various reforms in the forces one can check the much they have achieved or failed to achieve. There is the much hyped professionalization of the police force aimed at creating a more intelligent and able force so as to be able to handle security issues with the professionalism that it calls for. This reform was met with controversies on how well the police officers should be trained as well as the required minimum academic qualification. The outcome was that the force would employ more human approach on the issues regarding crime fighting and eliminate the unpopular coercive and violent ways that characterized periods prior to the reforms.
In addition, there was the requirement for the police force to adopt the community policing. This has been a continuous process that seeks to eventually culminate into a society that has more confidence on the police force and can actually trust them not to abuse any of the information they share with them. This reform further aimed at giving the police officers a chance to integrate with the communities within which they served, which was seen to have a potential of reducing the police-civilian conflicts. This move has remarkable potential of revolutionizing the police force and its success can determine the efficiency in crime prevention. The reform was therefore one that did not merely target the effective combat against crime, but rather on how the police can be able to prevent crimes before they happen.
Relating with minorities was a main issue in the period before the 1960s. In trying to cultivate a positive relationship between the minorities and the police force, there was the abolition of the infamous Crow rules in 1960. The police officers felt like they were being exposed to the perceived violence associated with these groups. Furthermore, it was seen as doing the minorities a favor by most of the anti-reformist police officers. The minority groups may not have earned any of the exceptions, but in the real sense may have been seen as compensation for what they had suffered previously (Raumbaut and Bittner 2004). In this regard, the police have tried to foster an equal perception in the approach of individuals thereby minimizing any bias based on the racial inclination of the individual.
How Has the Reforms Failed
In one way or another, the reforms have failed to achieve the desired results. The main issue that the reforms are targeted towards is the upgrade in the level of efficiency in which the police force is able to avert crime. They are aimed at enabling the police force not only handle criminal cases effectively, but to also be able to prevent most of the crimes from taking place. This has not been achieved fully. There are varied explanations for this and the society in particular has had a lot to say about the failure of the various reforms in the police force.
One of the reasons why the reforms such as the professionalization of the force fail to materialize in crime aversion has been attributed to ambiguity in the setting of the objectives. Critics found the reforms as having a rather vague way of expressing the desired results. If for instance the reform aims at having a police force comprising of highly professional officers, it is not clear how professional the officer will be expected to be. In the same way, the officers that hope professional can only know how not to behave but not how to behave. According to Neild (2001), issue of a police officer not taking bribes or not being stereotypical has no positive equivalent.
The reforms are mostly good in the path towards achieving a more efficient fight against crime. However, as has been seen, most reforms also involve third parties who are important in the realization of the reform objectives. For instance, the reform that aims at having the police force interact more with the minorities has been left to the police officers for implementation. This implies that the reform cannot be fully implemented as it will only be aimed at meeting one end of the bargain without considering or hearing out the other party's version. As observed by Raumbaut and Bittner (2004), the involvement of the police with the minorities still needs a lot of effort from the police if it has to work. With police implementing the policies based on how well the interaction should be they have failed to reach out in dialogue to the minorities, which has resulted in the relationship remaining as strained as it initially was.
The other aspect of police reforms that have failed them is the fact that the subjective decisions made by the officer cannot be reviewable. This gives police officers the power to decide which activities in the streets amount to crime as well as the extent to which they will be disruptive to the law (Raumbaut and Bittner 2004). As pointed out by Moore (2000), the police force's main goal is peace keeping. This role may be affected negatively if the police officers given this mandate are not accountable for their decisions.
Furthermore, crime aversion has been seen to be sidelined in importance by peacekeeping in the police force. This means that there are lesser officers responsible for the crime aversion against a majority who are in the peacekeeping field. Raumbaut and Bittner (2004), indicate that this has shown in itself that the police have failed in the prevention of crime and rather are keen on waiting for it to occur. The trend exhibited by crime in the society needs to be monitored closely. The society also needs to be engaged often. Both of these are crucial in enabling the police make a more accurate prediction of when there needs to be increased police officers in a region to curb criminal activities (Neild 2001).
For most of the police officers, when they have been taken through the professionalization of police processes, they are not empowered to reason, but rather to follow orders from their bosses. With this kind of results from well intended reforms, it has proved challenging to achieve high crime reduction due to the police force.
In a country like Mexico, the police force has been attributed to all the facts that would make it hard for the citizens to trust it. The majority of those who have had to deal with the police do not have any confidence in the force anymore. The low level of response to emergency calls has left the people wondering how they can trust the force to combat crime. According to a study by Fondevilla (2008), the response rate in Mexico City for emergency calls is lower than 33%. This means that in other areas it is even lower consequently indicating how low the police efforts are in fight against crime. The Mexican border has remained amongst a leading threat to the US war against crime.
With illegal immigration, there emanates other forms of criminal activities like drug trafficking. It is for this reason that the most of the people are also concerned with the effectiveness of the police in responding to all forms of criminal activities within the country as well as at the orders. The most risky issue about this phenomenon is that some of the police officers engage in vices such as corruption, which jeopardizes the officers' ability to deal with crime. Critics have link this characteristic as hard to eliminate given the solidarity of the police force (Moore 2000). The argument is that once the police force becomes mangled in this type of issues, it is hard to crack them down as they will tend to stick together.
It is evident that the police force is failing in their war against crime. Theories and empirical evidence show that the crime rates in our societies remain high regardless of the various reforms that have been set up in the police force. Even after some very ambitious reforms being introduced in the police force, there still are the scenes that keep undermining the war waged on crime by the police force. As put by Quinney (1979), there is a lot that has to be done.
The other issue that has also made it hard for the police force to fight crime effectively can be attributed to the citizens themselves. It is obvious that the citizens and the police force are somewhat in a tug of war. There has never been achieved a society that has efficient and comfortable communication with their police force. Owing to historic policing systems that saw most police officers become reactive in their interaction with the convicted individuals, the people's reaction towards police officers has been strained. This resulted in conflicts with the police consequently making the police officers to become even more reactive. However, with the continuous reforms in the police force, the techniques used by the police officers have changed from the traditional coercive forms of law enforcement to more proactive techniques.
With all the resources that have injected in to the police force, the society is justified in demanding better results from the force in the war against crime. With all the resources available, it is not acceptable that the war on crime is far from being won. Despite the fact that the US has the reputation of having some of the most efficient institutions in terms of their services delivery, they have not been able to crash the forces of impunity revolving around the war against crime. It is for this reason that the society is still not safe and neither is the police force. In order to reverse the trend of failing police reforms, there is need to have a more pragmatic approach towards solving these failures.
Understanding the trends in the crime in today's society is crucial in formulating techniques of combating it. To understand the trends, there is need not only to use the collected data in the police departments, but rather to engage the members of the community. In fostering a better communication link with the community the information that will be collected can be crucial in understanding the trends better. For this reason the social aspects of the community will then become crucial.
Although much of these will help in giving the relevant information to the police, there is also the issue of widespread terrorism that has been commonplace in the world today. Fighting these types of crimes requires more than just a police force and necessary equipments. Beyond a certain point, the citizens are the biggest hindrance in the achievement of a safe society. It is therefore much more accurate to argue that without the people's help, the argument that the police are crime fighters cannot be sustained.
Bottoms A, 2004. Crime and Crime Prevention in the Twenty-first Century, Visiting Expert Paper
Fondevilla G, 2008, Police Efficiency and Management: Citizen Confidence and Satisfaction, Mexican Law Review.
Moore, S, 2000, Law and social change: the semi-autonomous social field as an appropriate subject of study. Law & Society Review, 7(4), 719-746.
Neild R, 2001, Democratic police reforms in war-torn societies. Conflict, Security & Development, 1(01), 21-43.
Rumabaut, R & Bittner, E (2004). Crime and Justice: Police Accountability; Local community Review, Control of Police Discretionary Policy making powers. Chicago: University of Chicago