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Roles of Police Officers and Strategies Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3251 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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A role is a position and the expectations that position involves. A function is the actions and tasks involved with a role. There are many different types of roles that police officers perform in the community every day. Some of these roles are crime prevention, law enforcement, maintaining order, handling all situations, use of force, balancing individual and collective rights, serving the community and oppressing the working class (Engel, 2011).

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In my opinion, the roles that are most appropriate for the future of policing are crime prevention, law enforcement, maintaining order, and use of force. These are the roles that I want to see police officers act out. I believe these roles are important for police officers to perform because they help the community and the people in it. These roles make communities and neighborhoods better places. Crime prevention is something that always needs to keep being researched and keep being acted out by officers, until one day we find a technique that actually prevents crime effectively. Law enforcement is an important role because without it people would break the rules and laws more regularly because they know they could get away with it. Maintaining order is another important role because even though some of the tasks may seem unimportant without officers’ involvement these issues could really get out of hand. Finally, use of force is an important role because it is also a technique that needs to keep being practiced and researched, until the day when officers don’t abuse their force or hurt others anymore.

Crime Prevention:

I believe crime prevention is an important role of police officers because if we did not have officers out their trying to prevent crime, we would have no one fighting crime. Whether officers are successful at preventing crime is not really the point because we are still researching other techniques in trying to fight crime. Having officers out their fighting crime gives us more time to try to figure out a more effective way to prevent crime. Having officers fighting crime is better than having nothing and while they are not highly effective they are not totally useless either.

Fyfe disagrees with my opinion that police officers role of preventing crime is important or at all helpful. He believes that it is unrealistic to think of police as the first line of defense against crime. He also argues that the presence or absence of crime has nothing to do with police officers. He believes that officers’ ability to prevent crime is very limited and that we need to think up more refined methods. He uses the example of Edgar J. Hoover and August Vollmer and their fight against crime to prove his point. While they believed they were preventing crime, the low crime rates of their time had nothing to do with their methods; it had to do with the era they were in (Fyfe, 1993).

While Fyfe and I agree that we need to think up more ways to prevent crime because police officers are not very effective in preventing crime, we disagree about the fact that this is an important role for police officers and for the future of policing. Police officers play a part in preventing crime and even if we think up better methods, officers may still be involved in the execution of the new methods.

Law Enforcement:

Wilson explains law enforcement as what an officer does when there is no dispute such as giving a speeding ticket. This is an infraction of the law and steps are taken to make the person liable for their mistake, but there is no prior dispute (Wilson, 1968). I believe law enforcement is an important role of police officers because enforcing the law is important. If the law wasn’t enforced people would feel like they could do whatever they want whether it be speeding, stealing, loitering, etc. People need some kind of rules or regulations or things could get majorly out of hand and chaos could take over.

Goldstein agrees with my opinion, he says that you must first look at the role of the police within the criminal justice system in order to analyze the police function. He states that officers rely greatly on the criminal justice system when enforcing the law. They investigate, harass, punish, and provide safekeeping; they handle a greater volume of business than most and must use discretion in deciding how to deal with certain situations. He basically says enforcing the law is a big part of what an officer does and they do it by relying on the criminal justice system to assist them and back them up (Goldstein, 1977).

Maintaining Order:

Maintaining order is an important role because this is a large part of what officers do and if they did not perform this role it could also lead to confusion and chaos. Officers maintain order by handling domestic violence calls, noise violations, loitering and so much more, if they did not do this, these issues would not get handled. This is an important role for officers because a lot of calls involve these problems, they can stop a fight, a party, kids from hanging out where they should not, etc. I believe this is a very important role for an officer.

Wilson agrees with my opinion, he says that a police officer is more defined by maintaining order, but he also disagrees with me by saying this is more important than enforcing the law. I believe these two roles are equally important and should both be performed by officers. He states that order is defined as the absence of disorder and disorder is behavior that disrupts the peace. Disorder includes a difference over right and wrong and who is to blame for the wrong. He argues that officers encounter more order of maintenance issues than law enforcement issues, excluding traffic violations. He believes maintaining order is the most important role of an officer because it exposes officers to more physical danger and if not handled correctly it could lead to dangerous situations. He believes the function of order maintenance defines the officer and his or her role in the community (Wilson, 1968).

Wilson makes some very valid points as to why maintaining order is such an important role of police officers. I agree with most of his arguments about how and why order maintenance is important except for it being more important than law enforcement. I believe this role is necessary in the future of policing and involves the officer with the community and gives him a good rapport with the people in the community by keeping peace and maintaining order within the neighborhood.

Use of Force:

The use of force I think is more of a function than a role, but either way it is a very important part of being an officer. I believe it is more a function because it is not a position of the officer, but a task associated with being a police officer. The use of force is important because it is an important power we as a community trust officers with. When an officer abuses this power, by using more force than necessary or uses deadly force when not absolutely necessary, it makes people doubt officers and ruins the rapport they have in the community and makes us feel unsafe. We see officers as people who protect us and are out there for are well-being, but if we think they are breaking the law or hurting people then we doubt their abilities and purpose.

Bittner explains the use of force by saying that officers are equipped and required to deal with any situation where force may be needed. The use of force is trusted upon officers with the hope that they will use it appropriately and not exceed the amount of force needed for the situation (Bittner, 1974).

Van Maanen explains the use of force as a question of where, when and how much is necessary. Officers use a safety pattern of assessing any person they come into contact with of whether or not they will, if necessary, be able to overpower them. This is an important role or function because they must control this role and only use it when necessary (Van Maanen, 1974).

I also believe that if the use of force was taught more carefully and effectively and if officers were held more responsible for their actions then it would not be such a big issue. I know that officers cannot be completely controlled when out on the street and that mistakes do happen, but part of being an officer is taking on that responsibility and realizing what is necessary for any situation. I think that if this was more focused on in training or classes it would help the situation dramatically.

Hunt is another author who talks about the use of force and backs up what I believe about the function. He explains normal force, which is the product of accounting practices by officers for explaining what happened as excusable or justifiable. He explains that normal force is justifiable or excusable because the force was necessary for the situation at hand. He believes if normal force was taught and used more often than the use of force would not be such a hot topic and excessive force would not be as big of a problem (Hunt, 1985).

These four roles are what I believe are the most appropriate for the future of policing and what I want police to do. I want police officers to focus on these four roles and perfect them and make a difference. I believe if these four roles were the main focus and were taught correctly and thoroughly then policing would be more effective and some of our problems would be solved.


Four strategies that focus on the roles and functions that I think are important and back up a lot of my opinions are community policing, crime control policing, problem oriented policing, and evidence based policing. These strategies would best accomplish the goals of the roles I believe represent the future of policing. Community policing is an important strategy in my opinion because it focuses on law enforcement and crime control. Crime control policing is because it focuses on crime control and crime analysis. Problem oriented is because it focuses on searching for solutions and alternatives. Evidence based policing is important and different because it mainly focuses on scholars and their relationship with officers and the criminal justice system.

Community Policing Strategy:

In my opinion community policing is an effective strategy because it involves law enforcement, maintaining order and crime control, but it also involves the community, which I think is very important. I think that involving the community is important because it builds the bond between police officers and the neighborhood or community they work in. Plus people in the community have a better understanding of what goes on and what can help or not help certain situations. If officers have the community on their side they have a better chance of effectively enforcing the law, maintaining order and controlling or trying to prevent crime.

Kelling and Moore explain community policing and its focus on a renewed relationship between the community and the law. It believes that law continues to be the basis of police function, but wants to involve the community. It believes that community interaction and help is needed for police to effectively maintain order, negotiate conflicts and solve community problems. Order maintenance, conflict resolution, problem solving and provision of services are the police functions included in this strategy. Crime control is also included in this strategy and it attempts to execute this role through rapid response and preventative patrol (Kelling and Moore, 1980).

Crime Control Strategy:

In my opinion crime control is a good strategy because it obviously focuses on crime control, which involves prevention and is one of the roles I believe is important. It also searches for new ways to effectively control crime and rules out old practices that are ineffective. It also uses crime analysis, which is a newer way to look at crime and figure out what is working and what is not and what could possibly work in the future. All of these functions involved in this strategy can be effective in the future of policing and maybe lead to figuring out a way to control and prevent crime and use analysis to do so.

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Eck and Spelman explain crime control policing and how researchers began to observe the ability to control crime as a result of the 1960 riots. They found that random, unmanaged patrol cars do not work and that special units sometimes work, but could not be used regularly and were costly. Police administrators reasoned that maybe it was not that they did not work, but that they needed to be managed better. Researchers also found that officers and detectives had free time that could better be used and differential police response was developed to free up patrol time. Crime analysis was used because information about crime and criminals was needed. This strategy uses crime analysis to analyze the nature of crime and criminals to try and help find way to control crime (Eck and Spelman, 1987).

Problem Oriented Policing Strategy:

Problem oriented policing focuses on problem solving, diagnosis and analysis skills. I like this strategy because it supports community policing, but goes further in trying to find creative solutions to help police officers roles. In my opinion this strategy is important because it focuses on the future of policing and way to improve it which coincides with the roles talked about above.

Eck and Spelman explain problem oriented policing as being more of a state of mind then a program, technique or procedure. The keys to this strategy are analysis of the problem and the search for solutions; these are achieved by using standard operation procedure or an analytic model. They explain that this approach can be applied to a wide variety of problems occurring in neighborhoods, non-residential areas, or cities. Research on this topic shows that officers have the interest and skills that are needed to conduct studies to find problems and solutions. Officers involved in this type of strategy enjoy improving the quality of life of the people they serve (Eck and Spelman, 1987).

Evidence Based Policing Strategy:

This is a good strategy in my opinion because it integrates scholars and police work. It believes that if they work together we will have a better chance of finding more effective skills for police officers to use. This is a good approach because it focuses on the future of policing and how to integrate old practices with new ideas and research. It focuses on which roles of police are effective and which are not and what can be done to make them more effective.

Sparrow presents evidence based policing as an approach that adopts a vision of how the relationship between scholars and police officers should work. It says that officers should care not only about effectiveness, but efficiency and finance also. Police do not study scientific methods and scientists do not know much about operational policing, which is the reason why academia is slow to reach conclusions. This strategy believes that if they work together we have a better chance of getting positive results. It requires officers engaging in this strategy to adopt a new set of skills. A lot of work needs to be done on both sides in order to see results, but if it is done the results can be very useful and effective (Sparrow, 2010).

Tools and Tactics:

I believe the tactics or tools that are most important for all these strategies are community involvement along with crime analysis, which helps find problems and solutions. I believe if the community is involved it helps officers perform their roles and functions easier and more effectively and I believe if we involve crime analysis it will lead to finding the problems that need to be fixed and solutions to fixing those problems.

Community policing involves tactics or tools such as problem solving, foot patrol, information gathering, community organizing and consultation, education, regular patrol, specialized forms of patrol and rapid response. Also, information sharing between officers and detectives to help crime solution and clearance is also included (Kelling and Moore, 1980). Crime control policing involves tactics or tools such as time management, differential police response strategies, crime analysis, patrol, investigations, surveillance, and stakeouts (Eck and Spelman, 1987). Problem oriented policing involves tactics or tools such as problems being defined more specifically, information collected from outside sources not just internal sources, engaging in search for solutions, developing creating solutions, and analysis of the problem (Eck and Spelman, 1987). Evidence based policing involves tactics or tools such as extensive analytical support, relationship between scholars and officers, and tackling problems or risks (Sparrow, 2010). These tools or tactics are used for implementing these strategies more effectively.


The four most important roles of police in my opinion are law enforcement, crime prevention, maintaining order, and the use of force. All of these are shown in some way through the four strategies presented, community policing, crime control policing, problem oriented policing, and evidence based policing. The tools and tactics listed help effectively implement these strategies such as community involvement, crime analysis, patrol, etc. Most of the authors presented support my opinions, but some disagree with which roles I believe are most important. Their research and arguments help to further explain what my opinions are involving police officers’ roles and strategies.

Works Cited Page

Bittner, Egon. 1974.  “Florence Nightingale in pursuit of Willie Sutton:  A theory of the police. Pps. 17-43 in Herbert Jacob (ed.), The Potential for Reform of Criminal Justice.  Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Eck, John E. and Spelman, William.  1987.  Who ya gonna call? The police as problem-busters.  Crime & Delinquency, 33: 31-52.

Engel, Robin. 2011. Module 2 Notes: The Roles and Functions of Police.

Fyfe, James J.  1993.  Good policing.  Chapter 12 (pps. 269-289) in Brian Forst (ed.), The Socioeconomics of Crime and Justice.  Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Goldstein, Herman.  1977.  The police function. Chapter 2 (pps. 21-44) in Policing a Free Society.  Cambridge, MA:  Ballinger Publishing Company.

Hunt, Jennifer.  1985.  Police accounts of normal force.  Urban Life 13(4): 315-341. 

Kelling, George L. and Moore, Mark H.  1988.  The evolving strategy of policing.  Perspective on Policing, volume 4.  Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. 

Sparrow, Malcolm K. 2011. Governing Science. New Perspectives in Policing. Harvard Kennedy School. National Institute of Justice.

Van Maanen, John.  1974.  Working the street:  A developmental view of police behavior.  Pps. 83-130 in Herbert Jacob (ed.), The Potential for Reform of Criminal Justice.  Beverly Hills, CA:  Sage Publications.

Wilson, James Q. 1968.  The patrolman.  Chapter 2 (pps. 16-56) in Varieties of Police Behavior:  The Management of Law & Order in Eight Communities.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.


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