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The Iron Fist In The Velvet Glove Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2871 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The author of this article, “The Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove” argues that “crime is caused not only by economic policies which result in direct suffering for millions of people, but also by the individualistic, competitive and cynical values which are endemic to capitalist social relations and ideology.” In other words crime is caused due to more than just the deprivations of a lower socioeconomic individual attempting to survive but the environment that has transpired from capitalist society. I personally support these principles and I believe crime in the United States is a direct result of conflict within societies that is brought about through the inevitable processes of capitalism in two specific ways. The first is of the government laws and there clarification of what constitutes a “crime,” has been defined in American history by and for the community of citizens who benefit the most from the capitalist society. The second is that even within the inherently biased justice system of laws; the police have been selective in the way in which they enforce such “crimes.”

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In fact from the beginning of the “police” occupation, there was one sole contributing factor to their creation; the lower class in a developing society in London was in need of control. This purpose sparked the initial inequality that would be demonstrated in all countries. This exemplifies that police were not formed to serve society or the people as a whole, but rather to serve people of interest in our society while allowing others to suffer for it. Karl Marx’s conflict theory contends that the fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within society. The criminal justice system and criminal law that lay the framework of our society is thought to be operating on behalf of the rich and powerful social elites, with resulting policies aimed at controlling the poor. The criminal justice establishment aims at imposing standards of morality and “appropriate” behavior by the powerful whole of society. But the capitalist system forces there to be a visible separation between classes; between the rich and the poor where there is a particular view demonstrating the poor as likely to steal from others in order to protect themselves which frequently places them in a negative light.

In the process the legal rights of the poor have a high possibility of being ignored. Thus, street crimes, even minor monetary ones are routinely punished quite severely, while large scale financial and business crimes are treated much more leniently. Consequently theft of a laptop might receive a longer sentence than stealing millions through illegal business practices which can be supported by 1965 monetary crime statistics. For instance, as stated in the article offenses of wealthy business men such as embezzlement, tax fraud, fraud and forgery resulted in a loss 1.73 billion dollars just in that year. While in the same year crimes associated with less fortunate members of society such as robbery, burglary, auto theft and larceny resulted in a loss of 690 million; this is practically half the amount yet the unfortunate were punished much more severe. It is this lack of punishment to affluent citizens that truly displaying society’s ultimate biases. But even with this injustice the government of a capitalist culture affects more than the poor working class some groups in society such as women that are poor socially isolated sole parents and ethnic minorities are also seen to be the most likely to suffer oppressive social relations based upon class, sexism and racism.

These biases are portrayed through the author’s words when he states “alongside this systemic leniency toward white-collar or corporate offenders (as seen in the statistics), there is considerable evidence showing that underneath the formal structure of the criminal law there is an unofficial but systematic pattern of selective use of the police to coerce and intimidate oppressed people (minorities, women and lower-class).” We have continually discussed the constant use of discretion and these oppressed members of society are persistently at an instant disadvantage; which is not just opinion but fact from studies showing just how prone these certain people are to being targeted by the police. Further allowing oppression to act as another contributing factor towards why capitalism is a causation of crime in America. There are a myriad of reasons why there is so much street crime in America, but almost all are rooted in the material deprivations, depression and personal alienation that the capitalism ideals create.

In the end I believe there is direct relation between the uprisings of capitalism and the detrimental effects it has on human life in the fields of self gratification and life fulfillment. Capitalism causes society to be broken down into a simple yet destructive hierarchy between the upper and working class that is so severe that it causes deep frustration and ultimately makes crime the only outlet. To stop crime putting more officers walking your sidewalks or patrolling your streets is not beneficial. We need to dig deeper to the roots of the problem; like favoritism, selective enforcement of laws and oppression of minorities. We must first reach people’s basic needs by focusing money and energy on the issue of poverty and in time maybe even lots of time crime can be eradicated. In America especially we are continually looking for a quick fix or solution to our problems, but if we take a step back and put the effort to something that will truly be effective it will lead to a future of societal protection which in the end is what we want our government and police department to provide us.

Essay II: Broken Windows and Community Policing

The criminal justice system is constantly being reformed with laws and procedures along with police who always using new technology, new recruits, or new training procedures there is always something changing; but there are some parts of the police that have been around for a number years including two specific policing theories. Broken Windows and Community Policing are two theories that are constantly conflated but as “Policing and the Contemporary City” author Steve Herbert argue they are two distinctly different philosophies. In fact Herbert argues a strong explanation for why this conflation occurs, focusing on three critical areas: police culture and organization, public attitudes about crime and criminal justice, and the activities of political elites; in each of these three domains, broken windows policing meshes more comfortably with established patterns of thought.(CITE) As a result, broken windows policing succeeds community policing as the dominant reform movement, with considerable consequences for the operations and oversight of contemporary police departments..

Community policing or neighborhood policing was first implemented in the 1970’s and was especially popular in the 1980’s. This policing strategy and philosophy was based on the notion that community interaction with police will provide an open channel of communication that will lead to control crime and reduce fear, with community members helping to identify suspects, detain vandals and bring problems to the attention of police. This is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, which proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.

One basic premise is that, while it is great to have a good record as an agency of responding to and solving crimes, it is an even better allocation of resources to work to prevent a crime from occurring in the first place. Being pro-active can mean many different things depending upon the setting. Additional education programs for youths, establishing relationships between an agency’s officers and neighborhood residents, and having officers notice environmental and nuisance issues such as weeds and abandoned vehicles in areas can all play a hand in preventing an area from deteriorating into a haven for criminal activity in the future.

The techniques that are most often emphasized in the media as examples of successful community policing efforts typically involve large, central cities, places where neighborhoods can be fairly well-defined and where certain neighborhoods seem to be particularly troubled with crimes and violent activity. Elected and appointed officials in smaller communities, though, should be aware that the philosophy of, and concepts associated with, community policing are also applicable for small towns and villages. In some instances, larger communities are taking their cues from smaller towns. In smaller towns where the city staff is small and there are no full-time building and health inspectors, the police are the only employees on the job in city vehicles after normal working hours. In fact a very beneficial aspect of smaller town is the response call activity would not prevent officers, during the day, from doing some community-oriented activities. The combination of these factors makes small towns the ideal location for implementing community-oriented policing.

The broken windows theory, which was initially formulated in 1982 by Wilson and Kelling, has provided a much more intense way for police to work. The thesis is based on the notion that vandalism, noisy neighbors, public drinking, and other types of disorder are signals that no one cares about the neighborhood. When decay begins and is allowed to continue, it encourages others not to care. This cyclical process permits deterioration results in a breakdown of informal social controls, and, ultimately, leads to a rise in crime but if theory is implemented efficiently there are two specific results; that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred, and that major crime will, as a result, be prevented.

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Even though the broken windows theory differs from the community policing perspective, I believe for a small city it would be extremely advantageous as well. Police in this theory are much more dominant, stronger and influential with the ability to use coercive to quickly set up crime prevention. They create a sense of community and togetherness but are also able to “reinforce the lines between police and citizenry, and between the orderly and disorderly.” In other words they are able to weed out those who are involved in crime and those who are not and after police first step in and clean up lower level crime citizens can become involved and clean up their neighborhoods. This policy is much more aggressive and coercive but criminal activity isn’t something to be taken lightly and in the end the broken windows theory of policing should be very beneficial.

In response to whether or not these theories are versions of the same thing, I would have to say they both desire a similar outcome, but go about it in very different ways. Community policing puts a major focus on bringing together the criminals and victims of the community in attempt to re-establish their environment where a victim is reminded of how their criminal actions have damaged their community in hope to prevent future change. The broken windows outlook has a more extreme and “kick butt” attitude. They blame the residents for the crime in there society and goes as far as saying there negligence allowed it to occur. The only re-establishing to their environment does not include any citizen intervention but police force and dominance and an answer to their crime issues.

Essay III

Laissez-faire and street justice are two completely different views on how society should be protected; from its policies to dealings with the public. In the article by Gary Sykes Street Justice: A Moral Defense of Order Maintenance Policing and in the article Street Justice: Some Micro-Moral Reservations Comment on Sykes Carl Klockars both authors make strong arguments in support of their policing preference. But I believe neither is a beneficial technique for the communities and in fact could possibly destroy the justice system.

Laissez-fair policing is a much more “hands-off” approach with a great deal of focus on dealing with society in a similar to how the government shall deal with private enterprise; lack of intervention unless necessary. In a laissez-faire republic, the government would only focus on criminals and criminal activity, but leave law abiding citizens alone as much as possible.  A consequence of such a policy is the high levels of individual freedom which leads to a lack of benefits community and police interaction can obtain. This would be a drastic change to policing today because this theory contends that police will have as minimal role as possible in the average citizens’ everyday life while the very essence of a community should involve all parts of the city working together which goes against most theories of how to lower crime; like broken windows and community. These theories of policing both state that the key element of re-establishing and fixing up a community are through some type of police and citizen interactions. If a society is to implement a laissez-fair policy certain victims will not be protected such as domestic violence or child abuse victims. They would go without help in their abuse because police under this theory will not interfere in people’s personal problems. The police would strictly only deal with the criminals and have as little contact with the average citizen as they can. A laissez-faire officer “can be viewed as allowing normlessness to prevail, fostering a sense of injustice by the complainant and leaving victims without protection against those who intimidate and violate the rights of others.” [1] It is a policy that doesn’t allow protection to those who really need it. Victims continue to suffer alone without any outside support.

Street justice has an entirely different method of policing creating a much different victim. Police in this perspective take on many roles such as the officer, judge, and jury to every so called “criminal” they come across. Street justice is the incapacitation, punishment, and treatment of offenders by police without judicial review or due process. In simpler terms street justice allows police officers to do whatever necessary to put someone behind bars, forget personal rights. This is understood by the police to be an appropriate and necessary measure to deal with people on situations where the law and courts would likely refuse to punish with the severity that police themselves believe the offense warrants. In a perfect world where all police officers are saints with no biases or self motivated intents maybe it would be beneficial but this is far from reality. The police are supposed to restore order, not create more situations involving violence and unfair treatment. As a criminology major who wants to pursue a career in law specifically on the prosecution side it hard to say this perspective is all wrong. All law abiding citizens want criminals to be put away but if we let officers become vigilantes they may break more laws then the perpetrator. The justice system needs to be fair and if we provide double standards for police, corruption and false convictions may be the outcome.

Although authors Klockars and Sykes defend their positions with great emphasis on the benefits but I can’t help believe both of these policing methods are negative approaches that will lead to bad aftermath for the communities and society as a whole. Police officers should not follow either of these attitudes. Officers should not neglect the law-abiding citizen’s needs and only give attention to those who are involved in criminal activity. At the same time although police are labeled as societies authority figure too much power and control can lead to an abuse of power. Innocent people will have to fear for their safety not only against criminals but also the police. If the police have no higher standard to report to and fear repercussions it can lead to a societal downfall. In the end neither of these policing theories should be implemented in any society because if they did only horrible effects would arise; victims would be ignored, police would be tyrants, and citizens could be wrongfully brutalized. Police may have a number of duties like apprehending criminals, preventing crime, and the maintenance of public order but even with all these duties the ultimate goal is to keep your fellows citizens safe and with these two police attitudes it will only lead to public destruction.


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