The Role and Duties of Police Officers

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Law enforcement officers wear various hats as first responders such as investigators, counselors, mediators, security, paramedics etc. Furthermore, this paper will focus on the roles of law enforcement officers as investigators and truth seekers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement and other first responders to crime scenes have an important role. These responders have the responsibility of protecting crime scenes, assisting victims and preserving physical evidence so that justice can be served. Minimal contamination of the crime scene is extremely important in responding to crimes. The first responders should establish a crime scene by installing physical barriers, police lines, hazard tapes or cones. They should monitor new personnel entering the scene and require identification to avoid evidence tampering or accidents (

While the first responders are arriving on the scene, they should scan the area for vehicles or individuals leaving the immediate area. Before finding and assisting victims, first responders should quickly scan the area to look and listen for dangers. Hazards may include dangerous individuals, threatening animals, weapons or hazardous materials. Potential evidence should be noted to avoid contamination or disturbance. If a suspect is apprehended by police officials, they should follow department protocol to restrain and remove him from the scene (

After approaching the scene, the first responders should call for other assistance from appropriate personnel. Additionally, they should assess victims and perform life-saving techniques if possible. It is important for first responders to approach victims with caution and understanding that they need to feel safe, they need to express their emotions and they need to know what comes next. First responders must understand that responding to children, the elderly or victims of sexual assault or domestic violence may require special treatment.

Once victims are assisted, the first responders should identify the individuals in the area. They should document and interview victims, suspects and witnesses. They should take statements from each person on the scene, recording important information such as name, gender and contact information (

The scene is overrun by various professionals and media personnel. Everyone wants to do his or her job, and the area is often too small to hold everyone. This is why it is imperative for police to secure a violent crime scene from the public; once it is secure, the proper protocol can be observed without interruption. They will secure it initially with crime scene tape. In the case of a house, the entire property will usually be restricted; with a commercial building, a large perimeter around the room in which the crime occurred will be restricted. With outdoor scenes, officers will usually use trees, signs, posts, vehicles and other naturally-occurring landmarks to designate the restricted area. A crime scene may extend beyond the immediate area surrounding the victim, especially if the perpetrator fled and may have dropped evidence in his wake. For this reason, the police will canvas the area in a specified radius, which is usually done by uniformed officers. While the extended "crime scene" cannot be adequately secured, it will usually be off-limits to passerby. Another requirement to secure a violent crime scene is to record pertinent data that might later help determine the nature of the crime, the time of the incident, or anything else that might lead to clues. Things like the temperature in the room or outdoors, the status of locked doors and windows, the type of weather and any other important conditions. The more people who walk through a violent crime scene, the less secure the area is and the greater the chances for contamination. For example, foot prints have occasionally been used to identify or eliminate a suspect. However, if several people trample through the scene, it will be impossible for investigators to determine which prints came from officers and CSI techs, and which may have been left by the perpetrator (

As medical personnel, tactical medical care can be provided by EMTs, paramedics, registered nurses, mid level providers (such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners), or even physicians who serve on police tactical teams. The tactical medic’s level of training will determine what actions he or she can take in the field. Most law enforcement agencies once relied on regular civilian EMS providers who staged at a safe location removed from the area of operation (

A certified first responder is typically the first to arrive at the scene of an accident. Thus, he or she must be able to assess a patient's condition and be competent in delivering basic first aid. The situations a certified first responder might experience range from childbirth to major accidents where individuals may have lost a large amount of blood. A certified first responder is trained in controlling blood loss and securing broken limbs. Some serious accidents may call for a certified first responder to stabilize an individual who has significant spinal damage. They also have training in patient removal and transportation (

Many years ago, law enforcement and the media were partners. Many reporters came from similar backgrounds as their friends in blue and thus shared a common viewpoint. Police officers and reporters, as well as police chiefs and editors would socialize. Reporters particularly saw the police as the fabled "thin blue wall" that kept the less desirable segments in line. American society started to crumble in the 1960s as the social unrest of the era changed the earlier perspective of policing. Americans got to see televised problems in society and the police response to them in the once protected confines of their living rooms. Events that disturbed the serenity of Americans included Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor unleashing his police dogs on civil rights protesters and anti-war and political protesters meeting the guardians of the status quo.

As a result, the 1960s saw the media distancing themselves from their former drinking buddies and the beginning of a growing distrust. Over the next couple of decades, the institutional memories of the various riots and shootings (from Zoot Suit riot to Rodney King to Amadou Diallo) started to be retained within the media. The mundane view of policing gave way to the dramatic forces that were tugging at the nation's seams.

While these issues were taking place within the prism of police responsibility, they really had their cause within a larger context. As many veteran criminal justice professionals know, the police are called in to address people who have in some fashion failed to observe the social boundaries that bind the societal fabric. The general population did not understand the issues and increasingly demanded quicker answers and a tangible target upon which to lay blame: the police. In addition, an increasingly fragmented and competitive media operating in a multi-channeled and fast-paced world, you have essentially sound-bite solutions to very complex problems. Many veterans have the opinion that a ten minute intervention at a domestic is unlikely to solve ten years of build up. The same can be said for the larger problems that the police are called upon to deal with daily. Contributing to this bleak picture is the reticence of media executives to devote scant resources to cover stories both within and outside the police. A local television station or small newspaper rarely can assign personnel to a long, in-depth examination of a topic (

In the early 20th century, interrogation methods were not solely mind games. Although physical abuse and similar techniques weren't exactly legal in most states, they were permitted. Suspects were often placed under bright lights, deprived of food and water, and kept in long periods of isolation. When these tactics failed to get a confession, some interrogators would resort to beating suspects, usually using their fists, rubber hoses, or other things that would not leave permanent marks. As long as the suspect signed a statement promising his confession was voluntary, his confession was usually permitted into court without further inquiry.

In 1937, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that using violence to extract a confession was unacceptable and that confessions obtained by beatings or similar methods would not be considered valid in court. In Brown v. Mississippi, Brown and his co-defendants had been whipped by police. One had also been strung up by his neck from a tree, and the three defendants described the interrogation methods used against them as "torture." Despite this, the trial court found them guilty of murder. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed their conditions by a unanimous vote. Chief Justice Hughes, writing for the court, held that making people confess by violence violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After Brown, trial courts throughout the country began to hold that depriving suspects of food, water, and sleep were also unconstitutional methods of interrogation.

Since coercion and violence are no longer acceptable police interrogation methods, detectives have had to develop new ways of drawing confessions out of suspects. Today, psychological techniques are common. For instance, interrogators often use the technique of "maximization," in which they attempt to scare suspects by telling them about all the terrible penalties they'll face if they don't confess. Police also use the "good cop/bad cop" method, which pulls a suspect off balance by requiring them to contend with two opposite ways of communicating - friendly and hostile - at the same time (