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The Role Of The Police Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 5442 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Roles are determined by social relations, which are governed by certain norms, and besides being comprised of habits, roles are not only constituted of obligations and responsibilities but also of rights and privileges. Since a level of importance is accorded to certain roles, those who occupy them have to be aware of and be committed to what the roles demand of them (Kleinig, 1996). Therefore, where police is concerned, their roles to enforce the law and maintain public order, and they should be committed to them.

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The police are the major law enforcement agency and besides undertaking crime control, they provide 24-hour emergency service and also give an all-purpose social service (Morgan & Newburn, 1998). Since the duties of the police officers are diverse, as they even encompass social service, even if they are tentative due to lack of training in that particular department, four models have been proposed by Kleinig (1996) so as to provide an understanding of the roles and role conflicts of the police officers. They are the Crime-fighter, the Emergency Operator, the Social Enforcer and the Social Peace-keeper.

2.1.1 The Crime-fighter

This model, supported by the social contract theory, has serious drawbacks as it overshadows the main role of the police and it renders police ethics meaningless. Police officers crime-fighter mode has a dualistic opinion on society. This dichotomy leads to the categorisation of people into two groups by the police officer. It prevents the officer from having an impartial judgement and from making the distinction between crimes, for example, shop-lifting and rape; and cultivates the tendency to be alienated from the population, with attitudes like “us and them” (Kleinig, 1996).

This model is popular amongst police officers because they have come to believe that their survival in the law enforcement depends on their capacity to control crime (Morgan & Newburn, 1998). However, police officers ought to realise that by emphasising too much on the enforcement of law, that is, fighting crime, they are forgetting one fundamental aspect of policing, which is to be of service to the public (Morgan & Newburn, 1998).

2.1.2 The Emergency Operator

A 24-hour service is provided by the police, because according to the emergency operator model, the police have to respond without any delay to the calls of help of the general population. As emergency operators, these officers have to respond to various cases, ranging from unexpected childbirths, family fights, road accidents, drunken fights in the middle of the night, to the occasional incidents of crimes (Morgan & Newburn, 1998).

2.1.3 The Social Enforcer

According to Bittner (1967): “The role of the police is to address all sorts of human problems when and insofar as the problem’s solution may require the use of force at the point of occurrence”.

One of the core aspects of policing is the use of coercion to enforce the law and to maintain public order, and as stated by Bittner, it is the unifying feature of police work and the source of authority (Kleinig, 1996). To ensure crowd control and for peacekeeping purposes, coercive powers are required, as well as to bring to an end family disputes and other confrontations. However, the role of the police does not revolve solely around the powers of coercion but service to the citizens is equally important if not more. Moreover, the majority of the public find the police intimidating and not all situations demand the use of force. Therefore, a model which reconciles the role of enforcing the law of police officers with the expectations of the public is required.

2.1.4 The Social Peacekeeper

As said by Kleinig (1996) the social peacekeeper model accommodates more aptly the various tasks of the police officer. This model emphasises the role of the crime-fighter and the emergency operator. Although the model gives police officers the authority to use coercive force, more emphasis is laid upon the subservient character of policing. Studies have shown that peacekeeping is the primary function of the police (Morgan & Newburn, 1998). Yet, it is important to note that fighting crime and ensuring peace and order in a society is not the duty of the police but of the citizens as well because as they are part of the society, they also have the duty towards it, and they also should be committed to it.

2.2 Ethics in Policing

Police functions have existed as long as human societies have existed (Kleinig, 1996) as the main tenet underlying police conduct and police ethics are, firstly the respect for human dignity and human rights and secondly, respect for the legal rule and the principle of legality. It is crucial that enforcing law and maintaining public order must be congruent with respect for the human person (Domingue, 2003).

According to Sunahara (2002), discussions on ethics entails discussions on relationships, therefore, any discussions on relationships is also synonymous of discussions about the relationship between the police and the public. Even during arrest, detention and interrogation of suspects, maintenance of ethical standards is an important procedure. That is why the respect for human rights is the core principle of ethical policing, and policing in a democracy must be grounded on the consent of the population (Domingue, 2003).

Since law enforcement is a profession, ethics and ethical conduct play an important role. Ethics and ethical standards involve doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason (Grant, 2002). To gain the respect of the public, police officers must behave correctly all the time both on duty and off duty.

According to the police code of ethics, an officer’s fundamental duties are to serve the community, to protect people and property alike, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice. The code of ethics also states that officers must keep their private lives untarnished and recognise the badge and the uniform as a symbol of public faith and trust (Grant, 2002). Unless they are put into practice, these codes of ethics are mere words. The codes of ethics should have the same value for the police officers as the sacred texts for the religious individuals. What is essential is that police officers should act impartially, maintain confidentiality, make use of discretion, use force only when necessary and most importantly police officers should possess integrity. Ideally, by adhering to the codes of conduct, the officers will perform their duties correctly, according to procedures, and ultimately, no one, neither the media nor the public will tarnish the image of the police; but in reality this is not what happens.

Given the nature of the police work, the public has a keen interest in it because policing is like a moral crucible in which the risks taken by the police and the prospects for moral actions are magnified (Cohen & Feldberg, 1991). This scrutiny on the behalf of the general public is probably due to the fact that the police officers are the guardians of law and order in a democratic society. Every misconduct or mistake is exacerbated by the general public because the latter holds the belief that police officers should be the pillars of morality. Moreover, it is generally expected that officers, with no time for pondering, should act quickly and confidently in situations where the outcome is not readily anticipated (Cohen & Feldberg, 1991).

Nonetheless, one should not expect police ethics to characterise a distinctive type of ethics, but rather to be the expression of a more general ethics within the police context. The ethical demands on police under which all are placed, by virtue of common humanity, they are demands coloured by the specific roles that the police have and shaped by the circumstances under which they must decide (Kleinig, 1996).

2.3 Ethical Issues faced by the Police Force

For an objective study on police deviance, it is necessary to define the term deviance. In simple terms, deviance is defined as behaviour which is totally different from or unacceptable by the norms and standards of society. However, given the complexity and the range of norms and values affecting the police, the study of deviance within the police demands an understanding of the difference in norms expressed at the legal, organisational, and internal levels (Kappeler, Sluder & Alport, 1998). The discovery of police deviance is almost difficult to detect, but there exist some generally acceptable standards which evaluate the acceptability of behaviour. There are two groups of ethical standards which govern the police conduct, the first group being the external standards which include: constitutional, criminal and civil laws. The external standards apply to both the police and the general public. The second set of standards is internal standards, which are the departmental policies, procedures, and regulations, and apply solely to the police (Kappeler et al., 1998).

However, despite the existence of rules and laws governing police deviance, deviant police officers are a reality which cannot be ignored. When there are these types of occurrences, the responses are rather negative, depending on who discovered the deviant(s). On a first level, depending on the gravity of the act, the officer will have to be sanctioned; secondly, if the deviant behaviour has been discovered by a member of the press, then most probably the matter would be blown out of proportion so as to render the information sensational, and thirdly, there would be a decrease in trust for the police by the general public (Kappeler et al., 1998).

Before embarking on the different types of deviance, it is important to understand the classification of the forms of misconduct. According to O’Connor (2006), they are classified as:

Malfeasance – intentional commission of a forbidden act or intentional unjust performance of some act which the party had no right (e.g., gratuity, perjury)

Misfeasance – performance of a duty or act that one is obligated or permitted to do in a manner which is improper or negligent (e.g., report writing, aggressively “reprimanding” a citizen, improper searching of arrestees)

Nonfeasance – failure to perform an act which one is obligated to do either by law or directive due to omission or failure to recognise the obligation (e.g., failure to file a report, improper stop and search, security breach)

2.3.1 Types of Police Deviance Affective and Discriminatory Acts

Affective acts involve the expressions of emotions, but not all affective acts lead to police misconduct, as behaviour driven by emotions can lead to positive results (Sunahara, 2002). However, affective acts become deviant when it leads to overly aggressive behaviour, which makes the officer to physically or verbally assault a suspect, and such behaviours are against the police code of conduct, and frowned upon by the general population.

Discriminatory acts are actions resulting from the negative assessment of a person’s group characteristics (Sunahara, 2002). These acts can be translated into racism, xenophobia, homophobia, or they can be directed towards the marginalised individuals (for e.g., those people who are from deprived areas or homeless persons) and people belonging to minority groups. Police Shakedown

Police Shakedown occurs when a police officer extorts a business owner for protection money and it arises mainly with bars, prostitution rings, drug dealing and illegal gambling (Domingue, 2005). Extortion is characterised by any form of taking or obtaining property from another person by means of illegal compulsion or oppressive exaction. In common law it is defined as a crime committed by an officer of law, who, under cover of office, unlawfully takes any money or other valuable. Police Perjury

Perjury is generally defined as the false statement made under oath with respect to a solid matter, either in legal proceeding, as by witness at a trial, or in matters in which an oath is authorised or required by law. In this case, it would be the officer giving a false testimony. Police perjury is amounted to an act of corruption as the officer would be lying commission or by omission so as to ensure that the perpetrator is punished. It has been observed that most acts of perjury are committed by “good cops” who believe that the criminal would be acquitted if not for their lie (O’Connor, 2006). Police Brutality and Abuse of Authority

According to O’Connor (2006), police brutality is defined as force, name-calling, sarcasm, ridicule, and disrespect, which is a milder definition of police brutality unlike Kania and Mackey’s (1977) much harsher definition, who view police brutality as excessive violence which does not help the legitimate police purpose. Besides, brutality in the police also involves abusive language, threats of implied violence, and actual use of physical force (Domingue, 2003).

Police Brutality occurs in concurrence with police perjury as officers who commit police brutality will most likely lie on the stand to prevent the possibility of a lawsuit or departmental charges.

In the Mauritian context, police brutality as perceived by the public is a real scourge. According to the Mauritian press, some police officers view their uniform as a sign of superiority, which also give them a sense of immunity to punishments and reprimands (L’Express, 2007). As stated by the same article, the Police Complaints Investigation Bureau received some 400 complaints of physical and verbal abuse in 2003.

However, in Mauritius Times (2005) the reasons given for such acts committed by the law enforcement officials were the long hours put by the police, which in the case of some, lead them to lose their calm, the latter also deal with habitual criminals and people who would not think twice before attacking the police or change their statements. Police Corruption

According to the Select Committee on Fraud and Corruption in December 2001:

“It is impossible to measure the actual extent of corruption in Mauritius. Corruption leaves no visible trace, no blood stain and no finger prints. It is a consensual crime shrouded in secrecy. The participants are willing, consenting and happy. Not a crime of passion, corruption thrives on secrecy and silence. It is only when a person feels cheated or is actuated by a rare sense of duty and loyalty that he will report an instance of corruption. Rarely does a participant have an interest in revealing the deal. Few crimes are as hard as to prove. Perceived to be a victimless crime, it has a devastating effect on our livelihood”

This small excerpt was on the general occurrences of corruption. Police corruption is form o police deviance, and is an extension of the definition of corruption as given by the Select Committee (2001). However, to put in simpler words corruption is defined as the abuse of police authority for personal or organisational gain. This comes in many shapes and sizes, from the major drug trafficking and money laundering to looking the other way on minor everyday violations of the law (Grant, 2002).

Corruption can be broken down into two sections, internal and external corruption. Internal corruption is the illegal acts and agreements within a police department by more than one of the officers. External corruption is the illegal acts and agreements with the public by one or more officers in a department. For a corrupt act to occur, three distinct elements of police corruption must be present simultaneously: firstly, misuse of authority, secondly, misuse of official capacity, and lastly misuse of personal attainment (Holloway, 2002).

2.4 Moral Dimensions of Policing

During the pre-World War era, the idea of police ethics seemed to be contradictory, as it was portrayed progressive but few police officers advocated its practice and fewer civilians demanded it (Cohen & Feldberg, 1991). However, this is not the case nowadays because; the public are now more keenly interested in the nature and proceedings of policing. This is so because the nature of the occupation in this particular domain is like a moral crucible, in which the risks taken by the police officers and the opportunities for moral actions are magnified. This scrutiny by the public is probably due to the fact that these officers act as the guardians of law and order in a democratic society.

The general population also has the mistaken belief that, given the nature of the work, police officers need to be pillars of morality. In this context, it is expected of the officers to act, with no time for pondering, quickly and authoritatively in situations where the outcomes are not readily anticipated. On top of that, these officers are accountable for every event and/or every choice made. In this line of work, every action and non-action carries a moral weight for the officer.

One of the key aspects of policing is discretion, which serves to help the officers in maintaining their duties as society’s peace keepers and law enforcers. Nevertheless, this powerful tool that discretion represents is restrained by the laws and rules (for example, the code of conduct for police officers), which govern the actions of the police. Police officers, as figures wielding authority, are not complete free agents. For example, for the arrest of a suspect, they have to follow a certain procedure. This is illustrated by making sure that an arrest is lawful. Therefore, it is imperative that the reasons for the arrest, the power and the identity of the arresting officers are known (Domingue, 2005).

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However, despite the efforts employed to regulate police work, there is a degree of opportunity for options and choices in the performance of the job. According to Jerome Skolnick (1966), the work of the police is such that even the most routine work contains an element of discretion. The officer has the “freedom” to be a witness of the violations of law and order, which will lead to a subsequent arrest or he/she can turn a blind eye on such illegal occurrences. The officer has also the choice to end a dispute (for example, domestic dispute or dispute among neighbours) quickly or can hand over the case to a court clerk or lawyer and make the matter drag in court for a long period of time (Cohen & Feldberg, 1991). The gist of the matter in this case is that the officer has the opportunity to make use of discretion, that is, make decisions on his or her own, almost on a daily basis and the occurrences are more frequent when the officer is on field.

Another important matter to be taken in to consideration here is that a crucial part of policing involves the use of authority and coercion. According to Kleinig (1996), the concept of authority understands a complex unity. The term authority can be subdivided into three forms of authority:

Positional or “de jure” authority (i.e., where the individual is in authority),

Actual or “de facto” authority (i.e., where the individual has authority), and

Expert authority (i.e., when the individual is an authority).

It is usually claimed that these three forms of authority are conceptually independent; because someone who has authority does not necessarily mean that he or she is in an authority or is an authority. The same argument goes for the other two forms of authority.

Authority is not a property which people possess but is essentially a normative social relation, i.e., a status which is granted. An individual who is in authority or has authority or is an authority, is one which is recognized by others as being in position to do or require or know about the object of authority. An important matter to be taken into consideration is that authority is often associated with power. But in many circumstances, where the police officers are concerned, this power is regulated by laws and rules. The underlying notion of authority is the presumption that the officer (or any individual) is “in the know” (Kleinig, 1996). This does not mean that the person is an expert about the object of authority.

Police authority is a form of governmental authority and if the government loses credibility in the eye of the public, this will be reflected in the authority perceived to possess by the police. As authority figures, police officers are met with hostility on behalf of the public, because as law enforcers and maintainers of public order, they have as one of their duties to execute unpopular policies. In such cases, they are seen as oppressive rather than authoritative. Another factor which makes the public more hostile towards the law enforcement officials is the use of coercion. But coercive force is required in policing and it becomes a moral problem because coercion is both permitted and limited (Cohen & Feldberg, 1991). It is important to take into account that: “Police tend to have no greater moral insight or powers of analysis than the rest of us, but they have jobs that throw them into more perilous situations” (italics added, Cohen & Feldberg, 1991, pg. 6).

2.5 Stress in Policing

2.5.1 Definition of Stress

Stress is the condition that results when person-environment transactions lead the individual to perceive a discrepancy, whether real or not, between the demands of a situation and the resources of the person’s biological, psychological or social systems. In medical terms, stress is the disruption of homeostasis through physical or psychological stimuli. Stressful stimuli can be mental, physiological, anatomical or physical reactions. The term ‘stress’ in this context was coined by Austro-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who defined the General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS paradigm in 1936.

Stress is a complex term to define. Its simplest definition might be that it is an event or situation that forces a person to adapt to the event. Stress is the event itself and the reaction to that event within the person experiencing it. Thus stress is completely subjective. What may be stressful to one person might be pleasant or fun to another. Flying, for example, can cause some people to develop anxieties and panic attacks while others love to fly and look forward to the flight. What is more, everyone’s body responds in the same way to a stressful event, or any event for that matter, but the people that suffer from stress related illness and problems find it hard to turn their body’s response off.

Psychological stress is more to do with the turning off of the body’s stress responses to a situation. The body’s stress response is to increase the flow of hormones adrenaline and cortisol in the bloodstream. This has the affect of raising the heart rate, redirecting blood from the extremities and stomach to the vital organs, changing the consistency of the blood for potential injury and making our senses more aware.

Psychological stress may have evolved from a real event that caused an emotional disturbance in the past. This event may have been the messy splitting up from a relationship that leads to emotional pain. As the event recedes into the past other sentiments within the persons psyche tend to cause anxiety and stress. So the person might feel unattractive to the opposite sex or lose confidence in socialising with people. These issues will cause stress for the person and can lead to other behaviours that induce stress. They may find it hard to stay focussed or feel that their personality is disintegrating or get anxiety attacks.

2.5.2. Work-related Stress

Work-related stress is the process that where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. It is a significant cause of illness and disease and is known to be linked with high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other indicators of organisational underperformance – including human error.

Occupational stress is defined as the mind-body arousal resulting from the physical and/or psychological job demands. The appraisal of a stressor as threatening leads to anxiety and anger and the associated activation of the autonomic nervous system. If severe and persistent, the resulting physical and psychological strain may produce adverse behavioural consequences (Spielberger et al., 2003).

A healthy job is likely to be one where the pressures on employees are appropriate in relation to their abilities and resources, to the amount of control they have over their work, and to the support they receive from people who matter to them. As health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity but a positive state of complete physical, mental and social well-being (WHO, 1986), a healthy working environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions but an abundance health-promoting ones. A healthy work environment is one in which staff have made health and health promotion a priority and part of their working lives.

2.5.3. Work-related Stress amongst Police Officers

Police stress can be found wherever there is functioning police officers. Unlike any other work-related stress, research has proved that causes and effects of stress amongst police officers are more pronounced and unique among law enforcement officers (Finn & Tomz, 1996). Law enforcement is considered to be one of the most stressful occupations which results in domestic violence, alcoholism, suicide, and other emotional and health problems (Anderson & King, 1991).

Exposure to police stressors can lead to serious physical and psychological health problems, and these problems can result in reduced work productivity, increased absenteeism, higher turnover and so on (Parsons, 2004). In a study carried out by Mandy Larcombe in 2007) it was found that stress among police officers was such an issue in years 2004 and 2005 that about 250,000 days were lost across the United Kingdom police forces due to stress related illnesses, which had amounted to a loss of £40M a year, and 20 percent of those police officers had exhibited symptoms of depression. Sources of Stress for Police Officers

Different officers are likely to perceive different events as stressful, depending on their individual background, personalities, expectations, law enforcement experience, years on the job, type of police work they perform, and access to coping resources (Kirschman et al., 1992). Nevertheless, the sources of stress which seem to be common among police officers fall into three main categories:

Organisational Stressors;

Operational Stressors, and

Stress related to the individual officer’s personal life and approach to stressful events. Organisational Stressors

Although many people perceive the danger and tension of law enforcement work (glamorised in books, movies, and television shows) to be the most serious stress for officers, research has shown that much of the stress felt by police officers emanate from the organisation itself.

Kahn and Byosiere (1992) categorized stressors in organisational life into two groups termed task content and role properties. Task content stressors are the physical aspects of organizational life that characterise the task at hand including its complexity, simplicity, or monotony and the physical conditions under which it must be carried out, such as extreme temperatures, equipment inadequacies or excessive noise. Role properties on the other hand, are the psychosocial aspects of organisational life, which characterise the social nature of the job including role ambiguity, role conflict, role overload and interpersonal relations between superior officers and subordinate personnel. Task Content

It is generally assumed that police officers often work in dire physical conditions, for example, patrolling in adverse weather conditions which may lead to stress. However, the feeling of stress may be compounded by substandard equipment and facilities. In addition to the physical conditions, police work cannot be said to be simple. Policing a democratic society is exceedingly complex (Goldstein, 1977) and the opportunity for contradiction is always present (Kinnane, 1979). Police-citizen encounters occur within a defined set of laws, rules and regulations which is ever increasing and indistinct, where decisions are not differentiated into right and wrong, yes or no. The decision environment is often vague and less than ideal, which may not produce the ideal result.

More than often, police work is monotonous and tedious, especially during nightshift. Boredom is punctuated by brief periods of excitement that raise and lower physiological responses to the stimuli creating fatigue (Coman and Evans, 1991; Dwyer, 1991), which may weaken judgment, slow reaction time and increase the risk that a police officer will respond in an inappropriate manner (Lauber and Kayten, 1988). Role Properties

Role properties are also referred to as the psychosocial aspects of the work environment, which involve relations with co-workers and supervisors. Role Conflict

Role conflict is defined as the perpetual differences regarding the content of the role or the relative importance of its elements (Muchinsky,1996). These differences may occur among the police officers who may not have the same role expectations. One example which may portray role conflict among the police officers is their role as Social Peace-keeper and that of Crime fighter.

The conflict emanates from these two models where the police officer is expected to deal aggressively against criminal behaviour while at the same time, protect the constitutional rights of the citizens. The contrast between what the police are expected to do and what the police actually do is enormous. Unfortunately, the police function suffers from numerous conflicts, contradictions and ambiguities that are not easily resolved. Another instance of role conflict stems from the paradox between police training and the realities of police work. Role Overload

Muchinsky (1997:308) defines role overload as “a variant of role conflict in which conflict is experienced as a necessity to compromise either quantity, time schedule or quality.” Today’s police officers are being told to work faster in the face of an increasing workload that is set within longer shifts (Heiler, 1998; Winefield et. al, 2002). Some research differentiates the concept of role overload as too much work (quantitative) and work that is too difficult (qualitative) (Cooper and Marshall, 1977). Role Ambiguity

Role ambiguity is derived from the symbolism and rhetoric proffered by police departments to legitimize aspects of its behaviour. Top police administrators often resort to symbolic measures and rhetoric to preserve the status quo and to create favourable public impressions (Lorinskas et al., 1985). Symbolic statements or perfunctory policies serve a variety of functions, many of which police executives use to shape the workforce and community sentiment for the agency and its policies instead of making any substantive change (Kelling, 2008). Operational Stressors

Although organisational factors and policies may be the most widespread and frustrating sources of stress for many law enforcement personnel, there are occasions when the work itself constitute a source of stress. Operational stressors ar


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