Law Enforcement Today
Jesse W Ratliff Jr.
May 13, 2012
Law Enforcement Today
Policing today’s American society has become more than just capturing the criminals. The daily tasks of law enforcement on local, state, tribal, and federal levels are challenging for the agencies. Law enforcement today must cope with issues, maintain and improve interaction amongst the upper and lower levels of agencies, and find ways to improve those relationships, all in an effort to protect and serve.
Law enforcement agencies and, in particular, the officers who work in those agencies, are constantly faced with issues of trust and integrity (Schmalleger, 2011). The dangers associated with being a law enforcement agent are inherent to the job. Officers are subject to violence of the offenders, health hazards at crime scenes, and the perils of vehicular traffic, among others. Schmalleger presents that 134 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2008 (pp. 276). Issues of racial and biased profiling also present problems for law enforcement. It is important for officers to maintain a balance of justice and to equally treat all citizens. This becomes an issue many times when the crime occurs and the victim of such crime was a member of a minority group, or vice, and the suspect is of the minority group. If the victim were Black in a predominantly White community, for example, the police might find themselves targeted as not working as hard to find the criminal. On the other hand, if the criminal were suspected to be Black, the police may be accused of going out of their way to find him or her guilty. Race is not the only issue when it comes to profiling, especially since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Today, law enforcement officers must proceed with caution in regards to religion, and make extra efforts to show they are not targeting specific religious beliefs.
Civil liability has become a serious issue for law enforcement agencies and their officers. In the democratic society of America, the civil lawsuit is one wrong move away. And any flaw or oversight by an officer in an act of duty becomes a prospect for legal action. Many states have put some limits on the liabilities and created certain immunities to help protect their officers by declaring good faith or reasonable belief rules, similar to the federal government’s (Schmalleger, 2011). Law enforcement agencies conduct training and evaluations to help minimize the problems associated with leading to civil liability lawsuits. Many agencies make changes in policy to reduce probability of injury to innocent bystanders, such as in the case of a high speed pursuit. A “more surveillance, less pursuit” concept has been adopted by a number of local and state law enforcement agencies. Through evaluations, the agencies can determine problematic officers and train or discipline as seen fit to correct the liability (Schmalleger, 2011).
Corruption in the police force is another issue which affects entire agencies due to the effects it has on the integrity and trust relationship with the citizens of the communities. Corruption is seen in many forms from theft to bribe acceptance to drug and firearms dealings. Other forms of corruption according to Schmalleger (2011) include physical abuse of suspects, showing favoritism towards friends or family, and acting as if they are above the law by speeding, drinking and driving, or partaking in drug use. These corrupt activities by police officers lessen the public’s trust and respect for the entire agency, even if it were only one “bad cop”. Integrity within the agency should be a goal for everyone involved in the organization because it a one in the same grouping by civilian citizens.
Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has increased its law enforcement capacity with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This agency is responsible for the unified effort in fighting crimes against the American society. Through community advocates and liaisons, the DHS maintains interactions with local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement. These interactions include funding and sharing resources to better serve society against major crimes, especially those of terrorist nature (Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 2009). According to the DHS, the agency coordinates efforts to prevent acts of terrorism against the nation with the utilization of a council formed consisting of members of the by numerous federal agencies including, but not limited to the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA), The U.S. Coast Guard, The Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (2009). Title 6 Section 607 of the United States Code “Terrorism Prevention” provides authority for the Department of Homeland Security to create policy and training. The training of local and state law enforcement as well as tribal law enforcement is handled by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). By coordinating policies and training via liaisons with local and state law enforcement, the DHS is able to broaden its protective services throughout the country and better secure the safety of Americans from terrorist threats.
Though the federal government has new additions to its law enforcement agencies, the battle against crime in America still primarily falls to the state and local level agencies for primary responsibility. To protect and to serve is the motto, but law enforcement of today is faced with many issues which need resolution to make easier the tasks to uphold the mission. The concept of homeland security dramatically changed after the terrorists’ attacks of 9/11 and, for many the steps were taken too quickly to be thoughtfully considered before becoming part of American standards for law enforcement. Improvements on what may have been hastily designed will come no doubt. A clarification in the areas of responsibilities, duties, and authorizations between the federal agencies and the state and local agencies would provide some improvement because the local agencies would be more trained and equipped with the exact tasks they are asked of in the war on terror.
The law enforcement of today in America is multilayer and multitask. The arising issues which plague the policing agencies affect the officers, whether physically or mentally, are a hindrance to their duties to fight crime. The Department of Homeland Security is burdened to organize and coordinate the inter-agency relationships between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and it is the responsibility of the DHS to coordinate the field training and knowledge training so that the agencies have the resources to better protect their citizens. It is up to the community level agencies to coordinate the efforts “to serve”.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (2009). DHS Directives System: Directive Number 252-11. Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/foia/plcy_directive_252-11_office_for_state_and_local_law_enforcement.pdf
Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.