The individuals that work in the field of law enforcement today are presented with issues and concerns unlike any faced by those of the past. The changing face of crimes and criminal activity in this country and around the world are at the root of many of these challenges. In this country, the most significant issue is the shift to a more multicultural society. There are also concerns regarding police corruption, use of deadly force, racial profiling and the job hazards of policing in an increasingly dangerous world. The way police agencies enforce the laws and work to provide a safe environment to those they serve has perhaps never been more complex than it is today. The new threat of terrorism only exacerbates the issues and adds a new element to an already difficult situation for law enforcement officials in America.
The United States today is full of citizens from a number of different ethnic backgrounds and different religious and cultural beliefs. In any field where your job is to provide a service to the public, it is important to have a basic understanding of the people you serve. The same is true for those who work in law enforcement, but because of the nature of their duties, it is an issue for serious concern. The multicultural shift in America means that there is more representation of various minority groups, all of whom have differing historic relations with those in law enforcement, and often times an unfavorable one.
Whether these groups are newly represented in American society or have been part of the society for generations, most often there is a history of unfair or unequal treatment under the law that is difficult for parties on both sides of the issue to overcome. This lies at the core of the problems with police-community relations (PCR). In order to serve the public to the best of their abilities, those who’ve taken the oath to do so need involvement from the community they represent, a community that seems to be ever changing.
The idea of providing new training and policies to address the concerns of the sworn officers, and the public at large, in regards to ethnic understanding is growing. Many officials in the position of management have adopted training procedures to help address the concerns of both the officers they employ and the general public they serve. The importance of this can’t be underestimated. Policing in America today has grown to be a global issue with the spread of terrorism. Law enforcement agencies on the local, state and federal level have a new reliance on one another in the fight against terrorist activity and having an understanding of the changing culture around them is vital at all levels. Never before, in the history of law enforcement in this country, has there been such a comprehensive collaboration between the three levels of policing agencies.
The world as we know it changed on September 11, 2001 and that change is still occurring today. Anti-terrorism efforts are no longer limited to agencies on the federal level. In the wake of 9/11, the federal government formed the Homeland Security Agency whose prime objective is to protect the country from possible terrorist acts. The process of gathering intelligence regarding terrorism is global. British intelligence relies on shared intelligence from the U.S. and vice versa. It therefore only makes sense to include state and local authorities as well.
Over recent years, officials have taken a more proactive approach on these levels by providing anti-terrorism training to local and state law enforcement officers. The officials in the department of Homeland Security now work more closely with state and local departments in anti-terrorism initiatives because they realized that in most instances, these departments are the first line of defense. The changes in the NYPD following the 9/11 attacks signaled the beginning of a national network of law enforcement agencies working together in the fight against terrorism.
In response to this new domestic threat, training programs have been implemented to educate officers on the state and local levels on how to help prevent attacks from terrorists. But another important element of the fight is how to respond should an attack occur. The local and state authorities must have the knowledge required to help stabilize the community after an attack. Their efforts also entail coordinating evacuations and providing initial emergency medical care. The anti-terrorism initiatives have also become part of a how a law officer goes about performing his or her daily tasks.
Many agencies assign officers to patrol possible targets such as important landmarks, transportation systems such as trains and ports of entry, and also nuclear power plants. An increased police presence is visible at places where large crowds gather for public events like sporting events, parades and public speeches. Any intelligence the local agency obtains is shared with officials in Homeland Security, and any intelligence Homeland Security gains with respect to a specific municipality, it is shared with that police department as well.
Today, the face of the criminal and the activities in which they engage has changed. So too has the procedures, practices and policies of the various law enforcement agencies around the country changed. The task of protecting and serving for law officers has never been more important, or difficult. But with an increase in community involvement through efforts to promote better PCR, and the collaborative efforts of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the task at hand is achievable by those committed to making the world around us just a little bit safer, one day at a time.
Schmalleger, F. (2011). _Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century._ Prentice Hall.