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Policing Practices and Operations Essay

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Policing agencies are incredibly responsible to the communities, counties, states, and nation to protect against crime and provide service to citizens. With this tremendous responsibility comes inherent scrutiny. The practices and operations of police agencies are under constant surveillance by the public as well as other policing agencies. To promote functionality police organizations are departmentalized to enhance efficiency and improve communication. Relationships within these organizational structures exist. Partnerships are developed between the community and policing agencies to increase crime reduction and improve order maintenance.

The organizational structure of policing agencies will be reviewed along with communication patterns both within and outside of the agency. Current trends and issues facing policing agencies and communities will be examined and an analysis of changed that could be implemented to improve the partnerships between policing agencies and communities will be determined.

Relationships Between Traditional Organizational Structures of Policing Agencies Municipal Law Enforcement

Municipal law enforcement is most commonly represented as the local police. These police departments provide local protection to cities and towns; departments vary in size in accordance to population.

The structure of municipal law enforcement is generally broken into two divisions: investigation and patrol. Under these departments is an umbrella of subdivisions. Investigations houses units specific to vice, homicide, and juvenile relations. Additional departments exist such as “community relations, internal affairs, training, and research and planning” (Pollock, 2012, p.93). Specialized teams have also been created in some departments servicing cases such as domestic violence, responding to the mentally ill, and various other issues. Departments of a smaller capacity carry more responsibility in handling multitudes of cases due to the lack of additional resources. Municipal agencies coordinate with state and federal agencies when crimes are not within their jurisdiction (Pollock, 2012).

County law enforcement

County law enforcement is publicly known as the sheriff department. The structure supports the county sheriff and the sheriff deputies. Sheriffs serve protection to the local police and assist in crime investigations in counties that do not have local law enforcement. Management of the county jail is generally the county sheriffs responsibility. Some jurisdictions assign jail responsibilities to deputies, but they generally do service patrol. Civil documents, warrants, and eviction notices are also served from the sheriff’s office. The position is attained by election but deputies are employed through procedures similar to the selection process of the municipal law enforcement agencies (Pollock, 2012).

State Police

Highway Patrol, State Patrol, and the Department of Public Safety are State law enforcement agencies. Hawaii is the only state without a state police force. The demand for law enforcement on roads passing through townships created these agencies. State law enforcement agencies are publicly known for enforcing traffic law violations and deal exclusively with state laws. This limited jurisdiction separates them from municipal and federal agencies. Statewide criminal investigations involving auto theft or drugs are within the state polices jurisdictions. Assistance to local detection and investigations are also services provided by the state police. This limited jurisdiction separates them from municipal and federal agencies (Pollock, 2012).

Federal Agencies

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are federal agencies. These agencies deal with the enforcement of federal laws implemented by Congress. Functions are primarily investigations, and a very limited amount of patrol work is implemented. The largest federal law enforcement agency is the Department of Homeland Security. The agency with the broadest jurisdiction is the FBI. An investigation of a violation of both federal and state laws is permissible by federal law enforcement agencies. The sale of controlled substances is the most common example of this (Pollock, 2012). Communication Patterns Within and Outside the Policing Agency Technology has greatly improved the efficiency of policecommunications within the agency. In-car computers and laptops allow officers to have quick access to vital information. Local and federal information on a suspect from data files nationwide can be retrieved within moments.

Dispatch and assignments are available to officers through the in-car computer system eliminating the reliance upon two-way radios. Officers and vehicles are monitored through Global Positioning Devices (GPS) (Maguire, 2011). Police officer responsibilities also include communicating with the public. Officers are expected to be competent with problem-solving skills, mediation, and social interactions. Training and education in these areas is vital in earning the trust and confidence of the community. Functions such as community policing, which will be discussed later, rely heavily on the public as a resource for crime fighting. Positive interaction with the public is achieved by exhibiting solid problem solving skills, social adaptability, and admirable temperaments (Maguire, 2011). Current trends in the approach to the policing function

Problem-Oriented Policing (POP)
SARA is a problem-solving model associated with problem-oriented policing. “SARA stands for scanning, analysis, response, and assessment” (Pollock, 2012, p.102). This approach to fighting crime applies available resources such as crime reports to target crimes centralizing in specific areas. The information is analyzed in an attempt to explain the origin of the crime. Officers then respond with the proposed solution, which could mean increased patrol in specific areas, or direct enforcement. Measures are then assessed to determine success rates (Pollock, 2012). Community Policing

Community policing is trending in the recent years. The idea is that the police would create a partnership with the community to aid in the reduction and prevention of crime. Community support can greatly benefit in the resolution of neighborhood problems. This style of policing is service-oriented encompassing “many different types of tactics and programs, all with the goal of officers and community members developing partnerships to solve some of the neighborhood’s problems” (Pollock, 2012, p.99). Additionally, community policing places an emphasis on the decentralizing of policing (Pollock, 2012). Order Maintenance and Zero Tolerance policing

Order maintenance and zero tolerance-policing places focuses on eliminating public order crimes such as public drinking, noise violations, graffiti, public urination, and intrusive panhandling, in full force. The ideology is that the elimination of the smaller crimes will ultimately reduce the larger crimes. The targeting of minor offenses affects a broad spectrum of the community including the general law abiding citizens. The strict implementation of city ordinances violations such as property maintenance and parking violations can greatly improve the probability of accusations of biased enforcement directly affecting various cultural groups (Pollock, 2012). Existing Issues with the Partnership Between Law Enforcement and Community Law enforcement fights a constant uphill battle to achieve harmony between maintaining order in society and protecting the rights of individuals. Police must encompass the element of authority while remaining approachable and socially accessible. The military structure that has developed within the police organization poses a threat to community relations and hampers efforts of community policing.

Officers are trained to protect due-process constitutional rights. Aggressive officer behavior, and in some cases bearing inappropriate weaponry, creates the components of militarization. This contentious behavior fosters fear in society and serves as a daily reminder of government intervention (Maguire, 2011). Changes to Improve Partnerships Between Law Enforcement and Community Partnership between law enforcement and the community can be improved by consistently following protocol and procedures. Any time an officer fails or violates standard procedures or protocols trust within the community weakens. The machismo attitudes that can be fostered from the military style training and organizational structure can create soldiers instead of law enforcement officials.

Agencies need to have harsh consequences for officers who directly violate standard procedures. The machismo attitude can cause an overlap of jurisdictional formalities. Officers cannot assume the role judge, jury, and prosecution. Partnerships are built on common interests and trust. The only practical way to eliminate bias and unnecessary infringement upon citizens from law enforcement is to create a more superior breed of officials. This can be achieved by creating enhanced psychological and practical testing methods. Agencies must strive to uphold the service-based theme of community oriented policing. Inappropriate behavior and excessive use of force are shortcomings that should be immediately dispensed.


The organization structure of policing agencies is broad and complex. Levels of hierarchy have been established to implement a chain of command and create jurisdictional boundaries. Communication within agencies, between agencies, and the communities they serve are vital to the promotion of commonality of service and protection. Technology along with skill training aids in achieving this goal. Policing agencies have developed methods such as POP and COP to boost functionality and efficiency in crime reduction. The ever present issue facing policing agencies remains in achieving a balance between authority and service.


Maguire, M. (2011). Critical Issues in Crime and Justice: Thought, Policy, and Practice (1 ed). : Sage. Pollock, J. (2012). Crime and Justice in America An Introduction to Criminal Justice (5th ed.). : Elsevier.

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