The policing system of today has been as a result of several political, economic, and social factors. Its concept adapted based on Sir Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Force of London, 1829. However, unlike the English police system, American police did not have the officialdom of the crown to create a valid, unifying foundation. Instead, American police’s authorization and resources came from local political leaders. Their connections to neighborhoods and local politicians was so interlocked that both Jordan and Fogelson refer to the early police as adjuncts to local politicians.
The relationship was often reciprocal: politicians enrolled and maintained police in office; while police helped political leaders maintain their offices by coaxing citizens to vote for specific candidates and even at times, assisting in rigging elections. With the above being noted, the history of policing in the U.S. can be classified into three eras: The political era (1840 to 1930), the reform era, (1930 to 1980) and the community problem-solving era, (1980 to the present day).
The political era was adapted from Robert Peel’s concept of appointing good respectable persons from the community as police officers. This era was defined by two main features: the close interlocked relationship of the police and the community; as well as being puppets of the ruling politician hence, subjected to corruption and partisanship. The technology was short, so they were forced to foot patrol and communicate with the community members. The strengths of this era were: good interpersonal relationship with the police and apart from solving crimes, they provided a wide range of support services.
In the late 19th century, municipal police departments led soup kitchens; provided temporary lodging for newly arrived immigrant workers in station houses and helped ward leaders attain work for said persons. Meanwhile, the weak points of this era were: police corruption and racism. They were corrupted since they mainly protected the politicians who paid them and were biased against people of color. The end result of this era was a citizen and political satisfaction. In contrast, the reform era was developed solely to reconstruct corruption within the police system. The reform redefined the pole of the police in upholding the law since this was not being undertaken during the nineteenth century and thus, professionals were instead hired rather than civilians. As the police became more centralized, the relationships the police previously had with its community began to suffer and were not as closely knitted. They were more adept and also became heavily dependent on technology. This era was impacted greatly by August Vollmer, the first chief of police to require police officers to obtain college qualifications. He was also the first to establish a motorized force; so that they’d be able to patrol a wider area with greater efficiency. In this era, the police solely dealt with crime, and all other community problems were viewed as a joint responsibility of between the police and the communities within which they served.
Annually, law enforcement faces new challenges that cause the police system to revisit and reanalyze their previous strategies. “The challenges facing law enforcement in the 21st Century are extremely complex and ever-evolving. Some of these are new twists to old problems and some are new, sophisticated challenges that 20 years ago we could not have imagined nor even prepared for,’ states James P. McDonnell, Sheriff of Los Angeles County on behalf of the Major County Sheriffs of America & the National Sheriff’s Association. (Homeland Security Digital Library, Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, 2017.). The number one issue facing policing today is the allegation that officers display racially biased mannerisms when enforcing the law (Homeland Security Digital Library et al, 2017), especially as it relates to African Americans. African Americans frequently report those police officers are more likely to stop, interrogate and even engage in brute force against them as compared to white suspects. Black youths describe being followed in convenience stores or being pulled over or frisked by police repeatedly. As a result, police continue to lose public trust and confidence, especially from these groups. Research on bias in policing has shown that the stereotype that young African American males are more crime-prone most times is followed by dissimilar behavior by the police. Recent research also supports that African Americans encounter stereotype threat when confronted by police officials. Social psychologist Cynthia Najdowski also supports the aforementioned issue and further explains that due to police stereotyping, innocent black suspects experience more arousal, a greater cognitive load, and engage in more self-regulatory efforts than whites during those encounters (Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences Najdowski, 2013). Because police believe that nervous behavior is a non-verbal cue to deception. Najdowski also hypothesizes that stereotype threat could, ironically, increase the likelihood that individuals will be perceived as suspicious and that this will lead police to initiate investigatory contacts with blacks disproportionately more often than with whites (Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences Najdowski, 2013). With this in mind, high profile incidents like those in Ferguson and other places have only served to shake public trust and exacerbate some of the challenges already faced. Despite concerns about police biasness are particularly prevalent currently, they are not new and an issue ongoing for many years.
Secondly, according to Sheriff Mc Donnell, there is a major issue as it relates to recruitment, hiring, and retaining qualified men and women to serve in law enforcement. (Homeland Security Digital Library, Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, 2017.). All law enforcement agencies are facing a problem. Hence, this crisis is not just a local issue; it affects federal and state agencies. With recent high profile incidents, videos of law enforcement actions going viral, recently targeted assassinations of law enforcement personnel and another negative second-guessing of the press and local officials have made recruiting and hiring qualified men and women a real challenge. Combine this with the fact that gone are the days of finding young men and women who are wanting to take on a career and stay for 30 plus years and you are looking at a serious issue. (Homeland Security Digital Library, et al,2017.).
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