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Law Enforcement and Society

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Law Enforcement and Society

In order to understand contemporary law enforcement, we should recognize the conditions that impact our profession. It is agreed upon by many scholars that major changes in law enforcement occur every five years. Policing is sometimes characterize"... like a sandbar in a river, subject to being changed continuously by the currents in which it is immersed..." (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, p. 2). However, in recent years some major changes have occurred in a shorter time period.

Innovations in law enforcement

During the past two decades, I have observed major changes in the viewpoint of society towards police officer's as the symbol of trust and dignity, the technological advances of communication and information systems in law enforcement, and the revision of selection and hiring practices for police officers. Organizational change occurs both as a result of internal and external agents (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, p. 664). These changes have manifested both positive and negative reverberations in the way we perform our job.

Police officials have contemplated for years over the key to maintaining a positive image for their organization. Unfortunately, several incidents in the past years have altered society's perception of police in some communities. Police in America are no longer strangers to innovation born of scandal. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have repeatedly been shaken by controversy and forced to make undesirable concessions. Has law enforcement failed to maintain the high standards required by the profession? The cost of public trust is high. It increases each time faith must be regain.

Historically, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have experienced periods of low confidence in communities preceding episodes deemed to be a breach of trust. Early pioneers in law enforcement history such as August Vollmer (1902 - 1932). Berkeley Police Department and J. Edgar Hoover (1924) the Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous advancements towards improving the professionalism of law enforcement (Anderson and Newman, p. 119 - 120). Other attempts were made in 1956 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police adopted "The Law Enforcement Code Of Ethics" (Wilson and McClaren, p.8)

Examples of several historical events locally have attributed to society's decline in respect for police. For example, nine members of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department special narcotics squad were charged with misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars confiscated in drug raids (L. A. Times, p. 4, Sept. 9, 1989). Another local incident involved 80 Los Angeles police officers stormed and wrecked an apartment and allegedly beat several residents on "Dalton Street." The city was forced to settled in a civil law suit by the resident with a settlement of $3 million dollars of taxpayers money (L. A. Times, p. 1-2, August 1, 1988). This incident generated major outcry from the minority community to overhaul the use of force policy and procedure within the department.

Nationally, five New York City police officers were charged with murder in the slaying of a suspect in Queens. All five officers were arraigned on murder charges in the death of Federico Pereira, 21 years of age, a car theft suspect who was punched, kicked, and strangled as he was being arrested. This is one in a string of accusations of brutality made against New York officers in recent years (The New York Times, March 21, 1991, p. A 1). In the south, the incident of Officer Donald Jeffries who was honored as Mississippi's officer of the year in 1993. He alleged that mental stress was a factor in his robbery of a bank, however, a federal judge in Mobile ruled that he was competent to stand

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