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Critical Issues in Policing

Police officers play a critical role in the enforcement of the law. However, this occupation is hazardous as the police have to constantly deal with criminals in the course of discharging their duties. Even so, to make their work easier, the police officers usually apply community policing so as to work effectively. Community policing mainly entails working with local residents with the aim of making communities safer. This paper seeks to discuss the history of policing as it relates to communication with the public, compare historical interactions between police and a homogenous American society with today’s interactions between police and a multicultural society and explain the potential problems in the current structure and design of police departments. The paper will conclude by discussing the critical issues that police managers have encountered historically and compare them to today’s critical issues.
The history of policing as it relates to communication with the public
Communication is important for effective public safety. The 1st documentation of police communications with the public was where a constable used to carry a rattle or hand bell, at times referred to as a ratchet for communication purposes. If he needed to communicate with the public he would sound the ratchet to alert others in the region of his need. This was archaic kind of communication with evident restrictions. The police department upgraded their communication channels (i.e. signal lights) in the 1870s, with “call booths” referred as “Private Boxes” (Giles, 2002). Only a trustworthy citizen or an officer would be given a key that would provide them access to the private box. Inside it was a telegraph that was set up with a gadget that looked like a clock with a bell on top. The officer or the citizen would move the pointer on the telegraph to 1 of the 11 explicit choices (riot, drunkard, homicide, fire, thieves, infringement of the city’s laws, fighting, forgers, testline, accident, arson) and pull a handle. This would send a message to police headquarters alerting them of the activities in a certain region. In the 1880s, telephones were added to the call booths and they linked the citizens/officers with the police department (Giles, 2002).
The first portable radio system was formulated and put to use 30 years later (1928). The radio systems enabled 2-way communications between vehicles and the headquarters or district station for better policing. Hand-held radios were introduced many years later. A new deficit was identified with this method though. There were many new instances where the public did not know the seven-digit phone number for their local police department or wasted precious time locating the number. This is what led to the development of the 9-1-1 system (Giles, 2002). The system has evolved throughout the years and now the public can confidently call the phone number. The Public Safety Dispatcher then asks several questions and establishes the priority of the emergency into a computer aided dispatch system.
A comparison of the historical interactions between police and a homogenous American society with today’s interactions between police and a multicultural society
Interactions between police and a homogenous American society can be traced to colonial times, and the interactions were made possible through centralized policing and slave patrols. The former was in response to augmented public intoxication, growth in population and gambling while the latter was fuelled by the need to apprehend escaped slaves and instilling fear to prevent revolts and uphold discipline (McGhee, 2008). As such, the interactions with the police during this period were characterized with ruthlessness and brutality. With time and with the eventual passage of constitutional amendments, that made slavery illegal, slave patrols were officially disbanded. Nonetheless, it took quite a while before the situation with police interactions improved. The police continued to intimidate and act violently towards some Americans.
Today’s interactions between the police and a multicultural society are quite different. Advancements in science, technology, and social justice have impacted law enforcement for the better. Policing began as a reactive model, and has now evolved to become a proactive model where emphasis is put on averting crime (McGhee, 2008). As such, the interactions between the police and the multicultural society aim at preventing crime. For instance, rather than responding to public drunkenness or gambling brawls, there are now policing procedures and laws to curb such conduct. Police officers have also collaborated with the public and executed some policies together to assist decrease corruption and offer greater accountability.
Potential problems in the current structure and design of police departments as it relates to building trust with the community
The current structure and design of police departments as it relates to building trust with the community has several potential problems. For one, police departments have a bureaucratic structure. The organized administration of police departments is featured by objective qualifications, specialization of responsibilities, action in accordance with rules and regulations, and a hierarchy authority. This kind of organization is marked by inflexibility and indifference to human needs. Therefore, the community find it hard to trust these departments since they do not demonstrate empathy towards them.
Quasi-military features are also a source for potential problems. Police officers are required to wear uniforms, carry guns, carry ranks and operate under a dictatorial command structure (Daft, 2015). This military model has made the police to subscribe to the idea that they are at war against crime, and as such, they have been influenced to be brutal and act violently towards citizens. This has in turn made it difficult for the public to trust them. Some police management styles also serve to undermine efforts to build trust with the community. For instance, the service style puts emphasis on the need to focus on community above law enforcement (Daft, 2015). Rather than arresting all suspects, police officers are encouraged to make referrals to social service agencies. This makes the public lose trust in the ability of law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order by dealing with criminals by arresting them.
The critical issues that police managers have encountered historically and comparing them to today’s critical issues of immigration, use of force, technology, and policing in a multicultural society
Police managers have encountered various critical issues historically. One such issue pertains to police brutality, where the police were predominantly known to apply brutal force when dealing with civilians. High rates of violent crime (i.e., robbery, homicide, rape and aggravated assault) were also a critical issue. Conventional approaches of police were inefficient with coping with it. Therefore, in the 1960s crime rate was 1887 per 100,000 individuals, and in the 1980s, it rose to 5224 per 100,000 people, nearly a threefold increase. Civil unrests were also common in the past as different populations (e.g. black Americans, women) across the country fought for their rights. Police managers also had to deal with racial discrimination which was quite rampant in the past. Currently, the police managers have to deal with immigration issues, and in this regard, they are increasingly being required to enforce immigration laws (Daft, 2015). Use of force is still present, and the public has increasingly blamed the police for using brutal force even in circumstances where force is uncalled for. The police are required to leverage the use of technology such as the mobile phones, social media, computer systems, etc while policing the multicultural society for effective results.
Obviously, the work that the police do is important. Through their commitment, police officers have made a significant contribution in enhancing the safety of the community. However, the law enforcers have not fully succeeded in building trust with the public. This is mainly attributable to the bureaucracy of police departments, their quasi-military features, and their styles of management. Despite the challenges, the police still continue to strive to safeguard the interests of the public.
Daft, R. L. (2015). Organization theory and design. Cengage learning.
Giles, H. (2002). Law Enforcement, Communication, and Community. Amsterdam,
Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing.
McGhee, D. (2008). The End Of Multiculturalism? Terrorism, Integration And Human
Rights: Terrorism, Integration and Human Rights. Milton Keynes, McGraw-Hill Education

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