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Bayley (1998) - Policing in America- Assessment and Prospects

Bayley (1998) - Policing in America- Assessment and Prospects

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Ideas inAmericanPol icing
 By David H. Bayley
 Policing in America: Assessment and Prospects
February, 1998
deas in American Policing
presents commentary andinsight from leadingcriminologists on issues of interest to practitioners,scholars, and policymakers.The papers published in thisseries are from the PoliceFoundation lecture series of thesame name. Points of view inthis document are those of theauthor and do not necessarilyrepresent the official position of the Police Foundation.
1997 Police Foundation andDavid H. Bayley. All rights reserved.
David H. Bayley
is Deanof the School of CriminalJustice at the StateUniversity of New York at Albany.
Along with external defense,the maintenance of internal orderis one of the defining functions of government. The United States,like countries everywhere, hascreated a particular governmentalinstitution for doing so, namely,the police. In this short essay, Iintend to assess what the policeinstitution in the United Stateshas become and where it mightbe going. I will do so byanswering three questions: (1)What is distinctive aboutAmerican policing? (2) What arethe major changes that haveoccurred in American policingover the last 30 years? (3) Whatare the factors currently shapingAmerican policing?
The DistinctiveCharacteristics of American Policing
Compared with othercountries, American policing hasthree distinguishingcharacteristics.First, responsiveness to citizendemands. In the United States,anybody can pick up a phone,walk into a police station, or stopa police officer on the street andexpect that an officer, armed anduniformed, embodying the fullauthority of government, willattend to the private problems of that individual. This is aremarkable development in worldgovernment. American police
 — 2
operations—the work that policedo—are determined over-whelmingly by requests fromindividual citizens. In many othercountries, and in almost allcountries historically, police werecreated by governments tosafeguard the interests of regimes.Police in the United States today,and in a handful of other stabledemocratic countries, go to greatlengths to respond to whatindividuals want. It has becomefashionable in writing about thepolice to complain about thedemands that the 911 systemplaces on police. However justified the criticism may befrom the point of view of workload, the political instincts of American police to remainresponsive to individual requestsfor service are surely correct andshould be encouraged.Second, public accountability.The United States insists onmaking the police accountablethrough multiple institutions—elected politicians, criminal andcivil courts, the press, and civilianreview of complaints. This is rarein a world where the press isoften censored by government,police misdeeds are subject onlyto the invisible discipline of thepolice themselves, and politiciansrely on the police to keepthemselves in power.Third, openness to evaluation.American police believe thatpolicy must be based on accuratefactual information. This is partlya matter of managerial culture,where a “show-me” mentalitypredominates. Senior officers areuncomfortable merely followingtradition; they want programs tobe demonstrably cost effective.American policing is also uniquelyopen to examination by peopleoutside the police. Scholars,management consultants,politicians, and members of thecommunity with a serious interestin policing can get access toalmost any activity of any policeforce. Only a handful of othercountries in the world can makethis claim. Indeed, my private testfor democraticness is whether aforeign government will give mea visa to study their police. Isubmit that this is not a trivialtest and that the United Statespasses with flying colors.Judging the contemporaryAmerican police by internationalas well as historical standards,there is much to be proud of.This is easy to forget, especiallyamong those of us who study thepolice for a living. Our stock-in-trade, after all, involves pointingout where the police can dobetter and, hopefully, show themhow. But we must never forgetthat compared with othercountries, there is a healthy babyin the police bath water.
Significant Changes inthe American Police
The appointment of thePresident’s Commission on LawEnforcement and the Admin-istration of Justice (1966) marksthe beginning of what is generallyconsidered to have been a periodof great change in Americanpolicing. What in fact are theaccomplishments of the past30years, and to what extenthave they contributed to thedistinctiveness of contemporaryAmerican policing? I think therehave been seven great changes inAmerican policing during whatamounts to my working lifetime.
 I think there have been seven great changes in American policing duringwhat amounts to myworking lifetime.
 — 3
(1) The intellectual caliber of the police has risen dramatically.American police today at all ranksare smarter, better informed, andmore sophisticated than police inthe 1960s.(2) Senior police managersare more ambitious for theirorganizations than they used tobe. Chiefs and their deputies areno longer content to tendsomeone else’s store; they wantto leave their own distinctivestamp on their organizations. Todo this, they now recognize thatmanagement is an importantspecialized skill that must bedeveloped.(3) During the last 30 years,an explicit scientific mindset hastaken hold in American policingthat involves an appreciation of the importance of evaluation andthe timely availability of information.(4) The standards of policeconduct have risen. Despiterecent well-publicized incidentsof brutality and corruption, Ibelieve that American policetoday treat the public more fairly,more equitably, and less venallythan police did 30 years ago.(5) Police are remarkablymore diverse in terms of race andgender than a generation ago.This amounts to a revolution inAmerican policing, changing bothits appearance and, more slowly,its behavior.(6) The work of the policehas become intellectually moredemanding, requiring an array of new specialized knowledge abouttechnology, forensic analysis, andcrime. This has had profoundeffects on recruitment, notablycivilianization, organizationalstructure, career patterns, andoperational coordination.(7) Civilian review of policediscipline, once consideredanathema, has gradually becomeaccepted by police. Although thestruggle is not yet over, I believethat expansion is inevitable asmore and more senior policeexecutives see that civilian reviewreassures the public and validatestheir own favorable opinion of the overall quality of policeperformance. This revolution hasalready taken place in Australia,Britain, and Canada, and SamWalker’s recent work convincesme that the corner has beenturned in the United States(Walker and Bumpus 1991).This, then, is my list of themost significant changes that haveoccurred in American policingover the past 30 years. It maysurprise and even astonish manyreaders that I have notmentioned changes in thestrategies of policing, especiallythe advent of communitypolicing. I have not done sobecause I am not convinced thatstrategic changes have beenwidespread, nor that what iscommonly accepted as new is infact new at all.I do not mean to suggest thatgenuine innovation is not goingon. Wherever I go, I amenormously impressed with thestrategic creativity of Americanpolice. Smart people are doingsmart things. But what they aredoing is so diverse that it is hardto describe. For example, EdwardMaguire and his colleaguesneeded 31 separate categories tocapture activities that areassociated with communitypolicing (Maguire et al. 1997)Robert Worden and I used 11
 I am not convinced that strategic changes have beenwidespread, nor that whatis commonly accepted as new is in fact new at all.

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