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Challenges for Law Enforcement: Moving from a Paramilitary Past to a Community Oriented Future Jake J. Koppenhaver
Criminal Justice Capstone Professor Scott July 24, 2007
Challenges for Law Enforcement Challenges for Law Enforcement: Moving from a Paramilitary Past to a Community Oriented Future Law enforcement is similar to many other long-standing legacies. The members of its
community are proud that they take part in a field of service such as police work and its support; Families of those involved are aware of the risks yet still support their officers in any way they can; Its administration and ranks are highly resistant to change. Society is in a constant state of flux, often forward-moving, and need their law enforcement agencies to adapt with them socially. This is the only way that the needs of the community can be served by their law enforcement agencies. Many believe that paramilitary structures do not cater to the community as much as is required, and with focus in many agencies being turned toward the Community Oriented Policing (also known as C.O.P.) one can see a looming question over the future of police work: How does the current paramilitary structure cater to the philosophies of community policing, and ultimately serve the community? The organization of law enforcement agencies have been largely paramilitary-based in their operation since they were formed, and understandably so. As far back as biblical times the reigning government’s military was tasked with the general peacekeeping and enforcement duties held by our modern law enforcement agencies. The most prominent of history’s law enforcement bodies was that of the Roman Empire. It was not until the Fifth Century that governing states in the Roman Empire were tasked with enforcement duties (Annely, 2006). Only within the last few hundred years have law enforcement agencies departed from traditional military powers. In 19th century Europe the first modern law enforcement agencies were formed with the aid of Sir Robert Peel, however they kept much of the same philosophy from their military roots which showed in their rank system, authorization to use force while performing duties, etc. These philosophies, as is evident in all militaries of the world past and present, are
Challenges for Law Enforcement designed to streamline operations by managing bodies scientifically and thereby increasing
efficiency, all through a hierarchical command network (Roberg & Kuykendall, 1997, p.29). The traditional characteristics of the paramilitary control model include a central command structure (rank scales with rigid differences which answer to the rank above and ultimately perform for the governing body), terminology and procedures similar to that of the military with commands and orders disseminated from higher ranks, strong focus on policy, procedure, and rules, and resistance to challenge by the entire system (LaGrange, 1998, p. 318). According to Roberg and Kuykendall (1997, p. 29) the adoption of such a system was an effort to help produce more professional police agencies through previously successful control means, however it became evident that it had more or less resulted in a highly bureaucratic organization. Many find the paramilitary model to be a hindrance to law enforcement agencies when it comes to serving the changing needs of their respective communities. Studies have found that the model often fails in trying to promote open and constructive communication horizontally (from outside sources) as well as laterally (from the lower ranks which comprise the agency). The paramilitary model also has been known to stifle individual creativity within the organization and promotes a lack of flexibility and resistance to change (Peak, 1997, p. 114). It is important to note that while police agencies do not exhibit overly militaristic qualities in each of their practices, that the military concept of efficiency and resource management is often the source of those habits. Take for example the three main designs which agencies use to help boost productivity: functional, place, and time. Functional design involves allocating resources based on a specialized need. This characteristic is evident in most large agencies which typically have several specialized units to combat certain crimes in the major metropolitan setting: Gang units, SWAT teams, youth task forces, narcotics divisions, traffic enforcement and aggressive driver apprehension teams, sex offender tracking detectives, and school resource officers
Challenges for Law Enforcement
(Hellriegel, Slocum, & Woodman, 2001, p. 489). Many smaller agencies which are not as highly staffed usually cross train staff in multiple areas (for example, an officer normally serves on the traffic unit yet is also a member of the youth task force). Other options include contracting with larger agencies for specialized services such as a crime lab or dispatching. According to some authors this method may cause employees to lose sight of police service as a whole by encouraging only specific functions on a micro level (Hellriegel et al, 2001, p. 489). Place design refers to the actual zoning of an agency’s jurisdiction in order to maximize its coverage. Many police departments break up their cities into small areas which are covered by a specific amount of officers, yet still hold to a functional design (Hellriegel et al, 2001, p. 489). This design helps to ensure that officers are visible in all areas of the community and are readily available to respond to emergency calls. Time design refers simply to the shifts that an officer works. They are referred to as watches, tours, etc., depending on the agency, and work to provide round-theclock enforcement to municipalities. The paramilitary police model, while retaining tried and true tactics in policing, conflict with certain areas of what is decidedly the future of modern law enforcement. This future involves a method of policing which focuses on not only the efficiency of the police agency and its staff, but also the community as a whole. Community oriented policing has been defined as “A law enforcement program that seeks to integrate officers into the local community to reduce crime and gain good community relations (Siegel & Senna, 2006, p. 155).” While it may seem to be a simple concept, some strategies for implementing programs include the decentralization of command, civilianization, and community communications and reciprocity—philosophies that a strict paramilitary agency operates opposite of. This form of policing has also prompted many traditional management and enforcement practices to be challenged on account of the increasingly educated officers which make up organizations to the new demands and focus of the
Challenges for Law Enforcement criminal justice system (Roberg, Crank, & Kuykendall, 2000, p. 117). While the chain of command is vitally necessary in the emergency situations faced by law enforcement agencies, such as major crimes and natural disasters, often day-to-day situations and duties are being placed in the hands of the individual officers. Officers must be able to consistently and
individually assess situations and react on behalf of their agency which requires creative thinking and questioning of past, stricter principles. In contrast to the aforementioned qualities of the traditional paramilitary organization, the modern police agency and the citizens they serve often seek the following on an internal level (Skolnick & Bayley, 1986; Sparrow, Moore, & Kennedy, 1990; Toch & Grant, 1991; Cox & Fitzgerald, 1996): The support and nurturing of individual officer discretion; using guidance and coaching versus strict punishment; open communications with all ranks and between the agency and their community; constructive motivation and reinforcement for staff; operational flexibility; less resistance to change; decentralized command; the creation and dissemination of slid expectations for all levels. Officers are also encouraged to lessen the distance between the communities and themselves: bike patrol units, school resource officers, community storefronts, and officer participation in community events all help to bring the members of a community and their sworn protectors closer to each other. Civilianization is one unique concept in community oriented policing, and perhaps the strongest in my opinion. Civilianization not only refers to opening positions that were once held only by members of law enforcement rank to the public (such as dispatchers, clerical positions, corrections officers, etc.), but also in allowing the community to assist in the overall directional guidance of the department. Many agencies now have civilian review boards which assist internal investigations, use of force reviews, and policy making decisions. They help to guide governmental funding and are allowed to give input on what they want to see out of their police officers. These techniques are monumental steps in a field which was for a great while very
Challenges for Law Enforcement closed. This is not to say in any way that the thin blue line is in danger of extinction, but at no point has the community and their police service been this tightly integrated. Law enforcement agencies are at their hearts paramilitary organizations. This has been a strong concept for quite a while. With the concept of community oriented policing sweeping not
only the country but the globe, it is easy to see that conflict will arise and obstacles will appear in the transition of one to another. This is not to say that all law enforcement agencies must move away from paramilitary concepts. Many agencies, and groups within an agency, perform increasingly well under that type of command structure, such as tactical response teams, bomb squads, honor guard units, etc. However it is clear that the general operations and image of a department must change to suit the changing needs of their communities. Due to paramilitary structures being somewhat conflicting with that concept many departments have had to reexamine their stance on this issue and modify themselves in order to grow along with their communities. In order for a law enforcement agency to successfully serve its community it must evolve with it and alongside it, not against it, away from it, or in a different direction. No matter the amount of negative publicity towards law enforcement—racism, excessive force, favoritism, infringements on civil rights—the public still values and appreciates the service of their public safety professionals. In order to maintain this favorable relationship and improve it in the future, the law enforcement field must adopt to the changing needs of its citizens.
Challenges for Law Enforcement References Annely, Kristy. (2006, August 15). History Of Law Enforcement. EzineArticles. Retrieved July 19, 2007, from web site: http://ezinearticles.com/?History-Of-LawEnforcement&id=269224. Cox, S.M., & Fitzgerald, J.D. (1996). Police in community relations: Critical Issues, 3rd ed. Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark. Hellriegel, D., Slocum, J.W., & Woodman, R.W. (2001). Organizational behavior, 9th ed. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Publishing. LaGrange, R.L. (1998). Policing American society, 2nd ed. Chicago: Nelson Hall. Peak, K.J. (1997). Policing America, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Roberg, R.R., Crank, J., & Kuykendall, J. (2000). Police and society, 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Siegel, L, & Senna, J (2006). Introduction to criminal justice. Mason, OH: Thomson _____Wadsworth. Skolnick, J.H., & Bayley, D.H. (1986). The new blue line: Police innovation in six American cities. New York: Free Press. Sparrow, M.K., Moore, M.H., & Kennedy, D.M. (1990). Beyond 911: A new era for policing. New York: Basic Books. Toch, H., & Grant, J.D. (1991). Police as problem solvers. New York, Plenum.
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