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Police History

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Police History Essay (Week One) Policing in today’s society is very different than what it was back in the 1800’s. In my reading of The Police in America, An Introduction, Seventh Edition Walker and Katz explain how the very first American police officer received no training, forms of communication, policy or procedure guidelines or weapons. Corruption and abuse of police authority ran rampant. This is vastly different than to today’s policing in America. American policing was born as a product from the English heritage and focused on three main features which helped create American policing as we know of it today. The three main features were high value on individual liberty and on governmental authority, tradition of local control of law enforcement agencies, and a highly decentralized and fragmented system of law enforcement.

Sir Robert Peel is known as the “father” of modern day policing. To this day his work is still discussed and taught at all different law enforcement training academies around America. Sir Robert Peel sought to fix England’s broken and collapsed law enforcement system. He created three core elements which are still used in today’s policing to help aid in crime prevention. The three core elements were the mission, strategy, and organizational structure of the police. Most of these ideas were adopted from the military but tailored to meet the needs of law enforcement. Those elements were designed to work with a proactive police approach rather than a reactive approach.

Over the years since the birth of American Policing, law enforcement has seen several changes. Some of the changes are a planned and internally motivated, while others are the result of external social changes. One thing that has not changed is the need for a strong relationship between the U.S. Government and policing organizations. The first level of law enforcement begins at the federal level. Federal laws established are the basic laws which must be followed. State and local jurisdictions may make laws more restricted but cannot loosen or conflict with federal law. Our basic laws come from the U.S. Constitution and more specifically the 4th amendment which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures.

Federal law enforcement is heavily relied upon by many state law enforcement agencies. The government has jurisdiction is all states and territories within the United States and have a vast amount of resources and information available to them. A lot of federal laws cannot be enforced by state or local agencies and must be referred to the U.S. Government for further investigation or prosecution. Immigration is a great example on where the government has the only exclusive authority in enforcing immigration laws, even if the state wants to adopt its own laws governing illegal immigration. In most cases, federal law is much less restrictive than state law. On the flip side to that coin, federal law enforcement agencies also need the help of state and local law enforcement agencies. Since the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has created new agencies while consolidating others in response to the ongoing terrorist threat the nation faces. Most information obtained is found at the lowest level of law enforcement which usually begins at the state or local level. A simple traffic stop which turns into a large drug seizure, can relate information about terrorist activity which the federal government was previously blind to. The Federal Government is charged with ensuring all state and local law enforcement agencies are performing their duties within the guidelines established in federal, state, and case law. It is not unheard of these days to hear of the Department of Justice investigate a police agency for misconduct.

The fact still remains the Federal Government and local police organizations still have a very dysfunctional way of communication between one another. In today’s world we have seen the creation of the most advance technological forms of communications in history, but we still have police agencies that work bordering jurisdictions that cannot communicate with each other via police radios. Some state and local jurisdictions refuse to work with the Federal Government due to politics and their personal view of some laws. Immigration and marijuana are just two of those examples. In light of all the change policing have endured in the last several decades, the very basic foundation of policing really hasn’t changed that much in the last 60 years. Officers still receive calls through, a radio, drive or respond to a location, conduct an investigation, and make a determination using the facts obtained in the investigation. Policing has dramatically changed in the essence of professionalism. Training is now better and more advanced while excessive force and corruption are no longer tolerated. While this still may occur, it is not as widely spread as back in the 1800’s. Even with all the changes policing has undertaken, there is still a lot of work to be done to regain the full trust and confidence in every American citizen. Policing will continue to evolve and become better from this generation to the next.

References

Walker, S.M., & Katz, C.M. (2011). The Police in America. An Introduction. (7th ed.). : Mcgaw-Hill Company.

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