Since the country’s inception, law enforcement has evolved dramatically. Law enforcement in local communities was carried out by voluntary organizations and part-time sheriffs who local community members privately supported during colonial times and the nation’s early formation.
The city of Boston established the first centralized municipal police force in 1838. Similar organizations were quickly founded in New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Almost every major city in the country had established a formal police force by the late 1800s.
More than 420,000 officers work with more than 18,000 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies today. In the United States, there are 2.2 law enforcement officers for every 1,000 people, and the size of police forces varies significantly based on location and population. For example, New York City has 36,228 police officers, while towns like Amherst, Virginia, and Hot Springs, North Carolina each have less than five.
With the growth of traditional law enforcement agencies, there has been a need for formal police training and improved professionalism among law enforcement officers. Over 660 law enforcement academies offer basic, entry-level training for potential officers each year. Many colleges and universities offer programs that prepare students for careers in law enforcement. The amount of time spent in basic law enforcement training programs increased by two weeks between 2006 and 2013, and more than a third of these programs now require some type of mandatory field training.
Today’s policing in the United States
In our neighborhoods, the Sherrif plays a critical role. They work to ensure that the nearly 8.25 million criminal offenses that occur each year are dealt with fairly. They also make over 10 million arrests per year to protect the public and keep criminals responsible for breaking the law.
The public in the United States supports local law enforcement authorities, but they increasingly see cops as warriors and enforcers rather than guardians. In reality, nearly a third of the population now considers their local police to be enforcers rather than protectors. Since the early 2000s, public interest and trust in law enforcement have dwindled. General views of police can only deteriorate as units gradually take on positions more akin to invading armed powers or tax collectors than advocates of neighborhood peace and safety. There is a better way, and some police forces are introducing best practices in their local areas to ensure public safety.
The Police’s Appropriate Position
Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, is said to have said in the early 1800s, “The police are the people, and the public is the police.” This assertion expresses the dual position that law enforcement officers play in our society. Police officers are members of the organization they represent and members of the government charged with protecting the community.
In a free society, law enforcement’s function is to ensure public safety and uphold the rule of law so that individual liberty can flourish. To accomplish these goals, law enforcement and the people they are sworn to protect must have mutual trust and transparency. The government has the authority to use force to achieve its goals, but it must do so in a way that respects community citizens’ rights and upholds the rule of law. Building constructive relationships with the community, supporting civil rights, and avoiding strategies that promote the use of unnecessary force against civilians are all part of good police practices.
Community Policing’s Importance
Sheriffs and community members working together to establish public safety is the most successful way to achieve public safety in local neighbourhoods. To solve neighbourhood issues, “community policing” is described as a police strategy that relies on local partnerships and increased decision-making authority among street-level officers. Community policing became common in the 1980s, and by 1997, 85 percent of police departments had adopted some form of it.
For the last four decades, scholars have sought to assess the effect of this new policing approach. Community policing, it points out, decreases violence and crime fears and perceptions of protecting inequality. Simultaneously, it improves public perceptions of police officers and increases positive attitudes toward officers. A new review of the literature on community policing found that it positively affects community satisfaction and police credibility. However, when addressing its impact on crime and feelings of protection in the same communities, it provides mixed results.
These inconsistent outcomes may result from something that community policing research has found in recent years: most agencies fail to execute community policing effectively. According to studies, implementing a community policing model does not always change core policing roles and tactics around the agency. Via specialized teams, services, or short-term projects, most cities have used these policing strategies as a means of “strategic buffering” between the police and the community.
Community policing is a proactive mindset that can permeate the entire department, promoting community engagement and feedback into departmental decision-making. Several departments have viewed this type of protection as a one-sided deal involving a few officers in a particular unit or occasional incidents or meetings.
Putting in Motion Successful Community Policing Procedures
To ensure local public safety, police, and residents must work together. Although many municipalities have struggled to incorporate comprehensive community policing adequately, local police departments should take three crucial measures to ensure that a community policing culture pervades their entire department.
Influential community policing necessitates a change from fundamental community involvement to broad community participation. According to a new study, agencies communicate with their neighborhoods, but not in a way that enables community members to provide input on departmental policies and strategies that will be taken into consideration by decision-makers. Public policing necessitates agencies going beyond specialist divisions and leadership attending community meetings regularly.
To bring the critical values of this policing model into effect, every leader and officer should commit to partner with community leaders and groups to solve local problems. Chiefs and other leaders will ensure that necessary improvements are made to foster significant community engagement by basing a departmental culture on community policing values.
Officers must undergo adequate training in community involvement and teamwork to enforce community policing correctly. According to the most recent data available, police academies spend 228 percent more time than community policing educating new officers on weapon skills and defensive tactics. Officers should be trained to be effective partners with their local communities through police academies and agencies worldwide that want to incorporate community policing. They can start by ensuring that new officers have the expertise and experience they need to engage community members effectively.
New Haven, Connecticut, attempted to do this by forcing all police academy recruits to perform community service and participate in a community initiative while attending the city’s police academy. According to a Police Foundation report, this initiative improved recruits’ familiarity with the city and altered their views of the areas they served.
After police leadership sets an example and departments offer appropriate instruction to their officers, they must implement departmental policies that strike the best balance between independence and transparency for all officers. To collaborate with community members and groups, patrol officers must be given the authority to make decisions and exercise discretion while also being given specific guidelines to be held accountable. This balance of control and responsibility has reflected itself in a less hierarchical monitoring system and expanded access to diversionary options and consistent departmental policies that enable officers to behave in the most appropriate way for their community and public safety.