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Analyzing the Police MissionsTerm Paper

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¶ … police officers should effectively carry out their constitutional mandate without unnecessarily causing harm upon those they are supposed to protect.

In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruling in Miranda vs. Arizona established standards or guidelines that are now known as Miranda rights; constitutional rights that a detained suspect must be informed of when being arrested (Annenberg Classroom - Speak Outs - What is the importance of the Miranda warning? 2013). The warning includes part of the Sixth Amendment (that the suspect has a right to a lawyer) and part of the Fifth Amendment (that the suspect is protected by law against self-incrimination). The Miranda rights could also be viewed as foundation of the duties of police officers and other law enforcement officials. Even though the verbiage used in oaths may vary in different jurisdictions in the United States, they all have one element in common; the protection of the United States constitution and the performance of duties with fidelity (Law Enforcement and the United States Constitution -- Utah State Trooper Magazine, 2013). Officers also swear to protect the constitution of their respective states. For example, the oath that law enforcement officers swear to in the state of Utah is found in Article IV, Section 10 of the state's constitution and it reads that the officer solemnly affirms that he will defend, support and obey the constitution of the country and that of his state and discharge the duties of his office with fidelity.

Law Enforcement Balance Efficacy

Law enforcement officers have various constitutional mandates, which include; maintenance of public peace, safety and order; detaining suspects; preventing criminal activity; and enforcing legislations. To successfully carry out these duties, police officers are given significant authority and power. However, to make sure that all officers exercise restraint in discharging their duties, all officers must first successfully pass a basic training course (Law Enforcement and the United States Constitution -- Utah State Trooper Magazine, 2013). Such training may entail learning how to safely perform the duties of a police officer; enhancing firearm handling skills, basic learning of the relevant laws; and also fitness exercises. It must be noted that training alone is not expected to make officers to exercise restraint. Upon the completion of basic training, all officers must then take the oath of office before being given a badge and a gun.

According to Roufa (2014), constitutional amendments have played a great role in ensuring that citizens are protected from government intrusions. Many of the amendments have affected how law enforcement agents engage with suspects. For instance, the Fifth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination. Though many people know the rights of a suspect, many are not aware of what happens when the tables are turned; when the officers are now the ones under investigation. In cases where officers are being investigated, many state constitutions specify that officers cannot give evidence to incriminate themselves. Though codified as the police officers bill of rights in those states, in other states it exists as policy, which can be used when conducting internal investigations. Still, in other states, the police officers bill of rights exists as part of collective bargaining contracts. Though the bill of rights exists in various forms across the country, it only serves one purpose, and that is to make sure that officers are treated ethically and fairly (Roufa, 2014).

Balance is of the utmost importance, especially for undercover law enforcement agents. The hiring and management of undercover employees poses a huge challenge to international, federal, state, and local police agencies. Undercover employees face unique stressors and situations that are different from those of other officers. Such situations place them in scenarios where they face increased threat of physical injury, psychological injury, disciplinary action and other dangerous professional or personal consequences. The increasing awareness of the physical and psychological hazards facing undercover law enforcement agencies has resulted in the discussion and the establishment of proactive rules and regulations to help protect undercover law enforcement agencies (Krause, 2008). Some police agencies have independent divisions dedicated to the recruitment, training, management and retention of undercover police officers. In many cases, supervisors are also assigned to protect the psychological and operational needs of the UCEs.

Law Enforcement Not Balancing Effectively

It is obvious that being a police officer is increasingly becoming a risky affair and that any other day in the life of an officer is a tough day. It is also unfortunately true that being a police officer is not a duty that can be easily handled by anyone. Although agencies try to train their officers to adhere to the ethics in the enforcement of their duties, individuals who are unethical may pass through the background checks and rigorous training, and end up serving as officers (Roufa, 2014). Even though most law enforcement officers are good hardworking individuals, it is obvious that there are some bad apples. That is the reason why almost every law enforcement agency has an internal investigations division so as to ensure that bad or unethical officers are quickly identified, disciplined and/or removed from the agency, if necessary.

One such investigation is the case of Garrity in which several officers were investigated for fixing traffic tickets. When the officers were called in for questioning, they were informed of their constitutional rights. They were told that anything that they said could be used against them in a court of law. And that they had a right not to answer questions that they thought could incriminate them. However, they were also warned that refusing to cooperate could result in them being fired. The officers cooperated with the internal investigators and they were eventually prosecuted and taken to jail for their offences. They then appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the prosecution used their own statements, which they were forced to give under the threat of being fired from their positions (Roufa, 2014). In Gardener vs. Broderick, law enforcement officers were being investigated in bribery claims. During the course of investigations, the officers were given immunity from prosecution if they gave statements, which they had to give to the grand jury or be sacked. They were also given waivers of immunity and told that they refused to waive that right, they would lose their jobs. Thus, it is easy to see that internal investigators have to tread carefully so as not to infringe on the rights of the officers being investigated or else the convictions could be overturned on appeal. This is important whether when the person being investigated is an officer or not. The officers' bill of rights, which emerged from the case of Garrity, ensures that law enforcement officers a given a fair and ethical treatment like everyone else.

Opinion

I think that changes have to be made to make sure that law enforcement is more balanced. More specifically, I think that better law enforcement standards or guidelines need to be drafted to make it easier for officers to balance things effectively (Writer Thoughts, n.d). The current situation has left many things open to interpretation. For instance, each year, in the city of New York, the police there stop and search thousands of people. During all these stops, the right of persons to be free from unwarranted intrusions by federal and state authorities conflicts the right of officers to detect crime and arrest suspects. Thus, drafting new regulations would help to make it clear, which between the two, takes precedence (Police Practices and Civil Rights in New York City, n.d).

Technology is also a key issue as well. Nowadays, thousands of technologies that capture, store or transmit identifying information and other kinds of data exist. Such technologies include cameras, smartphones, satellites, computers, tablets, email and other kinds of devices that have been used by governments to search, gather and store huge amounts of information for surveillance (Larkin, 2013). Collection of such information by law enforcement agencies presents a dilemma, in that, the public has to choose between ensuring that the law enforcement agencies are effective in their duties and maintaining their privacy. Thus, there is a need for proper definition of what material collected using advanced technologies can be presented in courts of law and what cannot. This is important so as to upgrade the current evidentiary rules and enable officers to have guideline of how to conduct themselves in discharging their duties.

For instance, Charles Katz was using a public telephone to gamble on sporting events. What he did not know is that the FBI had implanted a listening device on the booth and it later used the content captured by the listening device to prosecute Katz for breaking Federal gambling legislations (Larkin, 2013). However, when the case reached the Supreme Court, the court ruled that the federal government had violated Katz' privacy rights. The court reasoned that the Fourth Amendment protects personal privacy against different forms of government intrusion, but that the protections go beyond privacy rights.

References

(2013, September 17). Annenberg Classroom. Annenberg Classroom… [END OF PREVIEW]

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