Develop an Affirmative Program Designed to Reduce Citizens Complaints Essay

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Reducing Citizen Complaints

A growing body of evidence suggests that in any police department a small percentage of officers are responsible for a disproportionate share of citizen complaints. Develop an affirmative action program designed to reduce citizen complaints. Discuss affirmative steps that a department may take to train and monitor officers' conduct that tend to produce citizen complaints. Include discussions on the legal and personnel implications of your proposed program.

Psychologists have proven that it is often a part of human nature that when humans are given more authority, sometimes they act excessively with that authority and go beyond the normal, accepted morality of a situation to become more brutal and violent. Witness many rather mild-mannered German officials who, during the advent of Nazism, became more fervent in their psychological lust for power that they were able to assist in atrocities and behavior that would have been anathema to them in a different situation (Smith, 2003). Likely, like the idea of excessive force within law enforcement, there are three major factors that contribute to the use of such force: the emotionality of the situation itself, the perceived permission of the authoritative figures, and the officer's own background, innate personality and prejudice regarding the situation.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Essay on Develop an Affirmative Program Designed to Reduce Citizens Complaints Assignment

Each situation is different for a law enforcement officer. They do not know if a simple traffic infraction has a deeper issue (e.g. The perpetrator is unstable, hiding contraband, etc.); they do not know what, if any, weapons and intent a group of rioters might have; they do not know if a person with a hostage is willing to kill; they do not know what motives, armament, and/or actions/reactions they might expect in any situation. Additionally, it is a tough judgment call to decide what constitutes excessive force without being in that situation oneself. Certainly, three officers using clubs on a 120 pound young female might seem excessive, while those same officers dealing with a 250 pound weight lifter on an unknown substance might seem more prudent. The officer's ability to uphold the law and protect themselves, too, is often at odds; witness the events during the historic Kent State Riots (Ohio History, 2008).

In each society, chronologically as well as geographically/politically, there is a different level of permissiveness and tolerance for actions. A raid on a factory producing illicit drugs would have quite a different perceived threat than someone who jaywalks; someone who is bent on harming others (driving drunk, wielding a weapon, etc.) would be different than someone who shoplifts from a grocery store because they are hungry. and, despite the idea of what constitutes excessive force, one must ask, "if my loved on was being held hostage by a group of bank robbers, what would constitute the necessary force to retrieve them safely." Anyone can excel at being an arm-chair quarterback after the fact, and while it is certainly true that there have been documented cases of excessive force, one must also weigh the orders and societal permission (tacit though it may be) of the officers responding to an event (Montgomery, 2005).

Since individual officers are just that -- individuals, training is important to establish a rule of caution and law for the group as a whole. Because of those differences, however, each person will react to a situation in a different manner: one officer might be appalled by the mistreatment of an animal, discarded on a roadway from an open moving car, another might have less emotion invested in that sort of incident. However, this is where training and strict guidelines and open communication from superiors is most critical -- the officer needs to know what the definition of force is and what his/her superiors deem appropriate action in various situations -- then temper that with the reality of the law, and of the individual situation to act accordingly (Montgomery). There is a problem reporting statistical accuracy in the level of excessive force. One certainly remembers the vast media coverage of the Rodney King incident (Liebovitch, 1998), but many citizens are reluctant to come forward with complains about the police department. In one study, however, of approximately 26,500 complaints against a representative 60% of officers (major police forces in larger urban areas), less than 10% of those complaints were shown to have merit (Hickman, 2006). and, while the Justice Department does compile statistics on excessive force, the interpretation of such issues is likely to be tried more in the contemporary media than the judicial system. Conversely, there are several independent "watchdog" groups that are active in reporting, and hopefully preventing, excessive brutality and acting as a check and balance to excessive force (See: Amnesty International, Bureau of Justice Statistics, American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch).

The Philosophy of Policing - There have been many changes in the philosophy of policing over the last 3-4 decades, most especially within the United States. Since 1968, in fact, with the historic issues at Kent State and the Chicago Democratic Convention, questions have been asked about use of force, rights-based policing, and several models of appropriate policing and community involvement at multiple levels (Russell 2005). A philosophy called "Rights-based policing" has, in fact, been endorsed by institutions like the Red Cross and Amnesty International. This philosophy posits that all police-based activity should be tempered with an overall view towards compassion, protection of Constitutional rights, and the basic idea that humans deserve to be treated in a kind and respectful manner. As a strong component, it encourages community and Police oversight into the implementation of the day-to-day activities and needs of the police force. While much of the egregiousness and over-extension of police authority have occurred outside the United States, the concept of putting human rights to the forefront when dealing with police issues (e.g. less force, more dialog, planning rather than reacting) are important parts of the law enforcement mix (Williamson 2008).

A utilitarian model, in contrast, focuses more on the punishment, for example, the length of incarceration as a way to maximize the safety of society. The manner in which this utilitarian approach to the public manifests itself is, as might be expected, more in line with a view of how to pacify the majority (society) without as much thought to the actual rights of the criminal (minority). However, this view, espoused by John Stuart Mill in the late 1800s, does focus on consequences -- if one commits a crime, there are consequences to that action, and therefore, crime may be prevented by the idea of fear for the punishment, a deterrent system based on consequences (Lee 2007). Within law enforcement, however, it is often necessary to use deception (e.g. undercover agents, plants, etc.) and more invasive investigation techniques. Within the context of the two models discussed above, though, the very idea of deception is anti-rights based -- perhaps even going so far as seeming to be entrapment. For the utilitarianism, though, the ends justify the means within reason. The greater good of society is being served by protecting the innocent from the criminal, and if techniques need to be utilized that are legal but not necessarily moral, then society is still better served (Orsagh 1985).

Thus, one must ask the seminal question about policing in the contemporary world: is it a unit of societal force and control or is it a public service organization designed to assist society in meeting its goals, or, is it both depending on the individual and unique situation? Because of the broad nature of this topic, we will confine this essay to policing in the United States in which the major paradigm of policing is the power to enforce law, protect property, and reduce civil disorder. This broad definition, though, takes on very different meanings when one compares situations such as the aftermath of 9/11, an angry riot, or assisting crowd control at a local high school sporting event. To assess the differences and the role within contemporary society, we can examine the police paradigm from a sociological standpoint to infer motivation, cultural disposition, and societal expectations.

Sociological Aspects of Policing - in contemporary society, a police office is a bonded and warranted employee of a law enforcement organization, be it a local, regional, or state police force; a federal law agency, or a more specific correctional facility or other law enforcement organization. The specific reason society has law enforcement is that groups of people living together do not always exist in harmony, and it is the job of the police officer to maintain public order, prevent and detect criminal activity, apprehend criminals, collect evidence, and see that the due process of law is followed within their given duty range. Under the rubric of the Western democracies, the major role of the police force is to keep order and discourage crime. Their organization is also asked to assist with emergency and disaster services, emergency medical situations, and to assist citizens in need. The duties of a police officer vary so dramatically, that the safety and internal culture… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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