Sociology Of The Police Essay, Research Paper
May 13, 2000
Sociology of the Police
In today’s society the police, play may roles. They are the peacekeepers, law enforcement and many other jobs. However, recently they have become the subject of a very heated and large debate. Many believe that the police should give up their brute type tactics for a more civilized and humanized approach, while others feel that the police should crack down on the most insignificant of offences to type and disparage crimes that are more serious. In this paper, we will be analyzing both sides of this issue, from the look of the police administration to the public’s view of it. When we mention today’s police force we will be using the New York City police force as are basis of comparison, because they seem to have the biggest public arena of discussion.
To deeply under stand the issues surrounding the police one as to look at how the police has become what it is today. At the beginning of modern civilization, there was no such thing as the police as we know it today. There was no concept of society and therefore no concept of right and wrong. Justice was the ability of one man’s ability to defend himself. If one man sought to acquire another man wife then all he did was kill off the first man and take her for himself. In today’s modern society, these types of actions are unheard of. In this time and place, this was the unwritten law, survival of the fittest. As humans progress further they started forming tribes and small bands and society was born.
In the late 15th and 16th century a period known as the enlightenment was happening. One of the ideas that came from the enlightenment was the idea of a social contract. This theory explained what happened when those uncivilized, unorganized groups of men became a society. The theory says that in order for a society to work individuals have to give up the inherited right of self-government (i.e. The ability to do as they saw fit). They had to give those rights to a ruling body (i.e. the government). Then the ruling body then took on the responsibility of defending they right s of the people and deciding what was right and wrong.
Over many years the idea of a policing body took many forms. In many societies they were just a group of hired men that served a particular person, needless to say they were not acting in the best interest of society. Usually these groups were made up of workless men whose only ability was his strength. As more years role by the policing body adopted a more sociological or philosophical approach. These tactics included using the people themselves to police them selves. An example of this would be in early china where the people were expected to report on the neighbors and families for crimes committed against the state and ruling body. The idea behind this was to instill fear and unknowingness in the public to give the ruling body an upper hand. In other societies instead of punishing the wrong doer for a criminal action the ruling body would punish the families of the wrong doer. This would created a society that one would prevent crime on the idea f not wanting to harm one’s family and two would created a society that would turn in a brother or neighbor to prevent harm done on one’s self for another’s actions. This would free up the government to deal with other matters.
In the early 18th and 19th centuries the idea of crime control and regulation became the big thing. The idea of controlling the criminal class with bribes and suspicion of other criminal entities was the way the government hoped to put a leash on crime. So, we come to the police as we see it today, it is important to note that this is only a quick synopsis of the history of the police, to go into detail of the history of the police would take a long time.
Today one of the largest topics of the police debate is; does the police pick on the minorities as a center for crime. To further this idea does the police use excessive measures in fighting crime. The police New York City police have applied the idea of broken windows, which is the idea of fixing communities little problems before tackling the large ones. However, feel that the NYPD has taking it to far and has to re-define their methods. In an article with Prof. George Kelling (also the creator of Broken Windows) entitled “Fixing Broken Windows” he tries to show that the NYPD have to give officers training and guidance that will enable them to deal with the small problems. He also says that the police have to learn that that their behavior must reflect their positions. In short what Kelling is trying to do is show that the police have to understand that depending on their actions is what is going to stimulate the community as a whole.
Many in the public believe that the police are using tactics that are far too severe for the type of crimes committed. Also believe that the police use a class based policing police that pits the minority against the policing agents. If by making the precedent that all minorities have a higher crime rate compared to the rest of society therefore we as a policing body have to act much more harsher in order to control it. Those among the minorities are outraged because they are treated harsher then the majority. The scene is all too common, a black man is arrested fro the same thing as a white man, however the Black man gets 6 months in jail and the white man gets a month or two. Or the policeman sees a black man walking around a white neighborhood late at night and arrests him for prowling, when t is discovered that he lives in the neighborhood the man must wait hours to get through red tape.
The public and others believe that the police have to take amore active role in the communities. Instead of arresting everyone that looks like they are breaking the law, why not get to know those people and see what issues cause such behavior and then act on that information. Many believe that the tactics used by the police are indirectly causing the problems. If the police would actually treat all ethnicities equal then a lot of the problems, many believe, would vanish.
The police however, feel that their tactics and ability to run things has brought crime to an all time low (NYPD reports). According to the administration of New York crime is at an all time low, with all types of crimes down. They saw that this is due with the zero tolerance and broken windows approach. They believe that the presence of more street cops and patrol units has led to the dramatic decline in the crime rate. In “Mapping Change” by Eli Silverman, the contention is that the police in order to provide the adequate control have to change their ways, and due to the new rules and regulations imposed by the NYPD has led to the all time low in crime. Silverman says that there are three major themes to be concerned with. The first is that traditional police practices have little affect on crime when based on economic and social factors. Secondly the police units have to change their way of doing things to a much more productive. Finally, they need to leave the politics behind. These three themes are known as the Conspicuous Absentees. What the NYPD did in addressing the 2nd and 3rd theme was to change their organizational way of doing things. The NYPD also started sharing information from one department to another giving all aspects of the law enforcement agency more information to work with, since before this time was restricted to information gathered by that particular group. They have also started with a new philosophy, it is better to crowd the jails with a small time offenders for a weekend the n to have them crowed for long periods of time with heavy offenders. They believe that by nipping the problem before they start they believe that they can cause people to understand what behavior is accepted and what behavior is not. They say that they have increased police attention to troubled neighborhoods in accordance with the idea of fixing broken windows. The NYPD believe that these tactics that they have now adopted along with the supporting legislation have led to the overwhelming drop in the crime rate, particular to New York City.
Many however do not believe that the new police tactics or the new crime prevention legislation have anything to do with the fall in the crime rate. In an article by Andrew Karmen, Karmen posses that the correlation between the crime rate falling and the police force are weak at best. He says that there is no direct pattern or trend in the relationship of the crime rate and new police techniques. An example he gives is the clearance sales or the solved crimes statistic used in murder cases. The trend is that as more murders are solved the committed murders go down, and visa versa, however according to the statistics this doesn’t hold true for past numbers when the solved murders went down and murders themselves went down. Another example that Karmen brings is the drop in visible murders or crimes, crimes that are committed in an area where a cop on foot or in a patrol car can see. According to the NYPD, crimes in the areas that are covered by cops have fallen dramatically also leading to a drop in the amount of non-visible crimes. However, Karmen states that this comparison is weak at best because the pattern doesn’t always fit. He uses the example that even though the amount of crimes went down the amount of time for the police to respond to went up also, so this would led most to believe that another variable was causing the crime to go down. One of the NYPD’s prize statistics is that the amount of crimes committed with fire arms have plummeted, due to the fact that the amount of misdemeanor crimes arrests have gone up. The idea is that if those that carry guns are afraid to carry them do to the fact that they may be searched at a routine police stop. If they are afraid to carry guns due to the possibility of a small infraction then they will not possess the means to commit a more serious offense. Again, however, Karmen puts forth that the drop in crime rate is not due entirely by the actions and policies of the police department because again the trend doesn’t hold true for all years that the statistic was recorded. What Karmen is trying to say is not that the new techniques of the police department do not play a role in bring down the crime, what he is saying is that they are not the only thing that is contributing to it, there are other variables at play.
In conclusion is it better for the police to use a more tactful approach to controlling crime even though it may in some ways cause innocent citizens undue headache and frustration. Is there a basis for the police using class and ethnic policing as a viable way control crime? We may say that this is unfair and a type of racism. Or do we say that the majority of crime comes out of the lower income and ethnic minority communities. If that is the fact of the matter then shouldn’t we then help to improve those environments.
It appears that in our modern society that we are to caught up in telling people what they are doing wrong then telling them how to fix them. Even today particularly in New York, with the crime rate at an all time low it appears that the police and the legislative bodes are more inclined to throw people in jail then to help them to see why they are doing what they are doing. The police have to start to make a more active role in the communities around them. That is what they are paid to be, a protector of the community not an overseer, they serve the people of that society that has placed them in that position.
People must understand that a police office is just a man and capable of making mistakes. A police officer must place his life on the line in order to protect others. We all must give them the respect that person who is willing to defend others.