Improving Police-Community Relations in the USA

Improving Police-Community Relations in the USA

Marty Allen Hatfield
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6884-2.ch003
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To prevent and control crime using the community-oriented policing model, law enforcement agencies must develop positive relationships and partnerships with the communities they serve. Unfortunately, several obstacles impede the development and maintenance of police-community partnerships, particularly excessive force and other forms of misconduct, and negative coverage of law enforcement by the media. To restore public trust in the police, agencies must implement competency-based interviews and assessments during the hiring process; develop a recruitment plan to attract more diverse applicants; provide regular crisis intervention, de-escalation, and implicit bias training to all officers; and evaluate and make any necessary improvements to existing use-of-force and disciplinary policies. Future research should continue to evaluate the impact of community policing on crime rates, the impact of body-worn cameras on misconduct, and the correlation between higher education and misconduct.
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A Brief History Of Law Enforcement

One of the earliest formal policing models can be traced to London in 1829 (Walsh & Vito, 2019). The English Parliament introduced and passed the Metropolitan Police Act, creating the first full-time, uniformed law enforcement agency consisting of approximately 3,000 officers (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Sir Robert Peel, who was serving as the Home Secretary of England during this time, was responsible for the administration and oversight of the new agency (Walsh & Vito, 2019). The mission and operational standards of the new agency were outlined in Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement, which were issued to all incoming police officers (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Several of these principles focused on the relationship between police officers and the communities they served. For example, Peel argued that the ability of police officers to successfully perform their jobs was dependent upon public approval of their actions and behaviors (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Similarly, Peel asserted that law enforcement agencies must secure and maintain the trust of community members to maintain public safety (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Furthermore, officers must constantly demonstrate absolute impartiality when enforcing the law and dealing with the public to secure public approval, respect, and cooperation (Walsh & Vito, 2019).

In the early 19th century, several factors created social disorder and fear among citizens, prompting the creation of America’s earliest police agencies in New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Kansas City, and St. Louis (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Policing in the U.S. can be broken into four primary phases. The first phase, known as the political era of policing, began in the 1840s and lasted until the beginning of the 20th century (Walsh & Vito, 2019). During the political era, police departments were controlled by local political entities and focused heavily on maintaining public order through a watchman style of policing (Walsh & Vito, 2019). However, beginning in the early 20th century, police administrators sought to increase the professionalization of the police by eliminating political control and corruption (Walsh & Vito, 2019). This marked the beginning of the reform era of policing. During this period, reformers and administrators advocated for: 1) the elimination of political interference; 2) clearly defined duties and responsibilities; 3) constant supervision of officers and administrators; 4) strong executive leadership; 5) comprehensive training for officers; and 6) selection of officers based on merit and qualifications (Walsh & Vito, 2019). Police tactics during the reform era focused heavily on random motorized patrols, response to calls for service, after-the-occurrence crime investigations, and other reactive measures. In addition, a hierarchical structure defined by rank, policy, standards, and the specialization of tasks was introduced (Walsh & Vito, 2019). This hierarchy is still prevalent in most contemporary law enforcement agencies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Broken Windows Theory: A criminological theory that asserts that signs of crime and disorder create an environment that fosters additional crime and disorder.

Rotten Barrel Theory: A theory of police corruption that argues that misconduct is widespread in an agency, department, and/or unit due to weak and ineffective policies and practices that promote misconduct.

Rotten Apple Theory: A theory of police corruption that argues that brutality and other forms of misconduct are perpetrated by a small number of isolated individuals within a department or unit who are able to evade detection during the recruiting, screening, and hiring process.

Ferguson Effect: An increase in crime rates due to community members’ distrust and hostility toward police, caused by corruption, misconduct, and excessive negative coverage of law enforcement by the media.

Collective Efficacy: The ability of community members to control the behavior of other individuals within the community.

Social Disorganization Theory: A criminological theory that postulates those factors of social disorganization, including low socioeconomic status, racial heterogeneity, unemployment, and deteriorating infrastructures, increase criminal behavior.

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