Good Research Paper On United States Criminal Justice: The Police
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Crime, Police, Confidentiality, Discretion, Criminal Justice, Law, Stress, Training
The police are an important component of the United States Criminal Justice system. Contact with police is the only personal experience most people have with the criminal justice process. A majority of the people have never been to prisons, jails, or courthouses. Police roles involve working in unsafe, dangerous and hostile environments. In the United States Criminal Justice system, there exist many unresolved matters especially in matters related to policing. The unresolved issues impact greatly to the quality of life of the people and the safety of neighborhoods across the entire nation. It is fundamental that the issues are thoroughly discussed and long-lasting solutions to them formulated.
The first issue that still bogs the United States police is discretion. Discretion is an issue that remains controversial in the United States police. Discretion involves the police utilizing individual judgments in deciding what to do when faced with a situation. In limiting discretion, the police officers blatantly disregard the formal rules that are meant to guide decision-making. Police find themselves in many varied situations, and no list of procedures and policies can effectively guide them to make sound decisions. In some situations, the police will be expected to utilize their discretion in arriving at an appropriate decision. Some people believe that police discretion should be reduced significantly because in most times it results in an abuse of the individual judgment leading to police applying the law unequally especially in arresting suspects.
Moreover, reducing the discretion of police can lead to officers physically abusing citizens (Bohm, 2014). Elsewhere, there are those who argue that police discretion should not be limited at all. Those who advocate this strongly believe that equipping the police with better education and training will help them to utilize their discretion in the best manner possible. It is impossible for police officers to make arrests for all law violations because they don’t have enough resources to make this possible and they cannot be everywhere at all times. These situations make police exercise discretion in some policing functions that include patrol, domestic violence issues and racial profiling issues. The best way of dealing with the issue of discretion is supporting and increasing police discretion and this should be accompanied with educating and bettering police training to help them be proactive enough and empowered to use their judgments in arriving at decisions when in a particular situation (Walker and Katz, 2012). The emphasis in police education and training should be on allowing police officers to exercise their discretion in accordance with the nature of crimes, consideration of the nature of relationship between offender and victim, policies of departments, and finally the amount of available evidence.
Other factors that should guide police discretion include what the victim prefers, the suspect’s demeanor, the victim’s legitimacy, and the socio-economic status of an offender. The practice to be adopted in increasing police discretion but providing with education and training on the instances that can fully exercise their discretion. Currently, community policing is being widely advocated, and it is important to give officers with discretion and authority so as to able to make decisions that improve the lives of people. The underlying thing is that this police authority and discretion are exercised after a thorough examination of the matters at hand.
Another issue that faces the police service in the United States is the incessant job stress. Job stress refers to the harmful emotional and physical results whose occurrence is due to mismatch between a job requirements and the needs, capabilities and resources of the police officer (Bohm, 2014). The work of police officers carries the tag of being a stressful job, and a large number of officers suffer emotional and physical stress. The conditions that lead to stress among officers include long hours of work, dealing with dangerous situations or environments, lack of support from supervisors and co-workers, and conflicting job expectations (Bohm, 2014).
When stress takes a toll on an officer he or she will experience frequent headaches, lose concentration, be dissatisfied with their jobs, engage in drug and alcohol abuse, and be short-tempered. To help officers cope with stress in their jobs, it is crucial to give police more discretion to determine their working hours and shifts they will fit in comfortably. This will be promoted after making a consideration of the ability of the police agency to meet community workload requirements.
Moreover, the police structure should be redesigned to favor community policing since this will give officers the power to individually control their work hence lower their stress levels. Additionally, I will make sure that the police are provided with equipment to protect themselves from assault. The equipment will include high-grade body armor, dependable vehicles, and proper weapons. The provision of this equipment will be helpful in reducing stress among officers as most of their basic needs will have been met. Furthermore, I will arrange programs that involve mental health professionals offering psychological assistance to officers, organizing the availing of gym facilities to police officers to help them engage in regular exercise and thus relieve their stress levels. Finally, I will ensure that stress management classes are a compulsory component of police training, re-training and education.
Another issue that the police service is grappling with is the incessant use of physical force. Police brutality in the US includes harassment, verbal abuse, engagement in profanity and unnecessary stopping of pedestrians and questioning and searching them (Bohm, 2014). Excessive use of force or engagement in other brutalities is not expected and is against the law.
Moreover, it cannot be encouraged in the police service because it is unethical, goes against the civil liberties of citizens, and is considered a criminal offense (Hickman, 2006).
The police are expected to be responsible for their actions, and they should be individually answerable to criminal offenses they engage in. Dealing with this issue involves training police on elements of ethical conduct and formulating a code of conduct that they should subscribe to. Police who use exceedingly excess force than prescribed should be sued for their actions. Reprimanding or dismissal of the police officers involved will be the beginning point of countering police brutality. The citizens will be welcomed to report any instances of police brutality, and court cases can be launched against the officers involved. From the outset, use of excess force can be countered by dealing directly with the concerned officers and establishing the motives for their action.
Furthermore, police corruption is also another issue that the United States police service is grappling with. Police corruption involves officers buying their positions and even promotions, accepting money in order to ignore law violations, and accepting bribes in order to offer protection (Walker and Katz, 2012). To counter corruption in the police service, I pursue the creation of an internal anti-corruption unit that will be involved in conducting background checks on the police officers in an effort to weed out corruption among officers. The unit will be provided with requisite resources and it will be expected to be proactive and independent in its action. Officers found to have engaged in corruption will be prosecuted and will be expected to resign from the service.
Bohm, Robert M., & Keith A. Haley. (2014). Introduction to Criminal Justice (8th Edition). Boston: McGraw Hill.
Hickman, M. J. (2006). Citizen complaints about police use of force. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2012). Police in America. McGraw-Hill.