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History Of Policing

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Autor:  anton  08 December 2010
Tags:  History,  Policing
Words: 2610   |   Pages: 11
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Policing as we know it today has developed from various political, economic, and social forces. To better understand the role of police in United States society, one has to know the history of how policing became what it is today. The following paper discusses the views of the historical context of police which helps us better understand how political, economic, and social forces have shaped the social institution of policing.

First, in “The Evolving Strategy of Policing,” George Kelling and Mark Moore discuss the historical development of police strategy and design over three eras, which include the Political Era, Reform Era, and lastly the Community Problem-Solving Era. To begin with the Political Era, which encompassed roughly the years of 1840 to the early 1900s, where police were governed by local political leaders. Policing during this time was decentralized which opened the door for corruption through politics. Police departments were intimately connected to the social and political world. The tactics and technology during this time included foot patrols, call boxes where they were available. The lack of organizational control over officers resulting from decentralization and the political nature of police positions caused inefficiencies and disorganization. Also close relationships of citizens to the police resulted in discrimination against strangers and other who violated norms, ethnic minorities and racial groups.

Kelling and Moore also discuss the Reform Era, which encompassed the 1920s through the 1970s. There was a growing middle class during this time with growing industry and corporate bureaucracy. Criminal law and police professionalism were the bases of police legitimacy. During the Reform Era policing became more centralized and also the social distance between police and community also increased. Technology became more important with patrol cars and radios which helped to organize officers more efficiently. Police became more rationalized and less politicized and thus corruption decreased significantly.

Kelling and Moore describe the last and current Era of policing as the Community Problem Solving Era. This ranged from the end of the Reform Era (1970s) to the present police where they legitimatized by the law and of a community which is generally supportive of police. Policing now has become a little more decentralized in some aspects where, police need some discretion in their everyday duties. The community is much more involved with the police with community partnerships with police and also the police seek information from the community to address the needs of the public. Police moved back to more foot patrols in some areas, and tried to be problem solvers in the community. The emergence of 911 service and increased GPS technology help to organize police to address the need of the public.

As we see in Kelling and Moore’s piece, “The Evolving Strategy of Policing,” the historical development of police strategy and design has changed significantly over the Political Era, Reform Era, and the Community Problem Solving Era. Police department’s policy, strategy, and tactics changed due to changing power relations. Kelling and Moore also conclude that in order to have affective Community Problem Solving Policing you need to have a decentralized chain of command.

Secondly, in “The Evolving Strategy of Police: A Minority View,” Hubert Williams and Patrick Murphy take Kelling and Moore’s argument of the three Eras of policing and address race as an essential topic for understanding the history of police. Williams and Murphy present a review of how race contributed to the historical development of policing and how they continue to contribute to its future.

Williams and Murphy first address the Political Era which they call policing the powerless, where the first version of police power in America was used to control race riots. The use of slave patrols and other police instruments of racial oppression, as well as laws that were racially biased were common in the Political Era. Throughout the first 150 years of policing, power was used to control, repress, and prevent racial minorities from enjoying their civil liberties. Early American police were expected and empowered to carry out the most racial discriminatory acts to maintain control. Racial minorities had little to none political power or legal standing during the Political Era. There were no black police officers until the twentieth century. Thus, police attention to, and protection for, areas that racial minorities occupied was rare in this era.

Williams and Murphy then address the Reform Era of policing which they call policing by the law for those unprotected by it, where they describe how the Civil War and Reconstruction led to a change in the legal and political status of minorities. Some minorities were beginning to become police officers and gaining political strength. After the court ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1986), police departments didn’t have to hire blacks or minorities. Some departments required literacy criteria, education, past crime history, and location as basis of hiring new officers and a lot of black or minority police officers lost their positions. The change from the political era where blacks and other minorities lacked political power, to the reform era, in which they lacked the support of the law, meant that there was little support for blacks and other minorities to gain ground in policing, and to help lessen some racial disparities that still remained.

Williams and Murphy finally address the Community Problem Solving Era which they call policing disintegrating communities, which meant where police do community policing is not necessarily needed. Police integrated community problem solving policing in areas where they were supported and not in the areas of high crime, low income neighborhoods where they were not supported as much. The community problem solving policing needed to be focused there first and then branch outwards from there. Williams and Murphy welcome the Community Problem Solving Era but realize the prior historical representation of police in the inner cities and the inability of police to relate to those neighborhoods that require the most attention into a transition into the community era, will most likely be the last to experience such a change. Williams and Murphy believe that community policing can benefit from African-American police executives who drive values, constitutional rights, and the protection of all citizen into their police force which will help improve the relationship between the police and minorities.

Thirdly, in “Policing the Ghetto Underclass: the Politics of Law and Law Enforcement,” William Chamblis addresses the concern with how race affects policing in the community, particularly the crime control tactic of zoning when dealing with black areas. Chamblis believes that the role of police and their strategies are shaped by historical, political, economic, social , and racial factors. Chamblis firmly believes that the police should not break the law to uphold the law. Chamblis also states that as analysis of crime rates reveal that despite the propaganda of law enforcement agencies and the impression made by the media, the crime rate in the United States has not changed dramatically in the last 20 years. By this Chamblis means that law enforcement agencies control the information available about crime and have the power to manipulate the data to serve their purposes. This manipulation also involves the media which contributed its part to the creation of a moral panic and young black males have paid the price of that through intense police surveillance, imprisonment, and racism.

A police officer’s career and even his annual income in some cases are determined by the number of what Chamblis calls “good collars,” which is an arrest for what is defined as a serious violation of the law that results in a conviction. Chamblis specifically goes into saying that arrests made of white middle class offenders are guaranteed to cause the organization and the arresting officers straining, as people with political influence and money hire attorneys for their defense. Arrest of poor black men, however, create only rewards for the organization and the officer because the cases are dealt with quickly, and guilty pleas are usually established because poor black people cannot afford as good of defense as white middle class can. Police departments reward an officer whose behavior maximize rewards and minimizes strains for the department.

To conclude Chamblis thoughts is that problems of racism in policing is still alive and well in police departments today. Through examples of the Rapid Deployment Unit in Washington D.C., provides insight of how police are involved in more than just crime control particularly in urban ghettos that are high in poverty and minorities. Chamblis believes that the role of police moves from more of a crime control model to a social control model and he stresses the fact that the police should not break the law to uphold the law.

Fourthly, in “A Political Economy of Community Policing,” David Barlow and Meissa Barlow, discuss that the entire historical development of police from the slave patrols in the 1700s to the implementation of community policing in major cities in the 1990s, can be explained through police not as crime fighters, but as defenders of the status quo. They describe police through a historical analysis of the changing political, economic, and social conditions into four different reformations of police.

Barlow and Barlow first describe pre-industrial police where power relations and racial and economic inequality shaped policing politics in the United States. Police departments were publicly funded and developed in the South to preserve the racist social order and maintain slavery. The police historically have played a major role in maintaining social order and preserving a status quo characterized by inequality, injustice, and racism. Historically maintaining the social order is repressive to those on the bottom and very beneficial to those at the top. This pattern of policing to maintain the social order continued on into organized police departments in the North and Midwest, where the population was not African-American but there were almost equal number of free poor immigrants that filled these areas.

Barlow and Barlow then describe the industrial police where the majority of police efforts were concentrated on serving industry. Police were needed to create social conditions that would be good for industry. Order maintenance by police was based on the needs of the industrial class. The first bureaucratically organized, public salaried police departments emerged in this context. Early police agencies maintained the social order by regulating and suppressing the activities of free Blacks living in urban areas. Blacks were under-policed in terms of receiving protection, and over-policed in terms of arrest for victimless crimes. Overall police during this time was serving the industry elites, suppressing the minorities, and ensuring the dominant political party would stay in office.

Barlow and Barlow continue to describe the transformation from industrial police to modern police as the dominant form of policing between 1870s and 1920s. There was a new emergence of a strong and increasingly wealthy middle class from the booming industry and this middle class started to compete for power. Society began to see the police as incompetent, brutal, and corrupt and they did not think they needed to listen to them because of it. There was a crisis in legitimacy in police departments and the solution was that police became more professionalized and began using many social reforms. Police departments became more centralized and professionalized as a response to the threat of social revolution, declining profits, and a crisis of legitimacy of policing. The reforms that took place during this time were used to make the police more efficient and effective crime fighters.

Barlow and Barlow lastly comment on postmodern policing which began during the 1960s during confrontations between police and social activists. Police moved toward community police and being problem solvers, however this was not effective at decreasing crime, but it did help to decrease fear. The civil rights movement and Vietnam War exposed inequality and injustice in social control among African Americans. Police failed to control the disorder of some of these huge civil rights movements and their initial reaction was for the police to increase professionalism and militarization. Policing also became more decentralized and for the police to identify and solve problems in the community, it was necessary for the police and the public to become much more connected. This was the start of community relations programs that were developed in order to decrease the separation between police and community.

Barlow and Barlow conclude that throughout the history of policing in the United States, the primary role of police did not change and that was to maintain social order. The pre-industrial police preserved social order based upon the institution of slavery. Police sought to control African Americans because they were the greatest threat to the social order. During industrial policing the political economy was booming and policing role to maintain social order was primarily in the North because the greatest threat to the social order were immigrants and free African-Americans. The transformation to the modern police played a critical role in preventing labor movements from altering the social order and its current power relations. Finally during the beginning of postmodern policing threats to the social order became the African-Americans with the civil rights movement. The police struggled to control the disorder so they moved to community policing, in hopes to gain legitimacy among African-Americans to gain their support and assistance in the control of their own people.

Throughout these four articles there are some striking comparisons and complex differences between them. First and foremost was the difference in Williams and Murphy’s article compared to Kelling and Moore’s ideas of the history of police, because Kelling and Moore do not include race as an essential piece for understanding the history of police. Although they look at the same events in history (the political era, reform era, and the community problem solving era) Williams and Murphy’s article is different because Kelling and Moore do not address how large of an impact slavery, segregation, discrimination, and racism has had on the development of policing and how this have affect policing in minority communities.

Next Chamblis also includes the idea of racism in the history of police that Kelling and Moore do not address. More specifically however, Chamblis states that the role of police is not to fight crime, but appears to be more of a social control role. Chamblis also states that Williams and Murphy address racism in a historical context, but Chamblis believes racism is abundant in police departments today. However Chamblis, Kelling and Moore, and Williams and Murphy all agree that the role of police and their strategies are shaped by many different factors including historical, political, economic, social, and racial factors (excluding Kelling and Moore.)

Barlow and Barlow take Chamblis’ idea of police departments moving away from crime control to social control a step further by saying that ever since the beginning of the history of police, police have moved from being crime fighters, but as defenders of the status quo. Compared to Kelling and Murphy however, Barlow and Barlow believe that policing has a narrow focus on the socially powerful. Barlow and Barlow say power relations, racial, and economic inequality shaped policing, and as we saw in the different eras that Kelling and Moore address changing power relations changed differences in legitimacy and social control. All four authors take into an account of the historical analysis of police through looking at social, political, and economic conditions. Another similarity found in the articles is that they are all looking forward towards the community problem solving policing. Although Barlow and Barlow and Chamblis might believe that even though it is good, that police across the nation need to address the issue of race in their strategy and specific role for it to have a positive impact and be address in the right geographic areas.

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