Community Policing & law

Community Policing is a law enforcement philosophy which serves as an effective solution to the rising crime rate.  It is often considered as a deviation from the traditional methods of crime fighting where the law enforcement officers take the initiative to get down from their pedestal and become an important member of the community.  It is defined by the US Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) as “any policing aimed more at crime prevention than on chasing and catching bad guys; those tactics can include working with the community, decentralizing command, or simply increasing the number of beat police officers in a community.” (Policing)

Community Policing involves various programs which include the police officers going out of the local precincts and interacting with their community more.  It involves improving relationship with the members of the community by interacting with them, helping them deal with their problems and finding solutions to their problems.  It focuses on preventing crime by encouraging people to closely interact with police officers.

The idea is by attempting to cultivate the feeling of trust and confidence with the people, prevention of crime is easier since no person would dare commit a crime considering that the police are just within the vicinity.   It also seeks to improve the public’s negative perception against local police officers by improving their knowledge of what a police officer does day in and day it.  It has been reported that there is a dramatic change in crime rate in communities where community policing is being applied.

Because of the impact of community policing in reducing crime rate, there are people who are pushing for its implementation in other parts of the country.  As the United States struggles to fight against domestic and international terrorism, Community Policing may serve as an effective weapon against terrorists.

 Contrary to what people watch in films and movies where all cases proceed to trial, there is a substantial number of cases which are filed in court but are not heard by judges or by a jury.  These are cases which are immediately resolved by plea bargaining.  Plea bargaining is essentially an agreement between the prosecutor and the accused in which the accused pleads guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence or a reduced charge. It is said that despite the rights granted under the US Constitution in favor of the accused – right to be presumed innocent until guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt; right to be tried by a jury; and the right to an impartial judge – only ten percent (10%) of the accused gets to avail of his rights under the law (“Is Plea Bargaining a Cop-Out” 1978, p.1).

One of the more celebrated cases that ended in plea bargaining is the case against John Walker Lindh, also known as “the American Taleban.”  In 2002, Lindh pled guilty to two charges that he aided Taliban and carried explosives for which he was sentenced to two consecutive ten-year prison sentences (“Plea Bargain” 2002, p.1).  As a condition, the other charges against him were dropped.  The accused had every reason to agree to a plea bargaining in view of the possibility that he may be sentenced to a longer sentence considering the number of the charges against him and the decisiveness of the prosecution in pursuing this case.

Thus, if a defendant feels that the prosecution has strong evidence against him and that there is the possibility that he may lose the case, plea bargaining is a strong option.  On the other hand, for the prosecution plea bargaining ensures conviction against the accused and guarantees speedy disposition of cases.  They merely have to make it appear to the accused that they have an air-tight case against him and that they have all the evidence.

One of the criticisms against the defendant is that in agreeing to plea bargaining he is thereby deprived of his right to be heard in court and to present evidence.  Secondly, the plea bargaining may be abused by the prosecution as the accused is forced in a situation where he is forced to guess whether the prosecution has evidence against him.  Under pressure from threat of conviction of a heavier penalty, the accused may be forced to admit his guilt over something that he may not have committed.

The Uniform Crime Reports is one of the three major sources of gathering data on crimes and victimization.  The other two are the International Crime Victim Survey (ICVS) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  It gathers monthly information from law enforcement reports or individual crime incidents records that individuals transmit directly to the FBI and to other agencies that report to FBI.  The purpose of the gathering of data and information is to make crime and victimization data available to the law enforcement agencies for purpose of legislation and planning.

The idea of a Uniform Crime Reporting Program conceived as early as 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  At that time, there was yet no uniform and reliable crime statistics which could be helpful in passing laws.  Thus, 1930, the FBI was assigned to collect, publish and archive the statistics relating to crime.

For example, according to the FBI, Uniform Crime Reports for 2003, “from 2002 to 2003 violent crime in the US decreased by 3.2% and property crime fell by 0.1%. In the violent crime category, robberies and forcible rape both fell by 1.9% while murder decreased by 1.3%.  Aggravated assault declined by 4.1%.  As for property crimes for 2003, burglary increased by 0.4%, motor vehicle theft was up 1.4% and larceny-theft fell 0.5%.  Reports of arson decreased by 6.9%” (“Uniform Crime Reports for 2003”, p.1).

Bibliographies

“Is Plea Bargaining a Cop-Out.”  (1978).  Time.com.  Retrieved 15 January 2009, from:

            http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,916340-1,00.html

“Plea Bargain.” (2002).  PBS Online.  Retrieved 15 January 2009, from:   http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec02/plea1_7-15.html

“Policing” (1999).  Columbia Journalism Review.  Retrieved 16 January 2009, from: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:54255861&num=13&ctrlInfo=Round20%3AProd%3ASR%3AResult&ao=&FreePremium=BOTH&tab=lib

“Uniform Crime Reports for 2003.”  The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2005.  Retrieved 15         January 2009, from: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-106629614.html