In the United States, policing agencies at all levels participate in various activities and operations. Responsibility, naming, function, authority, and jurisdictions vary at local, state, and federal levels of law enforcement. Although there is little uniformity among them—and the relationships between them need to improve—these agencies face the same dangers, use similar weapons and technology, and geared toward the same future of law enforcement. The Dangers of policing Police officers are frequently faced with danger; it is part of the job description.
Physical harm is one of the greatest dangers for police officers. An officer could be assaulted or attacked by an armed criminal at any time. A lack of adequate back up is another danger for police officers. Although a police officer should not pursue any situation in which he or she is widely outnumbered, and without back up, this is always a possibility. At times, an officer will offer to transport someone who is experiencing car trouble; police never know when a person will try to attack. Physical harm and death are not the only dangers of policing.
Stress-related illness and personal-life turmoil are also realistic dangers of police work. Demanding jobs may take a serious toll on an officer’s life and health, if safety and stress are not managed properly (Walker & Katz, 2008). September 11, 2001 brought another realistic danger of policing to the surface. In the past nine years, the federal government has taken precautionary measures toward responding to terrorist threats and attacks. However, local law enforcement agencies must work to prepare their communities for future terrorism.
Local police departments must manage community fear associated with terrorism, develop preventative strategies against terrorism, and respond to terrorist threats and attacks. Most local policing agencies within the United States have been working diligently to plan for, prevent, and reduce citizen fear of terrorism. To maximize resource potential in an instance of terrorism, law enforcement officials are developing strategies, procedures, and practices for public security. Nevertheless, terrorism is always a danger for police officers (Eck, 2001).
As the United States approach the future, police dangers should help law enforcement take extra precautionary measures toward safety. Better training, improved safety equipment, advancements in emergency medical care, and the development of cutting-edge proactive body armor are essential to the improvement of safety for future law enforcement officials. Although predicting an individual’s behavior is nearly impossible, police will be more secure after gaining experience in new and better training; developing and implementing better emergency and safety equipment will also assist police in maintaining their safety.
The best way to improve safety is through preparation (PoliceOne. com, 2010). Less Than Lethal Weapons Quite frequently, law enforcement officers are faced with controlling perpetrators. Situations in which perpetrators are not armed, non-lethal weapons are often used by police. Non-lethal weapons may include shock devices, chemical agents, directed energy beams, sensory controllers, and other weapons that focus more on control, and less on impact. Mater Instructor Sergeant Kevin Orcutt recently developed the Orcutt Police Nunchaku (OPN III).
Differing from traditional nun chucks, the non-lethal OPN III device was designed to control unarmed criminals, without breaking their bones (Orcutt Police Defensive Systems, Inc. , 2010). Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Pepper spray is another non-lethal chemical agent used by police to inhibit criminal behavior. This agent does not cause permanent damage, but officers must be in close contact with the perpetrator to use this chemical agent (Martinelli & Associates, 2010). Situations in which law enforcement should not be in close contact with a criminal, PepperBall Systems are a non-lethal source of control.
Similar to pepper spray, these fragile plastic balls contain PAVA pepper (Capsaicin II), which is an effective super-irritant. By using high-pressure air, the fragile balls may be launched accurately toward a target within 60 feet. Upon impact the ball breaks—releasing PAVA pepper. This will provide area saturation within a 200-foor range (PepperBall Non-Lethal Defense Systems, 2010). A common non-lethal shock device used by police is a taser. Tasers are designed to incapacitate a perpetrator briefly. From a distance, police can use a taser to piece through armor, rendering criminals defenseless. Technology Used in Policing
In recent years, technological advances in communication and information sharing have affected police operations. Information Technology is used widely throughout policing agencies. Some examples of useful technology include the Internet, cellular phones, and mobile computers. The Internet is a useful tool for conveying information to the public. While in the field, police officers use cellular phones to communicate with others. Police may also use mobile computers for quickly retrieving information as it is needed (Walker & Katz, 2008). Computerized relational databases are a form of modern technology used by most policing agencies today.
These systems serve several purposes and replaced manual information filing. Relational databases are capable of storing and retrieving extensive information from multiple sources. During investigations, officers may use the department’s relational database to gather information about a suspect. The database will retrieve information from an agency’s criminal history system, intelligence systems from special units, and state department of motor vehicles’ record systems. These systems are useful to management because they have the capacity to provide crime-analysis and trend reports on specific locations.
Furthermore, relational databases can be used in evaluating police officers; these systems can track the number and type of arrests that officers are making, along with the number of complaints against each officer (Walker & Katz, 2008). Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD), COMPSTAT, Records Management Systems (RMS), and Early Intervention Systems (EI) are other types of database technologies used by policing agencies. The development and implementation of CAD offered effective, efficient, instant, clear, and safe communications among emergency response teams and dispatchers.
Another important innovation that helps police fight crime is COMPSTAT; this provides information concerning neighborhood disorder and crime. The implementation of RMS in policing agencies helped reduce the use and disposal of paper; administrators can input, organize, and easily access information in these systems. Early Intervention systems are databases used by personnel to increase officer accountability, and performance (Walker & Katz, 2008). Issues of Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Relationships In the United States, there are three major legislative and judicial jurisdictions.
The major types of law enforcement agencies are federal, state, and local. Each has created a variety of policing agencies to enforce particular laws. However, there is little uniformity concerning the naming, function, and authority among these jurisdiction’s enforcement agencies (Schmalleger, 2009). Some examples of federal law enforcement agencies are the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Examples of state law enforcement agencies include Alcohol Law Enforcement, Fish and Wildlife, Highway Patrol, Port Authorities, State Bureaus of Investigation, and State Police. Local law enforcement agencies include Campus Police, Municipal and County agencies, Constables, Coroners or Medical Examiners, Housing Authority agencies, Marine Patrol agencies, Sheriff’s Departments, Transit Police, and Tribal Police. Each law enforcement agency contributes Homeland Security by providing information about investigations. Local law enforcement agencies are the fist to arrive at a crime scene, or potential crime scene.
State law enforcement agencies are only included in local investigations upon request (Schmalleger, 2009). The relationship between local law enforcement agencies Homeland Security must improve. Local law enforcement agencies must be consistent in updating and sharing pertinent information and intelligence with Homeland Security. Accurate data is critical for building databases and concluding investigations. However, this will require the building of trust, and the humbling of egos between agencies. Regardless of which agency receives credit, it is imperative for police to uphold the law by not withholding pertinent information.
The relationship between law enforcement and Homeland Security must be symbiotic, or optimal levels of operating will not be achieved (Schmalleger, 2009). The Future of policing Jim Chu, a leading expert in police-related information technology recognizes four major applications that will affect the future of policing. These applications include database and information technology, computer-aided dispatch, records management systems, and mobile computing. These technologies have already been implemented by law enforcement agencies worldwide.
According to Tom Steele, founder of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement Information Managers Section, advancements in information technology within the next 15-20 years will have a broad and powerful affect on policing. Steele believes the greatest reorganization, redirection, and modification of policing will occur within the next 20 years. As technology advances so will the ability to analyze and map crime. However, advancements in police-related technology constitute advancements in technology-related crime (Walker & Katz, 2008).
Law enforcement standards and practices have come a long way since the 1960s. A combination of community policing, civil rights, affirmative action, professionalism, advancement in weaponry, and Information Technology permanently changed the functions and operations of American policing. Although they are far from perfect today, law enforcement agencies can only benefit and improve with future advancements in technology. If advancements in technology cause policing agencies to redirect, reorganize, and modify current operations, the future holds a myriad of opportunities for law enforcement.