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History Of Policing

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Autor:   •  December 8, 2010  •  2,610 Words (11 Pages)  •  2,643 Views

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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


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