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The Law Enforcement Profession

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The Law Enforcement Profession

The Law Enforcement Profession


In order to understand comptemporary law enforcemment, we should

recognize the conditions that impact our profession. It is agreed upon by many

scholars that major changes in law enforcement occur every five years. Policing

is sometimes characterize"... like a sandbar in a river, subject to being

changed continuously by the currents in which it is immersed..." (Swanson,

Territo and Taylor, p. 2). However, in recent years some major changes have

occurred in a shorter time period.

Innovations in law enforcement

During the past two decades, I have observed major changes in the

viewpoint of society towards police officer's as the symbol of trust and dignity,

the technological advances of communication and information systems in law

enforcement, and the revision of selection and hiring practices for police

officers. Organizational change occurs both as a result of internal and

external agents (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, p. 664). These changes have

manifested both positive and negative reverberations in the way we perform our


Police officials have contemplated for years over the key to maintaining

a positive image for their organization. Unfortunately, several incidents in

the past years have altered society's perception of police in some communities.

Police in America are no longer strangers to innovation born of scandal. Law

enforcement agencies nationwide have repeatedly been shaken by controversy and

forced to make undesirable concessions. Has law enforcement failed to maintain

the high standards required by the profession? The cost of public trust is high.

It increases each time faith must be regain.

Historically, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have

experienced periods of low confidence in communities preceding episodes deemed

to be a breach of trust. Early pioneers in law enforcement history such as

August Vollmer (1902 - 1932). Berkeley Police Department and J. Edgar Hoover

(1924) the Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous advancements towards

improving the professionalism of law enforcement (Anderson and Newman, p. 119 -

120). Other attempts were made in 1956 by the International Association of

Chiefs of Police adopted "The Law Enforcement Code Of Ethics" (Wilson and

McClaren, p.8)

Examples of several historical events locally have attributed to

society's decline in respect for police. For example, nine members of a Los

Angeles County Sheriff's Department special narcotics squad were charged with

misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars confiscated in drug raids (L. A.

Times, p. 4, Sept. 9, 1989). Another local incident involved 80 Los Angeles

police officers stormed and wrecked an apartment and allegedly beat several

residents on "Dalton Street." The city was forced to settled in a civil law

suit by the resident with a settlement of $3 million dollars of taxpayers money

(L. A. Times, p. 1-2, August 1, 1988). This incident generated major outcry

from the minority community to overhaul the use of force policy and procedure

within the department.

Nationally, five New York City police officers were charged with murder

in the slaying of a suspect in Queens. All five officers were arraigned on

murder charges in the death of Federico Pereira, 21 years of age, a car theft

suspect who was punched, kicked, and strangled as he was being arrested. This

is one in a string of accusations of bruality made against New York officers in

recent years (The New York Times, March 21, 1991, p. A 1). In the south,

the incident of Officer Donald Jeffries who was honored as Mississippi's officer

of the year in 1993. He alleged that mental stress was a factor in his robbery

of a bank, however, a federal judge in Mobile ruled that he was competent to

stand trial for the charge (USA Today, May 13, 1994, p. 8 A).

The case of Arthur McDuffie (Dec. 17, 1979) in Miami, a black male

died after a high speed police chase. The police reports indicated that

McDuffie died from being thrown from his motorcycle during the chase. The

results of an investigation disclosed that the McDuffie's death may have been

caused by police instead of an accident. After being indicted and found not

guilty by an all white jury, riots broke out in black neighborhoods,

especially Liberty City resulting in arson and looting that left 18 persons dead




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