When it comes to policing, there can be a bad stigma with the police departments and how they work. Police offices can often overstep laws and even break them. Many times, issues of police officers disobeying rules can be turned into worldwide problems. Abuse of power can be classified as excessive use of force, police shootings, and police corruption. Even though the majority of officers are good, the small percentage of corrupted officers can ruin the good image policing has. The corruption can lead to a lack of trust from the community and even protests. Abuse of power in policing will always be a huge issue but the negative media attention it receives will be a bigger enemy. The profession has been ripped apart over the years because of incidents that have to do with excessive force, shootings, and even reacting too quickly on the officer’s end.
The problem when it comes to policing is the constant spotlight on every move that is made. The smallest of errors can be broadcasted for the whole world to see because of the strong presence of the media. The question then becomes is it the select few police departments that need to make a change or do these extreme cases show the corruption throughout the States (Samuels, 2000). The challenge to most officers is being able to treat every person as if it is their first interaction with the police, making sure they don’t see race or status and also remember the laws (Rosenbaum, 2005). The media shows a special interest in police misconduct and other issues. Studies have shown that 44% of people learn about police encounters through the media (Rosenbaum, 2005). This just shows how bad headline can go viral and cause extreme cases of protests and fear within civilians.
It is found that many officers find it unacceptable to bring their own opinions into how they treat victims but there is still a solid line of segregation when it comes to officers views on how to handle situations regarding that of race, status, and even gender (Samuels, 2000). Often times, police officers can be blinded by the status or race of a person when handling a fast pace situation. Whether someone is black or white or receives low-income or high-income, it shouldn’t dictate the treatment they receive from any police officer. “Once we form impressions of other people, … we tend to seek out information that confirms our existing expectations and challenges information that disconfirms our expectations” (Rosenbaum, 2005). One study even showed that one in six people believe that white people will be treated better than other races by police. (Samuels, 2000). It is evident that people are very aware of the difference in treatment depending on how you are as a person or even on how you look.
The problems with policing directly affect all three parts of the Criminal Justice System, police, courts, and corrections. Considering it’s talking directly about policing, it should be noted that it has been around since 1829 but it split into different eras, the Colonial, Political, Professional, and Community Policing Era (Cole, 2018). Police officers must know the rights of an individual and the civil rights that come along with it (Samuels, 2000). The court system being the second part involves the police officers because they not only work in the system but they can be involved with the cases going on in court. Abuse of power cases can be brought in front of the court and can make it complicated because of the different types of police contact (Rosenbaum, 2005). They are considered a norm enforcement which means their role in “enforcing society’s rules and standards for behavior – a function that contributes to peace and stability in society” (Cole, 2018). They work alongside police enforcement when it comes to maintaining a peaceful and safe environment. The last part of the criminal justice system is the corrections. Corrections is the different types of programs that are made to manage the people who have been imprisoned or convicted of a crime (Cole, 2018). With corrections, many assume that the way the person is dealt with when being arrested will then result in what happens with that person when choosing what will happen to them afterward (Rosenbaum, 2005). Police corruption can allow one officer to be bias within a situation and treat one person differently than someone who was convicted of the same thing.
Although controlling abuse of power doesn’t sound like it can be done, small changes and strong leadership can lead to trust being rebuilt towards police. Controlling this has to be done on both ends of the spectrum. Four out of every five Americans don’t have direct contact with the police yet there is still a huge barrier between police and their communities because of the bad news constantly circling the media (Rosenbaum, 2005). The police alongside the community needs to rebuild together in order to create better relationships and views for the future. Police discretion, the ability to make smart decisions in difficult situations, needs to be actively used (Cole, 2018). As talked about in Criminal Justice in America, there should be five steps always followed when considering a complex situation. One should always first consider the nature of the crime. This will dictate the severity of the incident and what actions should be taken. Second, how the criminal and victim are related. Arguments between family members and strangers can call in different actions on the police end. The relationship between the officer and the victim can dictate future actions like how hostile or understanding a victim is to a higher authority. Race, gender, and status again are sometimes filed into how someone is treated. Even though that may not always be the best decision, it is one that must be taken into accountability. Lastly, how the policies of each department are different and discretion can be exercised in less or more extreme ways. Officers are going to face difficult challenges with all types of citizens and they “ are charged with maintaining order and enforcing laws.” (Cole, 2018). To fix this issue, policing needs to retrace its steps back to the beginning and see where things took a turn. Another small solution to a big problem is car cameras. By monitoring each situation from either the officer or the car, it allows complicated situations to be read through evidence. New developments have shown that all the evidence collected would automatically be saved so no data will be lost (Cole, 2018). Having smarter equipment will keep officers and victims safer going forward. Going back to the basic things such as the five steps of police discretion and simple problem-solving skills can resolve incidents that end in unnecessary injuries or even death.
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