The Nature of Policing in the United States will constantly change based on certain events that happen. The government will always look for ways to adjust, trying to make policing more efficient, fair, and effective. Unlike policing in other countries, the structure of policing in the United States is extremely fragmented. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are currently 21 ,OOO federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the United States.
In different levels of the government, here are thousands of different agencies that are responsible for specific tasks. Due to a high amount of different law enforcement agencies, it will always raise a concern on “what works” and “what does not work”. In recent years, the structure of American policing has dramatically changed. In todays society crimes such as drugs, murders, rapes and cyber crimes are at an all time high and much care and respect has to be given to the chain of command. From 1980 to now law enforcement agencies have had to reform and reconstruct how day to day business is conducted.
There must be clear and concise lines drawn as to who is in the chain of command so that proper actions can be taken when needed. Heightened awareness of new era crimes has drastically evolved in the last thirty years, factors such as gang activity, increased drug use and internet crimes have changed law enforcement as a whole leading to policy and procedure changes. In the 1980s and the early 1990s gang and drug activity became an epidemic and law enforcement agencies were forced to crimes. Although gangs already existed, they seemed to have become more widespread throughout the nation and they were even emerging in small ommunities.
During this era the drug trafficking played a major role in the increased gang activity in already existing larger gangs it also played a role in the creation of many smaller gangs, and no drug has had as much of an impact. Other horrific events have shaped the way law enforcement is now structured, for example, the terrorist attack on 9/1 1 has had a major impact on policing. Immediately, the department of Homeland Security was created initially to protect American citizens from the possibility of terrorist attacks and ways to counter react to them during the ear of 2002.
Law enforcement agencies at different levels of government have different responsibilities and tasks that they must accomplish. The local police are the most visible to the public and they include municipal police departments, county police departments, and county sheriffs. These departments have the broadest functions, enforcing criminal laws, maintaining order, and reducing conflict. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were approximately 14,000 municipal police forces in the United States. Based on the local level, there is also law nforcement at the county level.
These agencies are titles “sheriffs office”, and these departments serve all three branches of law enforcement. They are responsible for providing bail, serving summonses, and other civil law matters. Like the local law enforcement agency, state law enforcement agencies are also divided into two categories. Almost half of the state law enforcement agency is mostly responsible for traffic enforcement on the state highways. The remainder generally has other law enforcement responsibilities. State level police agencies include U. S. ttorneys which erve as the nations principal litigators under the direction of the attorney general. Most states also include other law enforcing organizations with limited powers, such as harbor police, airport police, school district police, etc. In general, state agencies are responsible for providing police services in unincorporated areas and small towns. Over the years, federal law enforcement has expanded with the idea that many crimes span state borders. The government no longer thinks of crimes as being committed at a single location within a single state.
There are about 70 law nforcement agencies at the federal level. At the federal level, the responsibilities are more specific and defined by federal law. They are authorized, typically by Congress, to enforce specific laws or attend specific situations. After 9/1 1, many FBI agents were switched from their traditional law enforcement activities to anti-terrorist initiatives. They possess authority that is given to them under limited parts of the United States Code. In November 2002, Congress enacted legislation to create a new Department of Homeland Security. Other agencies include the Department of
Treasury, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, etc. In general, they all these agencies were created in order to centralize the administration and coordination of many existing agencies. Reluctance of Congress to empower any one agency with too much federal law enforcement authority prevents a “national police”. The United States system of policing is very unique compared to other countries. Many people believe that the American system of policing is extremely fragmented and loosely coordinated, which leads it to being ineffective and agencies in the same geographic area.
This may lead to lack of information sharing among different agencies and agencies may compete rather than cooperate among one another. Second, fragmentation of responsibility can also lead to crime displacement. Third, a serious problem of duplication of services arises. Patrick Murphy, former police commissioner in several American cities, also suggested that many small communities are policed by a small amount of untrained individuals. Murphy argues that the small police agencies should be eliminated and that larger police organizations should be consolidated.
The fragmented nature of the American law enforcement agency causes poor communication, lack of cooperation between police agencies and poor coordination. This may even lead to victims and offenders to get away with the crime they committed. On the other hand, many people may argue that the highly fragmented state of policing may not be such a bad idea. Small police departments can also be very efficient, for example, it puts more officers on the street to perform usual police services. With many more smaller police agencies, they are able to deliver more personalized services, be more flexible, ustomize strategies and have local control.
Separate law enforcement agencies with specific tasks, for example, counter-terrorist agencies will be able to focus on specific terrorist issues which make them more reliable. The fragmentation of police was created in order to centralize the administration and coordination of many existing agencies. Reluctance of Congress to empower any one agency with too much power prevents a “national police”. This allows officers to be more specialized in their specific tasks. As a result, there are two major remedies for fragmentation.
Consolidation is an alternative to fragmentation in a sense of consolidating small agencies into larger ones. This can improve communication and cooperation between police agencies. Another alternative to police fragmentation is contracting. This will allow small agencies to contract with larger agencies for specific services, for example, the Jail system. With contracting small agencies with larger agencies, the coordination between the two forces can improve the way we deal with specific issues. In retrospect, the structure of United States policing has constantly changed over the years.
Each major crime has caused the structure of our policing system to change and adapt to the problems that are being faced by the United States. It is critical that law enforcement continually work on effective strategies, strengthen capabilities, and maintain collaborative workable relationships within the communities they serve. Although, these law enforcement agencies may have different missions and operations they all attempt to coordinate law enforcement operations as closely as the law permits. Canterbury, Chuck. “The Future of Law Enforcement in the United States of America.
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