The police. Twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a
year, this division of our government has a mandate to enforce the criminal law
and preserve public peace. Understood in this mandate is an obligation to
police everyday life matters that originate in the daily lives and activities of
citizens within their community. Police interact in some form with the average
citizen more often than any other government official. In society today the
police play a key role in maintaining a civil society. This role assumes a
substantial amount of power and authority over the general public. With power
comes corruption and/or misuse of power. The question that is presented is,
how and why do the police exceed the parameters of their power and authority?
This is an issue that is predominant in urban settings, but not
exclusive to these settings. This is an important issue because it affects all
people. The police is a government service to all people, but all people do not
feel they are being serviced. Not everyone is satisfied with the conduct of the
police. Why do people feel that police are crossing boundaries that they should
not be? This will be observed from four different aspects in which police are
capable of exceeding the parameters of their power and authority: police and
use of discretionary enforcement, “Police justice”, police harassment, and the
unwarranted use of police authority.
Police are allowed to and must use personal discretion in their
determination of law enforcement. Unlike a judge or lawyer a police officer can
not gather information and take time to make a prognosis to make a decision
affecting the fate of a person. He must make a quick decision based on his
discretion to determine the fate of a person.. “...a quick decision is required
to protect the interests of the public and to satisfy requirements of operating
efficiency” (Reiss, p.130) Now we are telling officer to not enforce the law,
but to determine the law.
A policeman's discretionary decision may then be evaluated by others
both inside and outside of the department. This is the cause for a further
complication in the processes because in order to avoid criticism the police
officer then might use his own sense of justice. This “police justice” is
basically having the officer conduct his own trial. Th...
... middle of paper ...
they received from citizens. Thirty percent felt that the average citizen in
their patrol held the police in some degree of contempt. Nineteen percent felt
that most people in the precinct generally look at the police as enemies. Also
one third of the police in the study frequently stop people to question or frisk
them, which is seen by most citizens as suspicion of crime. This may have
something to do with why so many of the police officers felt the citizens
resented them.(More, p.120)
The best way to study these issues of whether the police exceed the
parameters of their power and authority would be to conduct a survey of citizens,
because the general population is who the police have power and authority over.
Who else would know better if the police were servicing their communities in the
manner in which is expected.
When police take too much power of the criminal justice system into
their own hands they are damaging society. They are splitting society into the
people who are policed for, and the people who are policed against. The police
that abuse their power and authority are no longer enforcing justice, but are
making it just to obey force.
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