- Discuss the history of policing as it relates to communication with the public.
- Compare the historical interactions between police and a homogenous American society with today\’s interactions between police and a multicultural society.
- Explain potential problems in the current structure and design of police departments as it relates to building trust with the community.
- Discuss the critical issues that police managers have encountered historically and compare them to today\’s critical issues of immigration, use of force, technology, and policing in a multicultural society.
Policing is one of the most important elements in modern-day society as it is a way through which law and order are kept. Police forces are there to enforce the law and remand any individual against the laws set in a specific society. The police protect all groups of people, prevent crimes in societies, and promote social justice and cohesion. Policing has had a long history in the United States since the colonial period. It has developed over the years to today’s driving force behind law and order witnessed in societies. This paper will compare the historical police force and the police force of the 21st century. It will dive into the history of policing, showing how the department grew over the years.
History of Policing in the USA
The USA police force has a long history that goes way back to over 400 years ago. In early American society, there was no formal force that acted as the police force. Instead, colonies were most of the time protected by ‘night watch.’ The night watchers were men that volunteered a night of work to keep an eye on the colonies (Blanchard et al., 2018). The wealthiest members of the community often hired such people to look out for their properties. The wealth often hired criminals who ensured that they were always protected. Policing as a force was evident as early as the 1800s in the South, where groups of men were constantly on patrol in plantations to keep the slaves and plantation owners in check. Slavery was a big thing in the South, and plantation owners often hired slave patrol to ensure that slaves did not escape. The patrols were most common in Carolina and started in 1704 (Robinson & Scaglion, 987). A group of three to six men made up the slave patrol and often used horses, whips, ropes and even guns to keep slaves in check.
In the 1800s, immigrants moved into the growing cities in the North. There was hardly any law or order, and such urban centers were characterized by crime, rowdiness and riots. Immigrants from Ireland and Germany started settling in the cities such as New York and Boston as early as the 1820s, and they clashed with the original settlers from the Netherlands and England. The rise of mobs, public lewdness, prostitution, and disorderly conduct led to the first official police force formations in Boston in 1838. New York followed suit in 1845, followed by other cities in the North. Every major city in the country adopted the police force to control levels of crime (Robinson & Scaglion, 1987). However, the police force became corrupt over time and was often bribed by rich politicians with malicious agendas. It led to the development of the first private policing force (Pinkerton National Detective Agency) formed by Allan Pinkerton. The force was made up of private detectives that often prevented riots and stopped robberies on trains.
The modern police force was first developed by August Vollmer, who brought change to policing in the USA. It changed the face of policing in the 1900s, and the force was more organized and community oriented. Vollmer viewed policing as a social, psychological and interactive way of community building. The police were required to interact with the communities on their duties. The 1960s was faced with issues such as race riots and minority community riots against the police force. The police force has been changing over the years and is still changing. In the 21st century, the force has changed due to numerous threats such as increased gun violence and mass shootings, terrorism and racial profiling (Bayley, 2016).
Historical and Modern Police Interactions with the Society
The historical era of policing was characterized by homogeneity in the police force. The rich and slave owners, for instance, employed the police force, such as the slave patrols. The groups were made up of white men trying to keep the slaves in check for slave masters. The interaction between the police forces then and the community was hostile. The slave patrols, for instance, were viewed as a brutal force by the slaves. They were an epitome of animosity. Slaves had no say when it came to policing, and the interest of the force was on pleasing their employers, the wealthy slave owners. Later on, policing was a way that the politicians and the wealthy could influence the community members. In the historical American societies, most people had similar beliefs and ways of life and culture.
The police forces enforced the culture and ways of conduct believed to be most acceptable within society. A constitution did not govern the police force, and therefore their activities were based on their intuition. In modern society, multiculturalism affects how police interact with society. The police have to portray cultural competence. Police interact with different communities with different beliefs and ways of carrying out activities. Communication is challenging in such environments as police have to deal with individuals with very diverse cultures. There are often misunderstandings and alienation between the police and communities in a multicultural context.
Problems of Current Police Force
The current problems are evident through the current situation in American society. The first problem is the increased hostility between the police and the neighborhoods or communities they patrol. It hinders productive collaborations between the police and the community. Such an issue is evident in the divide between the police and the African American population (Rickford, 2016). The modern police force has increased police autonomy in decision making, which leads to cases of corruption within the police force. It affects the community’s faith in police officers as they will believe that police can be bought to turn their eyes away from organized crimes. Police accountability is another issue that reduces the trust that the public has in the force. In many incidences, police have not been held accountable for their actions and often go unpunished. There are no policies set in the policing process structure that prevents police officers from acting irrationally. After such actions, police are not still held liable, thus losing the trust of the public.
Current and Past Policing Issues
Policing managers have encountered numerous challenges and problems over the years. Historically, immigration was a major issue that the police encountered. Police had the main function of protecting the wealthy and their property, and the ever-increasing influx of immigrants threatened it into the country. Immigrants brought crime and rowdiness to American urban centers. The police force had to find ways of dealing with immigration issues to make sure that they maintained their functionality. Another historical issue that the police encountered was in relation to slavery. In the 1700s and 1800s, policing was meant to protect the slave owners from harm’s way from slaves and protect the property (Johansen, 2017). The police were also in charge of disciplining slaves and often had wrangled with rioting slaves. Other societal issues the police had to deal with were robberies and increased violence in urban centers. The issues are, however, not as pressing as today’s issues.
The modern police force has to deal with immigration, the use of force, technology and policing in a multicultural environment. Cultural diversity has grown in American society, and police have to put that into consideration while interacting with the public. Cultural competence is paramount in the police force. The use of force has been met by angry communities and strikes, as witnessed in the case of George Floyd. Police brutality, especially amongst the minority, is an issue that the force needs to deal with. Communities and individuals are more aware of their rights, unlike in the historical times of policing. Technology has also developed and affected the way policing is done. Gadgets such as body cameras are a way that makes police accountable for their actions. Police misconduct is often caught through video technology, making it hard to keep it from the public. Police managers, therefore, have harder tasks to convince the public to maintain their faith in the police force.
Policing is an important aspect of any society as it maintains law and order. The historical aspect of policing has changed over the years and has gone through various eras to what it is today. The force has gone through the political era, the reform era and the community era we have in the 21st century. The historical policing issues are not as complicated as modern-day policing issues. American society has grown culturally diverse over the years. Therefore, the police force has to employ cultural competence to ensure that the interaction with communities is fruitful.