Skip to main content
Workforce LibreTexts

1: The Criminal Justice System and the Community

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Chapter 1 - The Criminal Justice System and the Community

    Key Learning Objectives:

    • Identify the responsibilities law enforcement departments and individuals officer have to the community they serve.
    • Explain the implications of police subculture and how it influences an officer’s interaction with the community.
    • Explain how America has become a multicultural society and the impact on how law enforcement departments counteract tensions and struggles for power in these evolving communities.
    • Explain the importance of having a diverse police force, the benefits, and concerns associated with diversity.
    • Identify how improved police standards can improve community relations in multicultural societies.

    1.1 - The meaning of relations and the need for community interaction1

    The relationship between the American public and law enforcement, particularly its violent nature, has been under continual re-examination. Police-citizen violence and related concerns are prime topics of conversation wherever law enforcement professionals gather to discuss problems. Many police departments have made reviewing their use of force a top priority. Moreover, major civil rights organizations have made a priority of responding to police use of deadly force.

    The dimensions of this issue reflect the amount of research and analyses devoted to it by criminal justice researchers and scholarly journals. In addition, even a casual reading of the Nation's newspapers often yields accounts of confrontations between police and citizens over the use of deadly force in situations where racial and ethnic tensions create additional complications or difficulties. Television news programs sometimes provide dramatic supporting videos, graphically depicting the resulting tensions in a community.

    Why has the relationship between law enforcement and citizens come under such scrutiny? One reason is the significant number of killings by and of police officers in recent years. A second factor is changes affecting municipal and civil liability, which have put cities and employees of local governments under greater legal jeopardy where use of force is applied.

    Another important factor is a succession of court rulings placing more restrictions on police use of firearms, including the 1985 Supreme Court decision in (Tennessee v. Garner), which invalidated parts of many states' rules for shooting at fleeing felons. Still another reason is the increasing primacy given to preserving life as a value underlying the concept of policing. There is also a movement to modernize and improve police work from within the profession itself, partly in reaction to the above incidents but also as a general response to larger changes in U.S. society.

    American Criminal justice system flowchart

    Figure 1.1 American Criminal justice system flowchart. Image is in the public domain.

    Two premises underlie the approaches to policing discussed in this publication. One is that the police, by virtue of the authority that society vests in them, have overarching responsibility for the outcome of encounters with citizens. This in no way ignores the fact that the police must deal with such groups as criminals, persons under the influence of alcohol and drugs, law-abiding citizens, and persons with mental impairment. The second and main premise is that good policing must take into consideration two equally important factors: the values on which a police department operates, as well as the practices it follows.

    In addition to adopting a set of values, it is equally important that police departments clearly and publicly state those values. This sets forth a department's philosophy of policing and its commitment to high standards for all to know and understand. To be significant, these values must be known to all members of the community as well as all members of the police department. In addition, a department's values must incorporate citizens' expectations, desires, and preferences. A department's policies and practices flow from its values.

    Police Departments and Community leaders must take into account that there are no philosophies or practices that will anticipate the entire range of human behavior that officers might encounter in the course of police work. It is also understood that, ultimately, the police officer's judgment will be the deciding factor in most cases. However, enough relevant experience and information exists that officers can be given practical guidance that in many instances will help to avoid situations escalating to violence.

    It should also be emphasized that the safety of police officers is recognized as a fundamental concern. No responsible citizen expects a police officer to risk his or her life unnecessarily or foolishly. And no police chief worthy of the responsibility would adopt policies or practices that expose officers to undue risk. Reverence for all human life and safeguarding the guarantees of the Constitution and laws of the United States are important values in policing.

    Police Departments can promote the adoption of policies and practices that afford maximum protection to officers and citizens. The policies need to be based on the principle that good policing involves a partnership between police and citizens. Police cannot carry out their responsibility acting alone. In addition, it must be emphasized that no police department that permits its officers to use unnecessary force against citizens can hope to gain their support. Only when sound values, mutual respect, and trust are shared--among all groups that make up the community--can the police-citizen partnership work, as it should.

    1.2 - Conflicts between the Community and the Criminal Justice System2

    The underlying assumption is that a police force and the community it serves must reach consensus on the values that guide that police force. Those values, while implicit in our Constitution, must embrace as clearly as possible the protection of individual life and liberty, and, at the same time, the measures necessary to maintain a peaceful and stable society. To accomplish this, a police executive must be familiar not only with his or her own police culture, but with the community culture as well, which is no easy task in neighborhoods experiencing major demographic changes.

    Police Departments must identify conflicts that threaten peaceful race relations in communities. Among the causes of such disputes, none is more volatile than allegations of unwarranted police use of deadly force against minority citizens. Even a perception that police follow this practice is cause for concern, because the negative impact on police-citizen relations will be the same.

    Another potential hurdle to overcome is the reality of a police culture, or police society. While most occupational groups develop their own identity, the police identity seems to be much stronger because of the nature of the work. There is a belief that one cannot understand the difficulty of the work without having done it. As a result, when a community questions the actions of the police--as can be expected when a police officer uses a firearm--the law enforcement profession has a tendency to close ranks and defend the officer at all costs. The development of this "police society" begins with academy training (or even before in the recruiting and selection process) and continues until the individual becomes an accepted part of the fraternity.


    Think about it . . . Police Culture

    Read this research article compiled by the Pew research center. Is police officer culture born purely out of safety concerns? What are the pros and cons of this safety culture?

    The socialization process is generally subtle, and assignment procedures may well contribute to the police society. Many departments, for example, rotate patrol officers' shifts weekly, which makes association with people other than police officers extremely difficult. In addition to assignment patterns, the job itself tends to cause social isolation. For a police officer, it is not uncommon for an officer to begin avoiding contacts with old friends, even when scheduling permits, because of the tendency to hear stories about traffic tickets and other negative encounters people may have had with the police. The result is the creation of an environment where an officer withdraws further and further from the community. He or she moves towards the protective shell of the police world where colleagues understand the nuances of the work.

    From the standpoint of addressing the problem of police-community violence, the "police society" is critical. The reinforcement of narrow views by limiting contact only to other officers has an impact on the creation and perpetuation of violent encounters with citizens. The "police society" also severely hampers efforts to investigate complaints of excessive force. The police profession must reach a point where violence is discouraged at the peer level. When violence does occur, police officers themselves must be involved in providing information to the investigative process impartially and with integrity. At the same time, there are also positive aspects to a close-knit work group, and care must be taken to ensure these positive aspects are not harmed when attempting to deal with the negative ones.

    1.3 - The Evolving Nature of Multiculturalism3

    At the turn of the century, multicultural communities are the norm in many cities throughout the United States. Throughout the history of the United States, it has witnessed transnational migration of large groups of people due to a variety of factors worldwide. This movement has resulted in changes in the ethnic and cultural makeup of communities that are the destinations and sources of the migration.

    These changes present challenges for criminal justice practitioners and policymakers in the affected communities. For example, some cultures will allow only women to be questioned by a female police officer. A male may refuse to cooperate with a female police officer. Men from some cultures carry a ceremonial dagger next to their skin, which they would be reluctant to remove. Communication may be a problem, as not everyone speaks the same language. Poor language skills and a lack of cultural sensitivity may lead to unintended violence. Cooperation with law enforcement officers within ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods may not be forthcoming. Recruitment and retention of an ethnically diverse police force is both a challenge and a necessity. Failure to address the challenges of policing in a multicultural society can result in misunderstandings, alienation, civil unrest, and violence.

    The problems associated with policing in culturally and ethnically diverse societies are not unique to the United States. The decade of the 1990s witnessed enormous political, economic, and social change. Among the countries undergoing particularly eventful political upheaval were Germany and South Africa. The breakdown of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 meant the end of the Iron Curtain and the beginning of cataclysmic change for Germany.

    Following the relaxation of borders that had divided east from west for nearly five decades, a virtual flood of people began traveling from the East to the West. The formerly homogeneous society of the socialist German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was transformed practically overnight, with increased xenophobia and all its repercussions being among its results. The former West Germany had an influx of asylum seekers, including persons from Eastern Europe claiming German heritage. Both the police as an institution and police officers as individuals had to confront and cope with these critical changes. For example, police in the east, accustomed to totalitarian tactics of a police state, had to determine whom they would represent, the public, or the government. Across Germany there developed great uncertainty among police officers, the outcome of which often was frustration, opposition to organizational change, and a general withdrawal from public contact. The German example is an enormously valuable case study of a society’s efforts to cope with both the burdens of its past and the new challenges of dramatic change. The German police have been and continue to be at the center of these efforts. It is clear that such problems can also be found in relatively stable, albeit diverse, countries where change has been more evolutionary than revolutionary. Three such countries are Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

    1.4 - Change and Tension, Minorities Struggle for Power4

    In the United States changing and adding cultural and ethnic multiplicity, the police are most likely to be aligned with the old cultural and ethnic guard, or they may be perceived as such by new, or newly empowered, constituents. As a result, questions about the philosophy and practice of policing are ultimately liable to come under close and probing scrutiny.

    The police operate at “street level,” where they have direct contact with all who are involved in any way with law and public safety. In fact, the police represent the sole agency with which the vast majority of those who ever have any dealings with the criminal justice system come into contact. As a result, the police have enormous power to influence attitudes and public opinion about fundamental concerns regarding a political entity’s capacity to act in just, legitimate, and accountable ways. Police-community relations are shaped on the street and in the station houses, and it is there that such controversial practices as profiling and “zero tolerance” are enacted. Using their discretionary arrest powers, the police are also the gatekeepers of the criminal justice process. They determine who is subjected to the power of the law and who is not. Because of this unique role and powerful position in society, the police are likely both to influence and to be influenced by the social implications of migration and shifts in the political power of various communities.

    protestors in Washington D.C. protesting racial profiling

    Figure 1.2 These protestors in Washington D.C. are protesting racial profiling, a tactic many believe make police officers negatively biased towards people of color. Image used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

    Rapid transformations in the relative heterogeneity of the population, and the accompanying discourse on multiculturalism, can lead to questions about the validity of definitions of laws or crimes for some groups and conceptions of “order” or “disorder” for others. Conversely, the arrival of new groups often provokes questions about the appropriateness of practicing what those groups consider “normal” domestic or familial relations, duties, or privileges. Thus, an increase in the number of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic communities and racial groups can give rise to conflicts about the legitimacy of legal and communal standards and definitions, and hence present an enormous challenge to law enforcement and order maintenance activities.

    The emerging new paradigm of policing multi-ethnic societies based on responses of the American police to today’s mix of ethnic diversity. That record provides much to be hopeful about, but some cautions must be noted, and much remains to be done. The portrait is at odds with one that might be imagined from reading the newspaper headlines, watching cable news, or reading twitter. Although appalling racial incidents continue to occur, to focus on them is to miss the profound changes that are taking place.

    For those who believe that the complexity of the problems of policing multi-ethnic societies can be resolved by something as simple as adopting principles of community policing or by having the police agency staffed and controlled by members of a formerly marginalized minority are mistaken. In the end racially and ethnically sensitive policing depends upon good judgment by political leaders, police executives, and street officers, however good judgment is not guaranteed by either race or police strategy.

    1.5 - Changes in Make-up of Administration of Justice Agencies5

    There are approximately 18,000 Federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. These agencies range from police departments employing just one sworn officer to departments with more than 30,000 officers. In 2008, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) conducted a census of state and local law enforcement agencies. That census, which included 17,985 agencies, found that those agencies collectively employed more than 1.1 million people on a full-time basis, nearly 800,000 as sworn personnel. The census revealed that the vast majority of these agencies - more than 12,000 - are local police departments, a category that includes municipal, county, tribal, and regional police departments. BJS's research also found that there are more than 3,000 sheriffs' offices; approximately 2,000 special jurisdiction agencies, which are agencies that provide police services for entities or established areas within another jurisdiction (e.g., parks, schools, airports, housing authorities, and government facilities); 50 primary state law enforcement agencies; and nearly 700 other agencies, such as county constable offices. BJS also conducted a census of Federal law enforcement agencies in 2008: that survey collected data from 73 agencies, which employed approximately 120,000 full-time sworn law enforcement officers.

    More recent data from BJS' 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics data collection (LEMAS Survey) provide information about the demographics of these law enforcement agencies. Of the more than 12,000 local police departments, and their nearly 500,000 sworn officers, 48 percent of the departments employed fewer than 10 sworn officers. While the vast majority of these departments employ a relatively small number of sworn officers, 54 percent of the sworn officers in this country work for departments in jurisdictions with 100,000 or more residents.

    About 58,000, or 12 percent, of the full-time sworn personnel in these departments were female; female officers also accounted for nearly 10 percent of first-line supervisors in these departments. The LEMAS Survey found that 27 percent of full-time sworn officers are racial or ethnic minorities; African American and Latino officers each comprised around 12 percent, while other minority groups, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander; and American Indian or Alaska Native, collectively comprised 3 percent. The LEMAS survey found similar demographics in the nation's sheriffs' offices: 14 percent of their full-time sworn officers were female (and 12 percent of the first-line supervisors were female); racial minorities comprised 22 percent of those officers, with Latino, officers making up the largest share (11 percent), closely followed by African-American officers (9 percent).

    Figure1.3 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Local Police Departments, 2013: Personnel, Policies, and Practices," (2015).

    Figure 1.4 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Sheriffs' Office Personnel, 1993-2013," (2016).


    Think about it . . . Diversity in Law Enforcement

    Enforcement agencies have become more diverse, at least by race/ethnicity and gender. BJS first began gathering data through the LEMAS Survey in 1987. In 1987, BJS recorded 27,000 women working as local police officers (8 percent); as noted above, that number has risen to 58,000 (12 percent) by 2013. In 1987, racial minorities made up 14.6 percent of all officers; they are now 27 percent. The rates of increase vary by group. Women were 8 percent of officers in 1987; 12 percent in 2007; and 12 percent in 2013. African Americans were 9 percent of officers in 1987; 12 percent in 2007; and 12 percent in 2013.Latinos were 4.5 percent of officers in 1987; 10.3 percent in 2007; and 11.6 percent in 2013. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives were 0.8 percent of officers in 2987; 2.7 percent in 2007; and 3 percent in 2013.

    Figure 1.5 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Local Police Departments, 2013: Personnel, Policies, and Practices," (2015).

    Figure 1.6 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Women in Law Enforcement, 1987-2008," (2010);
    Bureau of Justice Statistics, "
    Local Police Departments, 2013: Personnel, Policies, and Practices," (2015).


    Pin It! The Importance of Recruiting Diverse Populations

    The challenge of recruiting, hiring, and retaining a diverse workforce is certainly not limited to law enforcement. Throughout the country, in nearly every sector of society, people and organizations are grappling with this issue. Employers in a variety of industries have engaged in proactive efforts to bolster diversity. Yet this challenge remains particularly urgent in the field of law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies fulfill a fundamental role in our society, and in many communities, individual police officers are often the public face of local government. It therefore is critical that our nation's law enforcement agencies broadly reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

    Increased diversity within law enforcement agencies - defined not only in terms of race and gender, but also other characteristics including religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language ability, background, and experience - serves as a critically important tool to build trust with communities. This finding is bolstered by decades of research confirming that when members of the public believe their law enforcement organizations represent them, understand them, and respond to them - and when communities perceive authorities as fair, legitimate, and accountable - it deepens trust in law enforcement, instills public confidence in government, and supports the integrity of democracy. This trust is essential to defusing tension, to solving crimes, and to creating a system in which resident’s view law enforcement as fair and just. Victims and witnesses of crime may not approach or engage with law enforcement if they do not perceive such authorities to be responsive to their experiences and concerns. This trust - and the cooperation it facilitates - also enables officers to more effectively and safely perform their jobs.


    Think about it . . . Diversity Encourages Good Police Work

    Research further suggests that increased diversity can make law enforcement agencies more open to reform, more willing to initiate cultural and systemic changes, and more responsive to the residents they serve. Some have pointed to increased diversity as a catalyst for reform, enabling officers and law enforcement leaders alike to become more introspective and reflective about problems in their departments. A more reflective and open-minded culture in an agency can help drive reform across a range of areas, including civilian oversight, community policing, and racial bias. In addition, while greater workforce diversity alone cannot ensure fair and effective policing, a significant - and growing - body of evidence suggests that diversity can have a positive influence on specific activities and practices of law enforcement agencies.

    1.6 - Professional Image in Criminal Justice6

    The "culture" of a police department reflects what that department believes in as an organization. These beliefs are reflected in the department's recruiting and selection practices, policies and procedures, training and development, and ultimately, in the actions of its officers in law enforcement situations. Clearly, all police departments have a culture. The key question is whether that culture has been carefully developed or simply allowed to develop without benefit of thought or guidance. There are police agencies, for example, where police use of force is viewed as abnormal. Thus, when it is used, the event receives a great deal of administrative attention. Such a response reflects the culture of that department: the use of force is viewed and responded to as an atypical occurrence. Contrast such a department with one that does not view the use of force as abnormal. In the latter case, there may be inadequate or poorly understood policies providing officers with guidelines regarding the use of force. There probably is no administrative procedure for investigating incidents where force is used, and, most importantly, the culture of the department is such that officers come to view the use of force as an acceptable way of resolving conflict.

    Over the past few years, there has been significant progress in improving police-community relationships. Yet, the major problem creating friction between the police and the community today--especially in communities of color--is police use of deadly force. Only in recent years has the public become aware of this age-old problem. The fact that this problem existed for such a long time before receiving widespread attention can again be related to the culture of the police.

    Until the Tennessee v. Garner decision in 1985, few if any police departments had developed their firearms policy around a value system that reflected reverence for human life. Rather, those agencies which did have written policies (and many did not) reflected the prevailing police culture in those policies. The prevailing culture centered on enforcement of the law. Thus, the official policies of most police agencies allowed officers to fire warning shots, to shoot fleeing felons, or to use deadly force in other circumstances reflected less than the highest value for human life.

    It is clear that the culture of a police department, to a large degree, determines the organization's effectiveness. That culture determines the way officers view not only their role, but also the people they serve. The key concern is the nature of that culture and whether it reflects a system of beliefs conducive to the nonviolent resolution of conflict.

    How do you establish a positive departmental culture that in turn manifests professional standards? In answering this question, it is important to emphasize again that all departments have a culture. It is also important to recognize that the culture of a police department, once established, is difficult to change. Organizational change within a police agency does not occur in a revolutionary fashion. Rather, it is evolutionary.

    The beginning points in establishing a departmental culture is to develop a set of values. Values serve a variety of purposes, including:

    • Set forth a department's philosophy of policing
    • State in clear terms what a department believes in
    • Articulate in broad terms the overall goals of the department
    • Reflect the community's expectations of the department
    • Serve as a basis for developing policies and procedures
    • Serve as the parameters for organizational flexibility
    • Provide the basis for operational strategies
    • Provide the framework for officer performance
    • Serve as a framework from which the department can be evaluated

    In developing a set of values for a police department, it is not necessary to come up with a lengthy list. Rather, there should be a few values which, when taken together, represent what the organization considers important. For example, if it is the objective of the department to create a culture that is service oriented, then that should be reflected in its set of values. In other words, the importance of values is qualitative, not quantitative.

    Finally, an essential role of the police chief is to ensure that the values of the department are well articulated throughout the organization. To accomplish this, the chief as leader must ensure that there is a system to facilitate effective communication of the values. This includes recognizing and using the organization's informal structure. This is important because, in addition to the formal structure, values are transmitted through its informal process as well as its myths, legends, metaphors, and the chief's own personality.

    Each police department should develop a set of policing values that reflects its own community. Fortunately, there is a general set of values that can serve as a framework for any department to build upon to meet local needs. Developing a set of organizational values is not difficult. A police executive should first clearly explain what values are to those in uniform. Then the executive should ask each member of the department to list what he or she considers the five most important values for the department. The findings of such an exercise will represent a consensus on the values department members hold most dear--an excellent starting point for creating a set of departmental values.

    The police department must preserve and advance the principles of democracy.

    All societies must have a system for maintaining order. Police officers in this country, however, must not only know how to maintain order, but must do so in a manner consistent with our democratic form of government. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the police to enforce the law and deliver a variety of other services in a manner that not only preserves, but also extends precious American values. It is in this context that the police become the living expression of the meaning and potential of a democratic form of government. The police must not only respect, but also protect the rights guaranteed to each citizen by the Constitution. To the extent, each officer considers his or her responsibility to include protection of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all individuals; the police become the most important employees in the vast structure of government.

    The police department places its highest value on the preservation of human life.

    Above all, the police department must believe that human life is the most precious resource. Therefore, the department, in all aspects of its operations, will place its highest priority on the protection of life. This belief must be manifested in at least two ways. First, the allocation of resources and the response to demands for service must give top priority to those situations that threaten life. Second, even though society authorizes the police to use deadly force, the use of such force must not only be justified under the law but must also be consistent with the philosophy of rational and humane social control.

    The second concept is the most challenging and controversial due to accountability.

    Police officers are expected to adhere to the laws provided by elected officials, judicial

    case law, as well as the policies of the Departments which employ them, that is not in

    dispute. Social rational and humane social control are moving targets and continually

    evolving, thus how can officers legally (civil and criminal) adhere to the rational of

    society, when the society encompasses differing groups?

    The police department believes that the prevention of crime is its number one operational priority.

    The department's primary mission must be the prevention of crime. Logic makes it clear that it is better to prevent a crime than to put the resources of the department into motion after a crime has been committed. Such an operational response should result in an improved quality of life for citizens, and a reduction in the fear that is generated by both the reality and perception of crime.

    The police department will involve the community in the delivery of its services.

    It is clear that the police cannot be successful in achieving their mission without the support and involvement of the people they serve. Crime is not solely a police problem, and it should not be considered as such. Rather, crime must be responded to as a community problem. Thus, it is important for the police department to involve the community in its operations. This sharing of responsibility involves providing a mechanism for the community to collaborate with the police both in the identification of community problems and determining the most appropriate strategies for resolving them. It is counterproductive for the police to isolate themselves from the community and not allow citizens the opportunity to work with them.

    The police department believes it must be accountable to the community it serves.

    The police department also is not an entity unto itself. Rather, it is a part of government and exists only for serving the public to which it must be accountable. An important element of accountability is openness. Secrecy in police work is not only undesirable but also unwarranted. Accountability means being responsive to the problems and needs of citizens. It also means managing police resources in the most cost-effective manner. It must be remembered that the power to police comes from the consent of those being policed.

    The police department is committed to professionalism in all aspects of its operations.

    The role of the professional organization is to serve its clients. The police department must view its role as serving the citizens of the community. A professional organization also adheres to a code of ethics. The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics must guide the police department. A profession polices itself. The police department must ensure that it maintains a system designed to promote the highest level of discipline among its members.

    The police department will maintain the highest standards of integrity.

    The society invests in its police the highest level of trust. The police, in turn, enter into a contractual arrangement with society to uphold that trust. The police must always be mindful of this contractual arrangement and never violate that trust. Each member of the police department must recognize that he or she is held to a higher standard than a private citizen. They must recognize that, in addition to representing the department, they also represent the law enforcement profession and government. They are the personifications of the law. Their conduct, both on and off duty, must be beyond reproach. There must not be even a perception in the public's mind that the department's ethics are open to question.

    Recognizing that society is undergoing massive changes, police agencies are confronted with a great challenge. The essence of that challenge is to be able to respond to problems created by social change, while at the same time providing the stability that holds a society together during a period of uncertainty.

    By setting forth a clear set of values, articulating what it believes in, the police department has a foundation to guide itself. Such a foundation also allows for organizational flexibility. In addition, a set of values provides the community with a means of assessing its police department without having to become involved in technical operations. Value statements serve as the linkage between the ongoing operations of a police department and the community's ability not only to participate, but also to understand the reason for police department strategies.

    person with megaphone

    Act It Out! Law Enforcement Professionalism Activity

    To promote and facilitate law enforcement professionalism, three (3) ethical dilemmas are listed below for discussion.

    As learned in this first chapter, law enforcement officers have a difficult job. They are often placed in difficult situations and community tensions can increase the conflict between the community and law enforcement agencies. Knowing this, it is important to prepare yourself for how you will deal with difficult, uncomfortable and ethical issues you will face in the community.

    Break up into groups and discuss the scenarios below. Using what you learned in this chapter, how will you handle the following situations.

    1. You are on a DWI Checking Station when you hear a fellow officer says: Hey Bozo, move your *&^%%! car off my %$^^&% highway! What will your response be?
    1. Upon initial contact with a citizen, an officer is met with an aggressive attitude. The officer responds by mirroring the behavior to show he/she will not be intimidated and telling the person, calm down or you’re going to jail! What should be done?
    1. In many cultures, saving face is of vital importance and could open or close communication from the outset. Your partner immediately intimidates the person to keep control of the situation. What will you do?

    This page titled 1: The Criminal Justice System and the Community is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dave Wymore & Tabitha Raber.

    • Was this article helpful?