Police work has always been that centered on an environment full of uncertainties. Anytime the police wear their uniform and go to the street, there is always that cloud of unknown danger that can turn risky at any given time. In other words, police occupation entails arranging one’s life for maintaining law and order in society (Walker & Katz, 2013). The police force forms one of the crucial bodies within any society since its role is to protect people and ensure their safety coexistence. This is made possible because the police are proactively engaged in regulating that everyone abides by the outlined law. However, many are the times where the police officers are perceived as less human whereby to the public’s eye; their rights come second to those of the public (Bartels, 2014). This has seen many revolts and demonstrations in America and across the world where people argue that the police are either involved in extra-judicial killings or apply more force than the situation required. In some instances, this is usually the case, and in all means, the rule of law should also reign among the police, but there is also the element of stereotypical attitude where all the actions of the police officers are perceived as ill-intended without getting the facts. This is one of the examples of the challenges facing the police force that are sometimes very demotivating to police officers. Moreover, the responsibility of maintaining the law and order is becoming more complex due to the increased population making the police-citizen ratio untenable. Accompanied by the fact that criminal elements are now sometimes armed better comparing to the police officer, the phrase that police officers risk their lives is now becoming more than a reality with many casualties annually. Nowadays, the realities of the American police force are far more complex than people are aware of and police officers need more support rather than public bashing they have been experiencing at the local level and in the media.
Realities Facing the Police Force
The population has been increasing due to improved life expectancy. Moreover, more and more people are migrating to the USA, and all this influences an increased workload for police officers. The police-citizen ratio has always been a challenge in the USA where one police officer is responsible for the provision of security demands to more than 100 citizens. In 2015, police departments serving more than 50, 000 residents employed 16 to 21 police officers to guard 1000 citizens (Governing Data, n.d.). This translated to 10000/ ((16+21)/2) = ~10000/19 = 526 all figures rounded to the nearest whole numbers. This clearly demonstrates the complexity the police officers face in the line of guaranteeing the citizens their constitutional right to security. With the increased population, the workload has been increasing, and sometimes people feel as if the police force is neglecting their duties (Alexander, 2016). Another aspect of increased workload is the fact that it becomes almost impossible for the police to cover all the territory to deter criminal elements. As a result, crime rates have been on the rise where more homicides have occurred in Chicago (Erickson, 2016). Moreover, cases of mass shootings have also happened very often. This situation created a phenomenon that has been caused by the lack of enough police officers for an increasing population.
Changing Nature of Crime
Another reality the police force encounters are the ever-changing nature of the crime. One of the ways the police force supplements its poor police-citizen ratio is by crime projection exercises where the aim is to analyze the crime pattern and arrange a projection of areas that present a huge risk. However, currently, crime has been ever-evolving making it hard for the police force to counter it proactively (Erickson, 2016). A good example is the mass shooting at the schools or social avenues. This is one of the challenges that the police forces in the USA are often facing since these situations do not follow a particular pattern. It is one of the crimes that is said to follow the guerrilla tactics where the criminals hit when and where least expected. Moreover, one can observe a higher level of sophistication due to the high level of technology involved. However, the needs of police are rarely discussed in public and in the media, contrary to that more attention is paid to what the police force is failing to do (Alexander, 2016). The increased unpredictability of crime and low capacity among the police force both in terms of human and non-human capital is a challenge that is not only affecting their ability to provide security services but also influencing their morale in their line of duty.
More Armed Criminals
This is one of the greatest obstacles that police forces are facing around the States. With the guns being easily accessed, it is common to find the police officers battling with the gangs who are professionally armed. Moreover, it is not a surprise that you find police officers struggling to contain the criminals, because they are better armed thus requiring the reinforcement by the SWAT elite team. It is a known fact that nowadays gangs access all kinds of weapons very easily making it harder for the police force to handle them (Alexander, 2016). This easy access to guns and ammunition is posing a serious problem as was proved by the cases of Florida shootings. With the police force lacking jurisdiction in the regulation of the weapon ownership, it is highly disadvantaged when sometimes police officers have to disarm a criminal with firepower close to that in the army. Moreover, the regulations on gun ownership are too weak that even to count the exact number of those with guns is a problem. Thus, it is very easy to sell the weapon to the wrong hands that might cause unprecedented harm to the police officers and the public in general.
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This is a form of crime that has taken all the security agents to the limit due to its sophistication, drive of the criminals and the devastating impact on both the police force and public. The greatest challenge about this form of crime is the fact that in most cases the culprit is ready to die to ensure that he or she fulfills the plan to the end (Bartels, 2014). Moreover, this is a crime that is highly prevented through the use of intelligence but the problem is that the crime thrives in secrecy making the collection of intelligence more difficult. The traditional manner of policing is no match for this level of crime due to the cunning level involved not to mention the usage of high-end weapons. Considering the nature of such crime, the police force has to be retrained to improve their capacity to handle the cases of terrorism. Another challenge associated with the crime is that the police counter measurements are heavily perceived as racial profiling or religious profiling (Bartels, 2014). Thus, this makes it harder for the police officers to make any gains in the fight against terrorism and primarily creates a safety net for them to progress their hatred ideologies that are slowly progressing in many urban areas. The hypocritical aspect of this crime is that many people are quick to criticize any action taken against the crime on the basis of unfair profiling but there are some people who severely criticize the police officers if there is a case leaning towards terrorism.
It has been a common occurrence to find huge crowds protesting against some action by a police action. Most of the time this has been due to a case when police officers killed a person where the public has felt that the extreme action was not necessary. This is clearly within the constitutional right for the people to agitate for the change where the system seems to fail to reach a required objective. However, the frequent protests have done little to help the effective relationship between the police force and the public (Walker & Katz, 2013). Besides, there were some incidents like on the 17th of July, 2016, when five police officers were killed during that protest against the shootings of black men (Simkins, 2016). This is a clear illustration of how the protest has fueled the animosity between the police force and communities. This is particularly the case when it comes to the relationship between the cops and the black community. As a result, the level of mistrust between these two parties, namely the blacks who felt unfairly targeted by the police force has increased (Simkins, 2016). This makes harder for community policing where crucial information is delivered by the members of the public for the police to realign accordingly in the fight against crime. Moreover, this animosity helps the criminals to feel more relaxed not to mention the extra threat it brings to the police officers. In other words, police-public coordination and cooperation are crucial in ensuring that positive gains are made in the line of securing the communities from crime.
The above realities clearly demonstrate that the police force is facing a hectic time where crime is evolving together with society. Moreover, the challenges are only expected to intensify with the increase of police-citizen ratio. This is because the police force has always struggled when it referred to the recruitment and retention of the police officers (Cappitelli, 2016). With the increased scrutiny and the fact that police work is less paid compared to other jobs available, the challenge of a low number of police officers is a problem that is expected to persist. Therefore, having analyzed the seriousness of the challenges the police force is facing, it definitely needs more support to ensure that they have an enabling environment where they can access both the goodwill and cooperation from all the parties of the society. However, this is far from the treatment the police force is experiencing, moreover, heavy criticism from the public is one of the reasons why it is now much harder to attract new labor to the police force.
Current Trends being Experienced by the Police Force
This is one of the demotivating factors that the police force has been facing. This has been caused by the demand for the police officers to wear Body-Worn Camera (BWC) (Cappitelli, 2016). Thus, police officers have to have their cameras being on record as a means of recording their activities while on duty to ensure that all operational laws are followed. Despite the fact that the intention behind the BWC was noble, it is hard to deny the fact that for police officers these cameras are a constant reminder of the mistrust their authority and the general public has in their judgment (Johnson & Booker, 2015). The Federal Agency has also increased its involvement in the local police matters, a phenomenon that has been brought by the political pressure from DC (Cappitelli, 2016). This also brings the element of mistrust that affects the morale of the junior officers. Moreover, the actions of the police officers are very often recorded and given to the public court through the power of smartphones. The recording of a police officer for example when he/she is arresting a person makes the public to presume that the officer might be doing something wrong. This is one of the factors that have caused increased levels of mistrust between the public and police force.
Most of the times the incidences on police shootings or forceful arrests are shown on mass media and social media platforms where quite often uninformed or ill-informed judgments are made. These cases complicates the work for the internal disciplinary systems due to the increased pressure from the public sometimes in forms of mass and violent demonstration since the public considers the police officer to be automatically guilty. A good example of this reality is shown in the increased call by the public to guarantee the prosecution of officers involved in actions deemed to be unlawful to the public. However, sometimes these caption portrayals are profoundly countered by the BWC feed that shows the totality of the occurrences. However, despite the sharing of the new evidence with the public, the damage is usually done and the police image is heavily tarnished. For this reason, the police officers find it hard to win the trust of the public needed in upholding the necessary cooperation.
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This is another challenge that is heavily undermining the ability of the police force to handle various matters in the best way possible in terms of their operational demands. One of the avenues where the political class has undermined the role of the police is in the cases where one lays an accusation to police of racial profiling or any other element of discrimination (Alexander, 2016). In these instances, since the political class finds its support via votes, they are quick to side with the protestors demanding proper actions to be taken to the concerned officers. This also increases the intolerance levels within the society besides seconding the anti-police movement. It is true that the role of any politician is to safeguard the interest of their electorate, but there is a need to ensure that support of these movements sets a bad presidency to the public. The growing level of intolerance towards the police force, which has increased after the Ferguson and Baltimore shootings, is now a new reality for the officers (Simkins, 2016). Hence, the politicians should set an objective that does not support the wrong ideologies due to the influence of the crowd mind that eventually might expose the police officers to unnecessary risks.
Resultant New Realities of Police Occupation
Police work has always been a risky job. Statistics clearly demonstrate that every year certain amount of police officers in the USA pays the ultimate price in their line of duty. In 2015, the FBI reported that 41 police officers were killed. This presented a decline of 20% compared to the casualties in the year 2014 (Erickson, 2016). This made the year of 2015 to be a safety year to the police workforce (Bier, 2015). It has been characterized by the least number of deaths. However, this should not send the signal that the police officers have been experiencing an improved environment. This is far from the truth; the declining number of deaths has occurred due to the improved use of technology, bullet vests and a better medical cover (Bier, 2015). Moreover, considering the new anti-police rhetoric, policies are more fearful of being actively involved in proactive practices in curbing crime. For example, pro-active stops this year have been on the decline in Chicago by 80% compared to the last year. This is also the case in LA where it has been reported that the police are afraid of patrolling the streets unless followed by a 911 call (Erickson, 2016). This is a clear indication of how the reality of police occupation has changed particularly in recent years where the police officers are slowly being perceived as the public enemy.
Another reality that happens to the police officers is the fear of their role in breaking the news. According to the mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, the police officers are hesitant to be involved in the interdiction of criminals since when they are shown in the news means certain risk losing a job (Erickson, 2016). According to Erickson (2016), the continued reluctance by law enforcers to be involved in pro-active activities in the fight against crime is down to an ongoing rhetoric anti-police movement that has made an ordinary police officer to be exposed to more risk while on the streets.
Police officers have fewer factors that motivate them in their line of work. It is clear that because of the increased workload, the sophistication of the crimes, more armed criminals and increased levels of scrutiny, the work of a police officer has appeared to be one full of fear and uncertainty in terms of both personal safety and security of employment (Bartels, 2014). In addition, there is a lot of anxiety among the police officers in an environment where everyone is awaiting them to make a mistake (Johnson & Booker, 2015), and kick-start a demonstration agitating for the criminal prosecution. It is this fear that makes the job of police officers less satisfying and influences high turnover rates because this occupation becomes less attractive and desirable when it comes to recruitment. One more thing that matters are increased levels of tension between the police and the black-Americans. This is one of the factors that led to the killing of the five police officers in Dallas by a black American man armed with a military assault rifle.
The biggest problem with the heightened demonstration against what is perceived as rogue actions of police officers is the fact that the entire police force has been considered to be anti-public. Certainly, it is not true since even in the cases where it has been proved that police officers acted unlawfully, proper steps were always taken. However, the propagated ideology is a movement against police force brutality. This is a bad approach since it sidelines the fact that the majority of police officers are law-abiding citizens. For example, the police officers killed in Dallas killings were in no way involved in the Ferguson and Baltimore shootings. It is thus clear that the police working environment has turned out to be very dangerous, and the public is becoming hostile against those who risk their lives for people’s safety.
It is clear that police officers are facing enormous challenges due to the increased complexity of crimes, more armed criminals, and interference that has made their work more complicated. Moreover, the public is not offering the needed support when it comes to availing the necessary assistance that can help the police in countering the crime proactively (Alexander, 2016). Moreover, because of the various anti-police movements, e police occupation poses more risk to the officers. The result has been that officers are now facing the realities that are making their duty less appealing and full of fear. One of the primary interventions that need to be rolled out is countering the anti-police ideology (Alexander, 2016). If people continue to act in a manner that the police force feels more threatened, there are two possible eventualities that do not uphold a peaceful stay by the public. The police can protect itself by the use of even more force or can be reluctant to the apprehension of lawbreakers causing the occurrence of more crime.
Therefore, a happy police force means a happy society, and thus there is a need to assure the public that not the entire police force is rogue, but a few elements just like in any other organization. There is also a need to either enact more gun regulations or strengthen the existing one in the line of safeguarding the police officers from the gangs possessing better weapons comparing to the orderly police officers (Bartels, 2014). Moreover, the political class should also ensure that they give the officers the needed support and autonomy as means of both setting an example to the general public and motivating the police officers (Bartels, 2014). Further, more effective and successful campaigns to change the image and reputation of the police to some communities that feel aggrieved by recent occurrences are needed. For example, there is a need to change the perception the black community has that the police community is their enemy. This will not only improve the security of the police officers while patrolling on the streets but also will help with the investigational undertakings through improved community policing. There is no doubt that every day police officers put their life at risk for the safety of the public and this action should be reciprocated with the public. It will surely create a healthy and welcoming environment where the police officers can be more secure and motivated in their line of duty. More support is thus needed to ensure that police officers can be able to counter the crimes that are ever-evolving not to mention the rise of terrorism that has severe consequences for the public and police officers.
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It is evident that police officers are facing huge challenges caused by new realities in their line of duty. Moreover, there has also been a disengagement by some communities that have made police-public cooperation more impossible. The officers are now more concerned about their safety due to the increased anti-police rhetoric that has made them be potential targets for the criminals in the streets disguised as protesters. It is clear that the level of crime has also changed with more sophisticated crimes that required the public and police to work together as a team more effectively than before. However, it is clear that the lack of support from the public made the police force feel threatened and less proactive in the fight against crime. What is clear is the fact that the realities of the police force have changed for the worse, and police officers now understand that the public is against them with an increased level of scrutiny. One thing that police officers drastically need is support from the public and any other relevant body in the line of ensuring they are highly motivated and feel appreciated. There is, therefore, a need to organize ideological campaigns to change the increasing intolerance against the police force. It is thus clear that the American police force is experiencing complex challenges that are sidelined by the constant critic by both the media and the general public. Hence, more active measurements to improve the welfare and emotional condition of police officers should be taken.