The police are in charge of different activities and operations that ensure smooth running of a nation. Their role in society is highly critical in law enforcement, protection of persons and property, and in maintaining order. They engage in various activities and operations. Some of these are extremely involving. Some need a lot of intelligence, use of force and authority, use of weapons, and some are exceedingly dangerous. In addition, the operations may require high scale technology.
Dangers of Policing
In carrying out their duty, most of the police officers face numerous dangers. Some of them are direct while others are indirect. Policing is the most dangerous of all the occupations. These dangers are increasing rapidly. The number of officers killed or injured in line of duty is increasing rapidly (Dempsey & Forst, 2004). The police face risk of infectious diseases, some of which are highly threatening.
There are a lot of reports of killings or injuries to the police. The tasks performed by police expose them to dangerous humans. They constantly respond to dangerous situations such as robberies in progress, people shooting each other, fighting or stubbing each other. Such situations sometimes expose the police to people with lethal weapons. They face confrontation from law breakers or people who are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed. There are times when the police respond to unknown problems, disturbances in which they have little or no information, and risk unknown dangers. The worst danger faced is death. Some criminals may confront police with all types of weapons. Others may resist arrest by shooting at the police often killing or injuring them. The increasing drug and alcohol use among the youths is one of the contributing factors increasing the risk of death (Dempsey & Forst, 2004). Drug trafficking and business involves the use of trained, merciless armed gangs who often shoot violently at the police.
The second danger is the risk of contamination of diseases or dangerous chemicals. Policing involves rescue of injured people in scenes of accidents, fighting. There is an increase in the number of people with highly infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The police expose themselves to risks of exposure to such diseases when handling the injured people or the causalities when they come into contact with their blood or wounds. In addition, they face the risk of contamination from toxic chemicals such as iodine, lithium and lye. Such risk occurs in situations where they have to arrest people in labs manufacturing methamphetamine compounds.
Additionally, policing expose officers to intense stress. Researchers indicate that the rate of alcoholism, divorce and suicide is significantly high (Terry, 2002). This indicator of stress point out that policing is stressful. Occupational stress can lead to incidences of insomnia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, increase in levels of cortisol hormones, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide among the police than in the general population. Reports show that more than 284 suicide deaths occurred in 2000 and 2001 in the USA (Dempsey & Forst, 2004). This meant 17 suicide cases occur in 100,000 police. This rate is higher than the national suicidal rate of 11 per 100,000 people (Terry, 2002).
In the US, there were 156 policemen died in line of duty. 68 deaths were from assaults on officers. 54 were from vehicle related accidents. The rest died from heart attacks, contamination of diseases, emergency blood transfusions, falls, drowning and accidental gun discharges (Dempsey & Forst, 2004)..
Less Than lethal weapons
Most of the time, the public is not happy with the use of a deadly weapon by the police. The high rate of incidences of killings of innocent people calls for alternatives of deadly weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons are weapons that cause little or no harm. They have inherent danger of harm to the suspects. No death, injury, or side effects result from them. At the same time, the intention of their use is to incapacitate the persons without damage of property or the environment. They are useful in control of individual persons, crowds and rioters.
There are four classes of less than lethal weapons: restraint devices, distraction and disorientation devices, vehicle interdiction, and crowd control devices. The police employ blunt munitions and chemicals mostly in their daily operations. These weapons include thermal guns, net guns, temporal blindness strobe light, drug-tipped darts, pepper spray, water cannons and tear gas. Pepper spray is one of the most used non lethal weapons. A recent research indicates that injuries to civilians reduced by approximately 45 percent while physical harm among the law enforcement officers reduced by 15 percent (Dempsey & Forst, 2004). The injuries inflicted by these alternatives included strains, abrasions, minor bruises.
Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
Since the September 11 terrorism attack on USA, the US government takes the issues of homeland security seriously. The police force is in the forefront of fighting terrorism and ensuring homeland security. It is the responsibility of the police to prevent, prepare against and respond to terrorism. This is achieved through the use of high intelligence surveillance within the borders of the country. The federal government is expanding the nature and functions of the law enforcement.
According to a survey done in 2004, there is an increase in duties of the police force. The increased responsibilities involved an increase in the number of officers, police patrols and integration of intelligence of intelligence data. The Department of Police had to employ specialized intelligence police to enforce internal security. The officers have to maintain a high standard of detection of suspicious activities. There is a shift in priorities of funding and enforcement from community crimes and fight against drug trafficking.
It is almost impossible to carry out policing without advancement in policing technology. The 1900s finger printing technology and advancement of the crime laboratories increased police ability to combat crime. Later, the police production doubled with the use of two-way radio and automobiles. The equipping of the police force with modern technology will ease police work and enhance efficiency.
Computer technology is one of the basics for law enforcement. Information technologies are significantly increasing productivity of the police force. These include computerized crime mapping, fingerprinting databases and records management systems. The use of notebook computers in crime scenes helps police access individual’s credentials, produce an instant report, collect evidence and identify fingerprints at crime scenes. The police can collect all the necessary information in a short time and apprehend perpetrator. In addition, global positioning satellite and the geographic information systems provides the police with the ability to track criminals (National Institute of Justice, 1998).
Future of Policing
The future of policing is promising. The increased awareness in the need for improvement of police departments is increasing. There are efforts to improve officer protection from possible dangers involved in policing. The research done on the causes and impacts of police stress outlines various recommendations for reducing suicide and stress related complications. The advancement in modern technology in policing will require funding to decrease time of response and speed. A recent research by the Executive Police Research Forum reports that funding will enable acquiring of high grade technologies (National Institute of Justice, 1998).