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Free «Becoming a Cop» Essay Sample

Law enforcement agencies play a vital role in maintaining order in the United States. These agencies recruit officers who have the ability to use their commands restricted in some way and in most cases they are geographical. In the United States each state has one or several law enforcement agencies which execute different tasks. Some of these agencies for example the FBI are known as federal agencies because they operate in many countries assisting in law enforcement activities and countering international crimes like terrorism. Although these federal agencies may not directly enforce laws these agencies facilitate the sharing of information necessary for law enforcement even within the United States.

The process on how to become a Law Enforcement officer

In the last few years the recruitment process of law enforcement officers has become increasingly challenging (Dempsey & Forst, 2009). According to Palmiotto & Brown “more than 80 percent of the nations 17,000 law enforcement agencies are facing lack of qualified candidates” (2007, p. 3). In their studies Palmiotto & Brown indicated that there is always a need for highly rained and highly skilled law enforcement agents (2007). Nowadays all policing agencies are finding that rapidly changing technology not only provides law enforcement with new ways to investigate crime but also provides criminals with new tools to commit crime. This also implies that law enforcement agencies are constantly seeking to hire and train new policing candidates who are able to work well with the public, maintain high ethical standards, work independently and act as a positive role model for the community (Palmiotto & Brown, 2007).



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Palmiotto & Brown (2007) found out that “the process of recruiting law enforcement officers includes evaluating each candidates potential for civilian law enforcement then going through assortment of written, psychological, and physical tests” (p. 3). Once candidates are aware of the ability areas that the tests attempt to evaluate and the testing methods agencies typically use, they begin to sharpen and improve the necessary skills (Palmiotto & Brown, 2007). Candidates for police position are expected to communicate well both verbally and in writing.

The first step involves recruiting potential officer candidates where the department involved receives and review applications. Secondly the recruits are administered written examinations after which they conduct physical fitness tests. The next step is administering psychological examinations then interviews are conducted on the recruits. The final phase in the process of recruiting law enforcement officers involves conducting background investigation of applicants then administering medical examinations then lastly selection of the candidates and then job offers are made (Palmiotto & Brown, 2007). 

FBI was created in 1908 as the as the Bureau of Investigation and there after named as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935 (Gaines & Miller, 2008). They continue to say that FBI has jurisdiction over nearly two hundred federal crimes including sabotage, spying, kidnapping, extortion, bank robbery, interstate gambling and civil rights violation. According to Gaines & Miller (2008) FBI is uniquely positioned to combat worldwide criminal activity such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The agency in times of national emergency the FBI is the primary arm of federal law enforcement. Today the FBI has more than 30,000 employees and an annual budget of over $6.4 billion ad provides support to local and state law enforcement agencies (Gaines & Miller, 2008).

The U.S Marshals is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in America. Formed and enacted back in 1789 it acted as law enforcement agencies in the western territories. Gaines & Miller (2008) says that following the civil war in 1861 to 1865 when most of the territories had become states these agents were assigned to work for the U.S district courts where federal crimes are tried. According to Gaines & Miller (2008) the relationship “between the U.S. Marshals service and the federal courts continues today’s and forms the basis for the officers main duties” (147). Some of functions of U.S Marshals include providing security at federal courts for judges, jurors and other room participants, controlling property that has been ordered seized by federal courts, protecting government witness who place themselves in danger by testifying against the targets of federal criminal investigations.  

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The Los Angeles Police Department was formed in the year 1850 and has evolved from a one man marshal’s office to one of the biggest and most sophisticated law enforcement agencies in the nation (Pitt & Dale, 1997). This law enforcement agency since 1950 has become the second largest police force in the nation protecting over 3.4 million people living in a 465 square mile area. Pitt & Dale (1997) says that “its mandate is to enforce city, state, and federal laws for the protection of persons and property and for the preservation of community peace” (299). They continue to say that the Los Angeles Police Department has the mandate of setting overall state policy, conducts the final review in any mandatory investigation n the use of force (Pitt & Dale, 1997).  Headed by the police chief he is responsible for the administration, inspection and control of the department and for maintain relations with the city council.

The California Highway Patrol has its roots in the early 1920s.  According to Mattos & Estrada (2008) “the California Highway Patrol became a separate state entity in 1929 and has grown from the early traffic enforcement role to that of one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the United States” (p. 128). The responsibilities range from patrolling the freeways and county roads of California to providing security for the state capital and other state buildings besides protecting the governor and visiting dignitaries from around the world. Mattos & Estrada (2008) also found out that the California Highway Patrol has marshaled its forces to restore and maintain peace in times of war, civil unrest or natural disasters.  

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The Los Angeles Sheriff Department is the largest sheriffs department in the world. According to the article “History of the Los Angeles County Sheriff department” published in Los Angeles County Sheriff department his law enforcement department was formed in April 1850. This agency is the largest provider of contact law services, transit service, court services and custody services. The website further says that the Los Angeles County Sheriff department Provides custody and correctional facilities, inmate information.       

List the pros and cons working for each agency

The public expectations for a police officer are often immense. Palmiotto & Brown (2007) says that the public expects the law enforcement agencies to prevent crime and make arrests. With the growing use of technology the California Highway Patrol s expected to enforce traffic regulation in the whole state, maintain social order and provide emergency services. The responsibility of monitoring crime is challenging to the law enforcement agency because of the rate of adoption of technology in crime scenes. This implies that law enforcement agents must fast track technology to avoid failure.

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Rieckh & Greiff (2007) says that most of the law enforcement agencies are faced with abuses and therefore there is a need to assist their members to continue their practices. This means that addressing a legacy of abuse in the Los Angeles Sheriff Department should therefore not be limited to developing agencies capacities and also deal with the means its members can employ to pursue the use of these capacities (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007). In the California Highway Patrol there is always a need of integrity building to ensure that the members of this law enforcement agency refrain from committing serious abuses (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007).

Majority of the law enforcement agencies face the challenge of integrity building and therefore this implies that constant reforms in those departments will be required to promote confidence in those agencies (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007). According to Rieckh & Greiff (2007) the U.S Marshals may “require a fundamental shift in the focus of its members such that the agents shift from serving the state, from the previous known authoritarian regime or partisan interest groups to serving the citizens” (p. 494). They continue to say that agencies such as The Los Angeles Sheriff Department should change its image from what most people see as oppression, impunity and arbitrariness to service, public accountability and legality and also from provoking fear to responding to the public needs (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007)        

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List what dilemma’s or issues that may keep applicants from joining their agency

Most law enforcement agencies have rigorous recruitment process most likely keep applicants from joining these agencies. Rieckh & Greiff (2007) says that the effects of the training programs on actual conduct are difficult to assess and they have comprehensive impacts to those joining the agencies. Another dilemma that faces applicants especially those joining FBI and U.S. Marshall is the need to establish effective accountability mechanisms particularly for building the integrity and legitimacy of these two law enforcement agencies (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007). In this context, accountability mechanisms for law enforcement agencies is challenging because these officers are obliged to oversee both their conduct and their performance in providing public safety.

In addition Rieckh & Greiff (2007) says that the other dilemma which applicants face is that conflict and authoritarian rule which may be endorsed because of work conditions. They continue to say that abuses may be committed and professional standards are frequently not clearly defined (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007). Also the process of enforcing the procedures during the applications may some times not exist or they may be dysfunctional. Internal accountability mechanisms may no be well defined and sometimes there is lack of internal disciplines, mechanisms within the law enforcement agencies to monitor, investigate, and report on conduct of their members which may hinder potential applicants from joining the law enforcement agencies (Rieckh & Greiff, 2007).       

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How to join special units such as SWAT and special agents within the agencies

SWAT teams and other special units address specific emergency and lifesaving situations that regular officers on routine patrol do not have the time or expertise to handle (Dempsey & Forst, 2009). According to Dempsey & Forst these special agencies serve to supplement the police response and maintain efforts to keep citizens and other officers safe (2009). They also indicated that SWAT teams were created in many cities during the 1960 in response to riots and similar disturbances. They are commonly used around the country but sometimes have other names (Dempsey & Forst, 2009).

Dempsey & Forst indicated that members of these agencies are carefully chosen and trained in the use of weapons and strategic invasion tactics especially in dealing with conflicts (2009). It is important to note that no matter hoe the SWAT team or other special agencies is formed their training is very crucial. Dempsey & Forst says that the units are constantly trained and learn how to work together so that any action they will take during the duty will be appropriate and court defensible (2009).

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SWAT teams are selected in a certain criteria. Blau (1994) says that emphasis is frequently on having a normal personality and the ability to work well as a team member. When joining this type of law enforcement agencies high level of physical fitness is required and is also considered. Blau thus indicated that team members considered must be able to tolerate stress and conditions of extreme fatigue and still respond effectively to variable confrontations (2009 p. 144). 

Blau (1994) further says that courts have generally ruled in favor of situations where law enforcement agencies have gained admittance to private dwelling through deception. He continues to say that the Supreme Court can rule out that agencies do not require prior approval in the form of a warrant before using some agents. The court thus in most cases determines that wrongdoers are not protected by usual Fourth Amendment constraints (Blau, 1994). Studies show that in most law enforcement communities the incidence of psychiatric disturbance and severity of symptomatology has been found to be highest among active special agents and the most affected agents are the relatively young with no experience and who are engaged in long term investigations (Blau, 1994).

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Costs versus benefits

One of the potential costs experienced by law enforcement agencies is that in most cases those involved in life endangering situations may be hurt or killed in duty. Blau (1994) says that “this involves those agents involved in investigation of illegal narcotics traffic” (p. 144). There is also a great danger of the officers to begin using the narcotics or collaborate with the wrongdoers. Research shows that agents who tended to have a disciplined self image presented a lower risk for any sort of corruption (Blau, 1994).

In conclusion law enforcement agencies are demanding jobs regardless the agency in which an individual is working for or intends to work in. Some of agencies tend to be more dangerous, more tasking and at the same time more stressful than normal routine police operations. In the recent years joining these law enforcement units has been a growth of interest in both testing candidates for such positions. Evaluating the applicants rigorously before offering them the chance to join the agencies is inevitable especially in federal agencies such as the FBI, SWAT and U.S Marshall units. The agents working in these special agencies are evaluated regularly to determine whether their work has resulted in any psychological condition impairing their capacity to serve in these agencies.


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