It is not known for sure when the term policing was first coined but the concept of policing is not new to the world. In ancient China a faction of people were used by governments to act as administrators. Their role was not very different from the role of police today as they used to control social unrest and investigate criminal matters. The idea of police force is very old and it has developed from a group of people trying to keep a check on crime into a separate institution considered vital for any civilized society. The concept of policing is now developing more rapidly with the advent of private sector. The private sector is preparing to take policing to a whole new level and in near future policing will be used for a number of new purposes.
The Development of Policing
In ancient times, apprehending of criminals was a task performed by the citizens of the state and the scope of policing was very limited (Kirchangast, T 2008, p.2). It has developed with the passage of time and with the increase in the sophistication of societies. The scope of policing is not limited now and it encompasses a number of areas where their intervention was restricted by society, either in the name of privacy or behind the curtains of culture. The development of policing can be considered development of society in a way as it is the purpose of society that is bringing these changes in the concept of policing.
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The historical perspective need not to be discussed at great length as it is not very important. It is pivotal, however, to understand and analyze the changes in the obligation and duty of police force in today's world and the causes and benefits of such a change. A comparison is needed of the role of police today and the role of police say 20 years ago and this will help us understand how or why our society has benefitted from this development.
Marital Affairs and Police Intervention
The area of marital life is an area which did not come under the jurisdiction of the police, at least realistically. Although on paper rights were laid down and police was allowed to act on the reports of violence but the mentality and attitude of police officers in response to cases of domestic violence was parochial in nature (Godfrey & Lawrence 2005). Police officers were ready to show some leniency towards perpetuators of domestic violence. They had this nonchalance attitude towards this problem and they thought that the privacy of a couple should be respected no matter what.
In order to truly understand the attitudes of police on this issue, we will have to analyze the thinking and mindset of society on the dilemma of privacy and law and order. It is shocking to know that, in 2003, more people were found to be willing to call the police if they witness someone ill treating a dog than in response to some domestic violence (Curran, L A 2010, p.8). This is the mental sickness that prevailed in the society sometime back and this was due to the acceptance of authority of husband over wife by everyone, including the state and for this reason the intervention of police in such matters was not appreciated or encouraged (Godfrey & Lawrence 2005).
The situation has started to change and more women are now reporting about their abusive husbands, and the actions of police in this case have improved somewhat. People have now started to report such criminal offenses and police are now taking strict measures to avoid any way out for these abusive partners. This is an area where policing has developed according to researchers and criminologists. This development is marked by an increase in the sophistication of society. The more civilized society becomes the more liberal it will act against issues like domestic violence. Privacy cannot be allowed in the case of suffering of any individual and this what the society understands and police is also portraying the same mindset. Police is actually an extension of the society and it will also mend ways as the society evolves and develops.
Parenting and the Influence of Policing
Another area where the idea of intervention of law enforcement agencies is prospering is parenting. The child parent bond has been considered sacred from the beginning of mankind for many reasons; theological or cultural. People think parents as true guardians who know where to draw boundaries. The influence of parents was not questioned by anyone until recent times. Children were expected to behave in unacceptable manner and it was accepted that parents should discipline by all means available. Parents were also allowed to use any physical punishment if necessary to straighten their children.
This is not the case now and more and more children and reporting to police about the inappropriate behaviour of their parents and police is now expected to come to the help of children. Children are actually encouraged to report to law enforcing authorities if they think they are being physically abused by one or both parents (Wheat, P 2010).
This is a total turn around in the behaviour of society and this may be attributed to the increasing number of incidents of abuse on children. The society has now realized that parents will have to restrict them to certain limits when rearing children. The role of police has also evolved in this area and factors like race, level of abuse and severity of incident were found to affect the decision of police in arresting the offenders (Erez & Tontodonato 1989). This changed attitude can also be considered development of idea of policing.
The change in the attitudes and practices of the policemen are not just the changes that are taking place in policing, but the introduction of private policing is considered a great landmark by many in the institution of policing.
There has been a huge increase in the number of people employed in the security related occupation from 1951, according to some estimates this increase is approximately 240 percent (Jones & Newburn 1998). This increase is marked by an increase in the need of security by the private sector. The influence of private sector in policing has bought many changes in the methods and perception of police. The idea of a single group of individual working for the government to control crimes and catch criminals is long forgotten and the idea of policing is subject to change.
The control that these private security individuals exercise has allowed security industry to grow. Many big companies now have their own security unit for protection and police is seldom required. They also think that their relation with the police is good and they believe that they will call them if their help is needed (Jones & Newburn 1998, p.93). This shows that the growth of private sector in the field of policing is not because of any dissatisfaction of the society with the performance of the police. The reason for this shift is the increase of pressure the government faces in today's world and these private security companies are trying to fill the gap that government is unable to fill (p.98). Privatization, in like any other sector, aims to improve the performance of the sector and this is what companies are doing. This is another way the concept and idea of policing is widening, and with the advent of more and more private sector companies will help improve the quality of policing.
The way the police perform has also improved by the advent of private sector as it has brought the new technology that has been of great help in preventing crimes (Newburn, T 2008). This is one of the greatest advantages of private sector policing. They have introduced new methods and techniques that have revolutionized the field criminology and without the help private sector this technology would have been impossible to achieve.
With the introduction of private policing, the scope of police as an institution has increased instead of limiting. The 'new police' have made people safer and criminals now have fear of being caught. The hiring of private investigators is now a common practice and this has done significant benefit to the general public. The use of latest equipment has increased chances of solving crimes and catching criminals. People's perception has also changed and people have developed high regard for law and order. All this is because of the 'new police' and the widening of the concept and idea of policing.
It is not impossible to think of a future where local companies will overtake the jobs of the police and law enforcing agencies, and they will become the police themselves. The increasing privatization of many sectors has forced us to expect change of this degree. In the future world a policemen standing at your door may get his income from a private company and may report to that company only. Government in the future will grow less powerful and the influence of corporations is expected to increase.
This future is not very hard to imagine as private investigation agencies have already started to help people in their pursuit of safety and justice. This is only the beginning and new and more improved forms of policing will develop as the demands of the society become more complex and sophisticated.
Other Factors in Development of Policing
There are a host of other factors that have contributed to the development of policing. The work of police is now very organized and the level of professionalism has also increased. The use of uniforms and other identifications that signifies a policemen today have helped them realize their role and their role has also evolved greatly (Newburn & Reiner 2007, pg. 920). From controlling social unrest to catching criminals and solving murder mysteries, the role police have transformed. The legal structure has also evolved greatly and it has been adjusted to keep a check on criminals and enhance security of the residents of the society.
The institution of Police was also suffering from racial prejudice and discrimination, but now this is not the case. In this particular area policing has developed and has become more pragmatic and rational. They have able to control their biases and now the racial prejudices have ceased to play a role in conviction or releasing of criminals. The evaluation of policing authorities has also increased and now police force is held accountable for their actions. All these changes have played a part in the development of policing.
The new concept of policing is very different from the historic idea of policing. The institution has developed greatly and the changes that it has brought are of valuable benefit to the common people. The increased intervention of police in private affairs of the people has reduced the suffering of people and the issue of domestic violence is now taken very seriously by the police. The introduction of private security agencies and other private sector companies in the field of safety and security have helped policing evolve technologically. The use of new techniques has changed the whole outlook of policing and added great value to the institution.