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The police are an agency under a government or some kind of community that have the responsibility of maintaining the law, keeping the public in order, preventing crime and apprehending criminals and other offenders. They police and the law are integrated. It is the duty of police officers to maintain law and it is the law that enables the police to do their job. The history of police forces can be traced to the Praetorian Guard of Rome in ancient times. Romans used military forces to enforce and guard peace in their empires. By the beginning of the 5th century, policing was common in Europe and was often employed by the principalities. It the beginning, nobles had constables take care of policing duties.
Constables were often unpaid citizens who volunteered or were ordered to service. Private Citizens then began paying deputies to do the work of constables. 17th century France under King Louis XIV had a centralized police organization that had 40 inspectors who in turn had their own informants (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). Soon the French had two separate police bodies, one to deal with ordinary crime and the other with political crimes.
In London the public were demanding a more effective institution that would deal with lawlessness and protect the Citizens. As a result, the London Metropolitan Police force was formed and it was the first modernized police organization in the world. The London system was soon adapted as a model in formation of American police organizations (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). Other nations were impressed by the success of the British organization and after some time, the whole world had police institutions modeled after the British one. In 1845, a fulltime police force was formed in New York City and soon after, in Boston. These organizations came to be known as police departments.
Police departments have for a long time been closed and private. The public had little to no knowledge of what policing entails ad what goes on in police departments. Police departments are often the major law enforcement organizations with other branches like the courts helping them enforce laws. In most cases, police departments often have too much on their plate. Officers are fewer than criminals and crime and, how well a police department performs depends on its administration.
Nancoo (2004) in his book, Contemporary issues in Canadian policing states that change is the law of life and the police department is no immune to this concept. He explicates that police department's change and will keep doing so because of the many different demands that come up from citizens and crimes. The book explores the complexities in policing and has data on how these changes occur internally and externally and to what extent. In the journal of criminal law, criminology and police science; Mears (1962) writes about the evolution of the police department and administration at Indiana University. He describes how the administration evolved over the years into what it is. He further explicates about the complexities involving the evolution. The online source Law Library - American Law and Legal Information (n.d.) cited Wilson (1968) as having observed that police administrations like the people in them tend to develop unique methods of running things.
Since the conception of policing and its structures, it is evident that it is a field that evolves into what is required of it. The evolution of a police department can be negative or positive. In most cases, it depends on the administrative structures in place and those in charge. External pressure also contributes a lot to the evolution of police departments. The most forceful and effective external pressure is that from the general public. The administrative processes in a police department are dictated by the structure which the organization is formed since it is the framework that a police organization utilizes for resource management and conduction of activities. As such, the structure defines the type of police agency and in turn the administrative structures that will be used.
There are seven dimensions of the organization's structure (adapted from Langworthy and Maguire): one is vertical differentiation which describes the nature of the hierarchy in the police organization. It includes the number of layers of command and involves the social distance between the layers. Another is occupational differentiation which involves the extent to which the police organization incorporates people with special skills into helping with policing. Also, there is functional differentiation which involves the extent to which the police organization divides its duties into specialized functions, for instance administration patrol and investigation. The more divided they are, the more they are differentiated they are.
Another is spatial differentiation which involves the spread of the organization within its area of practice. Some departments have a single police headquarters while others have more. In addition, there is administrative intensity which involves the number of personnel employed in supportive administrative functions like computing and human resource as compared to those in policing tasks like investigations and patrolling. Another is formalization which involves the levels that a police organization bases its decisions on formal polices as opposed to other traditional bases like on friendship or family ties. The final one is centralization which involves the levels that the organization bases its decision making powers on a top hierarchy.
Different police administrations adopt different configurations for their structures. This is to say that thought they will adopt all the seven dimensions in their structures, there will be differences within each dimension. As police administrative departments evolve, the differences occur within the specific dimensions. For instance, an administration which needs to reach more individuals in its jurisdiction may move from having one police headquarters to having three thus becoming more spatially differentiated. There have been debates by police reformers on the best ways to structure administrations. However, the structure and how it evolves mostly depends on the challenges the administrative department comes across in its daily dealings.
There is also additional pressure from advocates of community policing for the change in structures of police administrations. The adaptation of more decentralized methods of administration is called for. Police organizations are changing but, at a slower rate than police reformers would have wanted (Law Library - American Law and Legal Information, n.d.). Other than evolving by changing structures it is most effective to change the organization from the inside out starting with the officers themselves. New training strategies as well as recruitment ones need to be developed to bring about a new breed of police officers as required. For instance, recruiting officers who feel the need to serve as a calling as opposed to recruiting those who only wish to have an adventure through policing (Law Library - American Law and Legal Information, n.d.).
These changes are not mostly in the physical sense but in changing the officers' attitude towards policing. One of the changes being advocated for majorly is the hiring of a representative police force. This means that the force should represent the people it serves, for instance, minority groups and women. In terms of changing training to help administrations evolve, police officers are being trained in additional communication skills and in showing compassion so as to relate well with citizens and get accurate information when taking statements.
The management of officers in police departments usually depends on the kind of structure the departments' administration has chosen to adopt. Officers often report to someone in a higher rank. These people are in charge of their discipline and problems. In case of a problem with an officer, someone in a higher rank will investigate and give appropriate feedback. Officers also report their own problems to their superiors. Functional differentiation gives officers different divisions in which they operate under.
Administrations in police departments have different roles for different individuals within it. There are roles for supportive staff and roles for police officers. The police officers have different ranks and are delegated duties according to their ranks. However, police administrations are often plagued with the problem of overworking their officers. The extent to which the administration is responsible for the officer's fatigue varies (Kenney & MaNamara, 1999). In most cases, an administration that delegates duties while taking into consideration factors affecting each particular officer often has fewer cases of fatigue. In addition, an administration with more police officers has fewer complaints of fatigue and has positive feedback from the people. Another contributing factor to more complaints is lack of rotation duties. Officers should have regular rotations so that they do not get bored from engaging in similar policing activities.
Another problem that police administrations are facing is that the people who are in charge of making major decisions concerning the running of the police departments are people without hands on knowledge of the operations of the department. There is a steady trend towards making sure that decision makers are former police officers who will have a better grasp at what changes will be most effective. They will also have an easier time sorting out problems with the officers. Police funds are spent on dealing with accidents, police misconduct and injuries. These problems can be prevented administratively such as encouraging a happy environment, ensuring safety in equipment. This requires that resources at police departments be up to date, effective and enough.
Police departments have resources that help them conduct their daily obligations. For instance cars, fire arms and police uniforms. In order for them to get these resources, they need funds. The better the equipment are, the more expensive they will be. Budget cuts in police departments are leading to more of them losing their jobs and fewer officers being recruited. All this is while the crime rate keeps rising due to fewer police offices. The consequences of fewer police officers also affect the administration because they will have a harder time delegating duties and issues to do with overworking and fatigue will keep rising.
Jobs are being cut at state levels with the decisions being made by state officials. Police departments are not exempted from these job cuts and are required to lay off police officers. It has become a common occurrence that cities having financial problems and attempting to close financial gaps are targeting police departments and so police administrations have to lay off people who are essential to the effective running of the department. It is a fact that crimes and criminals are more than police officers and budget cuts leading to layoffs are making the situation with rising crime worse.
The solution to deal with the budget cut would be to establish reserves that accommodate revenues from the previous budgets. These funds can be collected over many years and kept for use when situations threatening the stability of the police department occur. The administration of the police department should see to it that more funds are saved by ensuring that money is spent on necessary things. Redundant spending should be stopped and finances managed in better ways. In case of state budget cuts that call for layoffs, the administration can use the reserved money to keep those who are essential to the department.
Budget cuts are a problem with police departments but, they are not the only problem. Training standards in police departments also need to be kept up. It is difficult for administrations to maintain up to date training of officers it there are budget cuts. Individuals must meet certain criteria before they are considered to be police officers but they also have to be trained in additional skills because of changing trends. For instance, if a police officer was recruited before technology was a trend in committing crimes, he will need to be trained on how to apprehend these criminals. Some police departments have special sections for training police officer like the Hialeah Police department in Florida, United States of America and the Miami police department has a distinguished history in training. The officers are trained both physically and mentally. This prepares them to deal with situations effectively.
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In conclusion, police administrations face many problems and issues in their daily running. These problems are part of what they do and though all of them cannot be prevented those that can, should be prevented. They need to be armed with strategies to handle problems that cannot be prevented. Police administrations should work with other organizations that decide their fate and have representatives who can present their case to them. Officers should be given the beat possible environment to work on, if they are comfortable, then the work they do will be effective. Problems are a part of policing and it is how a police department deals with the challenges it faces that speaks to its effectiveness. The good news is that there seems to be a common need to want to make the functioning of police departments better.