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The importance of the police in maintaining peace and order

Throughout the years, police have been held in high regards because of their work and reputation to resolve any mishappening faced by a civilian. Police are a central element to any government as they help with the law enforcement and ensure that the citizens are maintaining their state of health and safety along with being empowered by the government for proper implementation of their roles and acting as a disciplinary figure. Keeping that in mind, there is a difference between police and military as the police aims to keep peace and order at the local level while military is mainly employed against any international threat (Pantazis & Pemberton 2009). Therefore, while both are authorised by the state to control and exercise their power over citizens, their roles differ as one is a key figure on the community level while the other is important at the national and international level (Pantazis & Pemberton 2009). In the present times, the role of police has changed because of advancements in all fields of life along with certain changes in the social, economic, and political structure of the society. Moreover, while this change has been creating a distort between the typical roles of the police and the new roles that the police had to take on, it is yet to be seen whether the change in the roles of the police is beneficial to the society. This paper will look at the primary roles of the police while analysing the changes of the police’s roles as well as assessing the disposition of the change. Moreover, the analysis and an evaluation of this change in the role of the police would also be studied. 

The police have been credited for eradicating crimes and maintaining a social order in the society apart from their other roles. There are many roles of the police as stated by the Brown (2013) in a report for Independent Police Commission. Firstly, it is important to focus on their preliminary role in the society. The basis of their role is providing justice to citizens while maintaining a stability across the society by preventing crime, hatred, and harm to others (Brown 2013). The statement of purpose for Police Scotland declares that the key role of the policing is to ensure that the citizens are safe and the well-being of an individual, locality, and community is maintained in the social structure (as cited in Brown 2013). Moreover, the police must also work with others when required to engage with the local communities and encourage the prevention and eradication of crime, maltreatment, and diseases (Brown 2013). While the key role of the police is to protect others and prevent people from harm, their actions should be locally acceptable and responsible while keeping in the mind the limited resources (Brown 2013). The factors should be distributed in such a way that they reach every section of the community and are delivered effective for their maximum satisfaction. In regards with the role of police, it is also important to analyse the Peelian Principles of Policing.

Peelian Principles of Policing

Sir Robert Peel (1829) outlined nine principles for better policing (as cited in Brown 2013). They are listed below:

  • To prevent the occurrence of crime and disorder (Brown 2013).
  • To understand that the police power depends on public approval of their actions and behaviour (Brown 2013).
  • To recognise the aggregable support of the public along with maintenance of the law (Brown 2013).
  • To identify the limit to which the police can rely on public cooperation and it decreases with the use of physical force and compulsion for attaining objectives set by police (Brown 2013).
  • To seek and gain public favour by constantly following the laws, without any regard to the justice or injustice to other laws, by offering services to the public without anu consideration of their social and economic status and by readily sacrificing life for protection of and saving lives (Brown 2013).
  • To use force only, when necessary, that is persuasion, instruction, and warning have become insufficient for public cooperation to follow and observe law along with using only the required minimum amount of physical force when required (Brown 2013).
  • To maintain a distance between the police and public and to remember that the police is appointed for the giving their services to the society and in interest of the welfare and existence of the community (Brown 2013).
  • To remember their roles and follow a firm adherence to police-executive functions and to refrain from doing the work of the judiciary by punishing the individual on their own and to not declare anyone guilty (Brown 2013).
  • To recognise that the police efficiency can be only proven through the absence of crime and disorder and not by portraying police action and dealing with crimes (Brown 2013).

Thus, the nine principles by Sir Peel have been used by the police till date to understand the role and responsibilities of a police officer.

With the radical changes in the structure of the society in Britain, we are bound to see some changes in the role of the police. The police have now aimed to provide services that can reduce crime and foster social order (Solar 2014). In the recent decade, UK has been a subject to many changes. The country, which was once known for its glory worldwide with a tight control on authoritative proliferation, has now had to endure many changes that revolutionised the structure of the authority (Solar 2014). Police, now, has to deal with more crimes and laws, both of which complicate their basic role of social order.

The key challenges they have to face in the present day are generated because of the advancement seen in the society along with a philosophical crisis of the society which is fostering more morally loose characters. Moreover, with changing government, the police force and their effectiveness has also been affected (Brown 2013). With the globalisation and constant economic changes, some transformation in the society as well the police systems are bound to happen (Brown 2013). The globalisation of different materials and products; immigration and mobility of an individual; social media and internet usage, family fragmentation, and inequality has increased (Brown 2013).

This social change and mass societal structure reformation has also alerted every individual about the increase in criminal activity along with noted decline in the trust for the police. Moreover, the patterns of the crime have changed with more criminal activity in areas related to internet and social media (Loftus 2009). It has also been seen that the minorities and the economically poor are targeted for the crimes, which becomes a huge challenge for them to prove their innocence (Shiner 2010; Miller 2010; Waters et al. 2007). Apart from that, with the change in government, there were some noted decrease in the number of police, affecting the efficiency of their work. There are further reforms in the government regarding the police pay and working conditions, which has realigned their role in the society (Brown 2013). Thus, many changes have occurred in the recent past.

In the course of year 2012, the police had to face several challenges regarding proper service in England and Wales because of political factors. Because of financial constraints, they had to limit proper policing and decrease their efforts towards the betterment of the society (Brown 2013). The police, which should be centred on maintain peace in the society by preventing further crimes, has turned its focus on the reacting to the crime. With the introduction of the role of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and new government, many argue that now the role of policing has been limited to reacting to crimes rather than preventing them (Brown 2013). Moreover, since a single person is handling the problems of a locality as PCC, it is difficult to imagine how a single person can cover such a large area. In the face of the challenged faced by the police, another one came with the decrease in police morale because of the strict actions of the government. Moreover, the pay issues and decrease in the number of the police forces has negatively influenced their morale along with creating dysfunctional police force (Brown 2013). The police also get constantly associated with many scandals such as improper relations wit the media, failure of investigation of serious crimes such as sexual abuse, victim discrediting and cover-ups, deceptive reports, allegations against undercover agents and other allegations which involve bugging the house of a family and sexual misconduct at workplace (Brown 2013).

Challenges faced by the police in the present day society

It should also be noted that while policing has become more centred towards reacting to problems because of the political and financial constraints, the constraints of police force might also increase the quality of policing (Millie 2013). Police can now evolve from being crime fighters to attain responsibilities that is a combination of crime controller, social service provider and order upholder (Millie 2013). The police’s services are required in areas relating to disaster management and crowd controlling which have exponentially changed their work and added roles apart from preventing crime and maintaining peace (Millie 2013). 

In the context of the above analysis, it can be understood that roles of the police have changed despite several new factors contributing to the diversion of role into many new areas creating a better society for the civilians. Moreover, this change has become positive for the society as it has led to more inclusive and safety affirming practices. The police have become more attentive to the needs of the society. Their role from their work in the neighbourhood and locality has increased exponentially to include providing services to the general public. In the recent times, their role has also increased to control crowd, disaster management, and probation management. However, this change has proven negative for the overall contribution to the society.

The police force’s treatment of the ethnic and minorities group led to several structural and behavioural changes. Since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the police had to become more cognizant of the stereotypes and bias that arise from the generalisation of a particular group or community (Miller 2010). The overall thinking of the society of minorities to be associated can be seen in the ‘Islam Fanaticism’ that the Muslims have to face (Miller 2010). They are thought of as the enemy of the state and have to face the counter-terrorist legislation (Miller 2010). Moreover, they are categorised as the ‘suspect community’ which is both harmful to the community as well as the national security (Pantazis & Pemberton 2009). Reforms to resolve such behaviour and institutional racism have been taken as negatively and with apprehension. It has led to several defence mechanisms by the police as such reforms are taken as a collective punishment for the ineffective and unfair treatment of the ethnic groups in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry (Pantazis & Pemberton 2009). It should also be noted that stop and search reform after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry has affected the reporting more bias free and improved the arrest rate of the searches (Miller 2010). This has also gained political and practical importance as it supports accountability of the officers in terms of their actions (Miller 2010).

With the changes, the police culture has taken on political paradigms. Policing has embedded itself in the current scenario. The culture of work which has been located in the current institutional considerations, has allowed for both intentional and structured actions. The role of the police has taken on some common-value based approaches, affecting the importance of the police (Scripture 1997). Even though the patrolling police is not associated with controlling crime, this new branch of police should also be credited for maintaining order in locality (Ranasinghe 2016). With time and practice, the social and political mindset of an individual also changes in the attitude of a trainee and senior police officers (Scripture 1997 as cited in Waddington 1999). This is more inclined towards a positive difference because of the positive behaviour and attitude that is present in the canteen of police sub-culture (Scripture 1997). The main assessment of the police occurs in the social and political circumstances and thus, is related to racism and discrimination and the intolerance associated with it. There is a sensitivity in policing regarding the political context which has alerted all the police members to serve the society (Scripture 1997). The new policing realities have alerted everyone about the changing working conditions and the people have come forward to the meet the basic requirement associated with their role. It should also be noted that there several implications of the police identity because of the recent developments and changes in the policing (Loftus 2009). However, the older patterns of policing culture have still some effects on the current working of the police (Loftus 2009). Even though the older policing is considered as irrelevant in the present day, it still has some control over the present police force (Loftus 2009). In the present time, policing has taken crime as a political priority and believed to have infinite resources to solve crime while reality is completely opposite (Loftus 2009). The resources determined for the betterment of the society by police use has decreased and affected the effectiveness of the police (Loftus 2009). Because of changes in the society that still resonate with the traditional systems of policing, the work has been affected for the positive (Loftus 2009). Loftus (2009) has also noted that the changing government also affects the policies of the police as they might resonate with the file and ranking of the police as done by the Conservative party in 2005.  

Social change and mass societal structure

Conclusion

To sum up, the role of the police has changed with the changing time. The preliminary role of the police used to prevent crime and disorder from the society while maintaining peace and order. This has been supported by the Peelian principles of policing which state nine roles of the police along with certain rules and regulations that should be followed by the police in the present day, as stated by Independent Police Commission. The change of the structure and functioning of the police has been affected by political, economic, and social political factors. Political factors include changing government and with that, the changing laws along with modification in the certain principles of policing. Moreover, the structural changes in the police such the role of PCC as well as the pay cut and decreasing number of the police force are also political factor. Economic factors include financial constraints on the society which resulted in limited work for the public and attaining a crime rection approach. Finally, the social factors include racism and bias that was uncovered by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry which led to mass changes in the structuring of the police. The changes have also affected the performance and morale of the police officers. Changes in the role of the police have also included the new responsibilities of the police such as crowd controlling, probation officer, and disaster management, which although some might argue does not come under the sphere of their role, can be seen nowadays. Such reforms and changes have also been recommended by the Independent Police Commissioner for proper following of the roles of the police along with creating a local policing committee for each locality. It has also been recommended to use reflective practice which is the need of the hour in the present times. 

References

Brown, J 2013, Policing for a Better Britain, Independent Police Commission, https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2013/nov/uk-police-commission-report.pdf

Campeau, H 2015, ‘‘Police Culture’ at Work: Making Sense of Police Oversight’, The British Journal of Criminology, 55(4): 669-687, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azu093.

Cristopher, S 2015, ‘The Police Service Can Be a Critical Reflective Practice ...If It Wants’, A Journal of Policy and Practice, 9(4): 326-339, https://doi.org/10.1093/police/pav007

Esan, D 2017, Police Officer Communication: Bridging the Gap Between Law Enforcement and Policing Communication Styles, Masters thesis, The University of Wisconsin, https://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/76816/EsanDarron.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Loftus, B 2009, ‘Police occupational culture: Classic themes, altered times’, Policing & Society, 20(1): 1-20, https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10439460903281547

Miller, J 2010, ‘Stop and Search in England: A Reformed Tactic or Business as Usual?, The British Journal of Criminology, 50(5): 954-974, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azq021.

Millie, A 2013, ‘The policing task and the expansion (and contraction) of British policing’, Criminology & Criminal Justice, 13(2): 143-160, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1748895812466393.

Pantazis, C & Pemberton, S 2009, ‘From the ‘Old’ to the ‘New’ Suspect Community: Examining the Impacts of Recent UK Counter-Terrorist Legislation, The British Journal of Criminology, 49(5): 646-666, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azp031.

Ranasinghe, P 2017, ‘Rethinking the Place of Crime in Police Patrol: A Re-Reading of Classic Police Ethnographies’, The British Journal of Criminology, 57(4): 867-884, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azw028

Shiner, M 2010, ‘Post-Lawrence Policing in England and Wales: Guilt, Innocence and the Defence of Organizational Ego’, The British Journal of Criminology, 50(5): 935-953, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azq027

Waddington, P 1999, ‘Police (canteen) sub-culture: An appreciation’, The British Journal of Criminology, 39(2): 287-309, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/39.2.287

Waters, I, Hardy, N, Delgado, D & Dahlmann, S 2007, ‘Ethnic minorities and the challenge of police recruitment’, The Police Journal, 80(3): 191-216, https://doi.org/10.1350%2Fpojo.2007.80.3.191

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