The Law Enforcement Profession


In order to understand comptemporary law enforcemment, we should
recognize the conditions that impact our profession. It is agreed upon by many
scholars that major changes in law enforcement occur every five years. Policing
is sometimes characterize"... like a sandbar in a river, subject to being
changed continuously by the currents in which it is immersed..." (Swanson,
Territo and Taylor, p. 2). However, in recent years some major changes have
occurred in a shorter time period.

Innovations in law enforcement

During the past two decades, I have observed major changes in the
viewpoint of society towards police officer's as the symbol of trust and dignity,
the technological advances of communication and information systems in law
enforcement, and the revision of selection and hiring practices for police
officers. Organizational change occurs both as a result of internal and
external agents (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, p. 664). These changes have
manifested both positive and negative reverberations in the way we perform our

Police officials have contemplated for years over the key to maintaining
a positive image for their organization. Unfortunately, several incidents in
the past years have altered society's perception of police in some communities.
Police in America are no longer strangers to innovation born of scandal. Law
enforcement agencies nationwide have repeatedly been shaken by controversy and
forced to make undesirable concessions. Has law enforcement failed to maintain
the high standards required by the profession? The cost of public trust is high.
It increases each time faith must be regain.

Historically, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have
experienced periods of low confidence in communities preceding episodes deemed
to be a breach of trust. Early pioneers in law enforcement history such as
August Vollmer (1902 - 1932). Berkeley Police Department and J. Edgar Hoover
(1924) the Federal Bureau of Investigation made numerous advancements towards
improving the professionalism of law enforcement (Anderson and Newman, p. 119 -
120). Other attempts were made in 1956 by the International Association of
Chiefs of Police adopted "The Law Enforcement Code Of Ethics" (Wilson and
McClaren, p.8)
Examples of several historical events locally have attributed to
society's decline in respect for police. For example, nine members of a Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Department special narcotics squad were charged with
misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars confiscated in drug raids (L. A.
Times, p. 4, Sept. 9, 1989). Another local incident involved 80 Los Angeles
police officers stormed and wrecked an apartment and allegedly beat several
residents on "Dalton Street." The city was forced to settled in a civil law
suit by the resident with a settlement of $3 million dollars of taxpayers money
(L. A. Times, p. 1-2, August 1, 1988). This incident generated major outcry
from the minority community to overhaul the use of force policy and procedure
within the department.

Nationally, five New York City police officers were charged with murder
in the slaying of a suspect in Queens. All five officers were arraigned on
murder charges in the death of Federico Pereira, 21 years of age, a car theft
suspect who was punched, kicked, and strangled as he was being arrested. This
is one in a string of accusations of bruality made against New York officers in
recent years (The New York Times, March 21, 1991, p. A 1). In the south,
the incident of Officer Donald Jeffries who was honored as Mississippi's officer
of the year in 1993. He alleged that mental stress was a factor in his robbery
of a bank, however, a federal judge in Mobile ruled that he was competent to
stand trial for the charge (USA Today, May 13, 1994, p. 8 A).

The case of Arthur McDuffie (Dec. 17, 1979) in Miami, a black male
died after a high speed police chase. The police reports indicated that
McDuffie died from being thrown from his motorcycle during the chase. The
results of an investigation disclosed that the McDuffie's death may have been
caused by police instead of an accident. After being indicted and found not
guilty by an all white jury, riots broke out in black neighborhoods,
especially Liberty City resulting in arson and looting that left 18 persons dead
and more than 300 injured. This catastrophe forced the Miami Police
Department to reexamine and revise their use of force policies and procedures
(CQ Researcher, p. 645).
The Jeffrey L. Dahmer Case characterize a situation when the police fail
to properly handle a call of a suspicous nature. Dahmer was charged with
murdering at least 15 young males. On May 27, 1993, two Milwaukee citizens
reported a naked young male in the middle of the