Avoiding Violence And Conflict Between Police And Citizens

3345 words - 13 pages

The history of modern law enforcement began 179 years ago with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police District in 1829. This police force was headed by Sir Robert Peel whom many consider to be the “father” of modern policing. The principles espoused by Peel included the use of crime rates to determine the effectiveness of the police; the importance of a centrally located, publicly accessible police headquarters; the value of proper recruitment, selection, and training of police officers; the establishment of regular patrol areas, known as “beats” and a paramilitary command structure.British citizens quickly embraced the “bobbies,” however the feelings of United States citizens towards their police forces, developed along lines roughly similar to those of the London police were quite different. Most major U.S. cities had police forces that were under the command of politically appointed local precinct captains. The propensity of these captains to be lax in their discipline led to abundant instances of graft. Americans generally held their police in very low esteem. “Of all the institutions of city government in late-nineteenth-century America, none was as unanimously denounced as the urban police,” wrote sociologist Egon Bittner. “According to every available account, they were, in every aspect of their existence, an unmixed, unmitigated, and unpardonable scandal” (Bittner, 1979). As one might imagine, this fact led to many instances of conflict between the police and citizens.While many things have changed as policing and society itself has become more modernized over the years, one thing that has not changed is instances of conflict and violence between the police and citizens. Most major cities in the United States have, at one time or another, experienced this conflict and violence in the form of rioting (National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968). While riots have never reached the level of becoming a way of life in the United States, neither can their occurrence be considered a rarity.Research has shown that the most serious instances of civil disorder may be attributed to the existence of two volatile community dynamics known to create extraordinary tension; perceived disparity of treatment, and lack of confidence in redress systems coupled with a “triggering incident “(Community Relations Service, 2003). The beginnings of the “Watts” riot in Los Angeles, California are fairly typical of how underlying conflict leads to violence. For years, many blacks living in Los Angeles harbored feelings of distrust towards their police department and felt that white officers routinely neglected or violated the civil rights of minority citizens. They also felt that their complaints regarding the conduct of certain white officers went unnoticed. The triggering incident occurred on August 11, 1965 when a white California Highway Patrol Officer observed motorist...

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