The Containment Concept In Law Enforcement

1078 words - 4 pages

One of the core roles of police officers is that of law enforcement. However, there are times that it is necessary for an officer to rely less on enforcement of the law and instead concentrate on keeping peace in situations that exist outside of the norm. One such situation exists in the policing methods used in “skid-row” type areas of society. These types of areas are an anomaly to the rest of standard communities where simply enforcing the law will not be successful. The goal in these areas is to plainly contain the chaos using a hybrid form of community policing.
Areas such as skid-row are filled with people that are without the ability to function in normal society, and simply the fact that they exist is offensive to those that do operate within the normal realms of a community (Bittner, 1967). Due to the primitive nature of those individuals living in these chaotic areas, most officers feel it is necessary to enclose the area in which the behaviors occur to keep it from assimilating with “normal” society. The necessity to contain the areas similar to skid-row is the responsibility of the police, and with few governing superiors to mandate guidelines and the large amount of discretion allotted to police, they assume the peace keeping role and abandon the role of enforcer (Bittner, 1967). Maintaining peace is a difficult task in itself because of the uncontrolled way of life in skid-row. Therefore, it is by focusing on maintaining order and protecting the outside normalcy from skid-row inhabitants (Bittner, 1967) that officers use tactics where they choose non-enforcement, or make a decision to ignore a violation (Brown, 1981). According to Brown (1981), ignoring offenses brings with it a bartering situation between the officer and the individual, such as cooperation and informing on more serious crimes.
The approach of containment is defined by the inaction that officers take when dealing with specific types of crimes. The containment approach allows officers to use their discretion and choose to intervene very little during the progression of minor crimes such as loitering and public drunkenness as long as the perpetrators contain their actions to the specific “skid-row” area (Bittner, 1967). Where Brown (1981) considers this as a decision to ignore a violation, Bittner (1967) describes it as an alternative type of action. Bittner (1967) describes three classifications of peace keeping on skid-row. For containment to be considered successful an officer must first acquire specific knowledge about the inhabitants of the area (particularization of knowledge), must discern when it is best needed for an individual to be arrested to keep peace (restricted relevance of culpability), and focus more on the short term results than be concerned with long-term effects (background of ad hoc decision making) because the citizens of these areas have little to lose and therefore have no type of future to be effected long-term (Bittner, 1967). If...

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