Chief Concerns

Home » 2017 » June

Monthly Archives: June 2017

In What Ways Do the Police Fall Short as Crime Fighters?

The police have always been touted as our first line of defense with regard to crime prevention and crime suppression.  For decades policing has employed a standard set of strategies utilized to reduce crime and disorder within their jurisdictions. However, extant research of these traditional strategies, which police agencies stubbornly cling to, has shown that their effectiveness in reducing crime, disorder or fear has been less than desirable.

Increasing the size of police agencies has long been at the top of the list for both politicians and police administrators.  The general belief that more police officers equates to less crime, disorder and fear has been shown through research to be ambiguous at best.  While research has shown (Sherman and Eck, 2002) that the absence of police will increase crime, no conclusive evidence has been found to confirm that increasing police staffing will subsequently cause a reduction in crime, disorder and fear.  Skogan and Frydl (2004) suggest that although more recent studies (Marvell and Moody, 1996; Levitt, 1997) have shown that marginal increases in police are related to decreases in crime rates, much more study is needed to determine how redeployment strategies come into play when additional officers are added and whether or not that has an influence on the reduction in crime rates.  The fact remains that no matter how large a police force is, crime, disorder and fear cannot be reduced if officers are simply a reactionary force that merely responds after criminal activity has occurred and does nothing proactively to attempt prevention of crime.  In today’s environment, where police are under much greater media scrutiny, reactive policing has become the safe-haven where officers hide in order to escape unwarranted attacks of their character and ethics.  Ultimately, who suffers?  In this scenario the community suffers through an increase in criminal activity, a reduction in their quality of life and the realization that the recruitment of qualified police officer candidates has been greatly diminished, as they seek careers involving less unwarranted scrutiny.

Another area in which policing has fallen short of meeting the mark is with the strategy of conducting random patrol across all parts of the community.  According to Skogan and Frydl (2004), random patrol across all police jurisdictions has been one of the areas most enduring in the standard practices of police and one that police administrators have been most stubborn in considering for adjustment.  Landmark studies in this particular area have again produced ambiguous results, with one determining that random preventive patrol can have an impact on crime and the other concluding that random patrol had no significant influence on crime prevention or reduction.  Frankly, random patrol involves being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.  Random, high visibility patrol does however, tend to shore up citizen confidence and reduce the fear of crime within the community by assuring the community that the police are present. Random patrol is another strategy that warrants more research in order to make a better determination of its effectiveness.

Police administrators, officers and politicians alike are proud to report quick and efficient response times when they address citizens about crime.  Administrators also like to use delays in response time to argue for the hiring of more officers. During budget formulation, legislators are always concerned if the response times of the police are creeping higher each fiscal year, wanting to be able to make a connection to a perception of safety based on a police department’s ability to be on-scene quickly.  Research has shown that rapid response to calls for service does not reduce crime, or for that matter, even enhance an officer’s chance at making an on-scene arrest.  Studies have shown that most crimes, upwards of 75% of them, are discovered well after the offender(s) have left the scene.  Additionally, citizen delay in notifying the police, many times up to five minutes or longer, adds to the probability that the offender will not be apprehended.

With apprehension in mind, the next areas where the police fall short is in the area of generally applied follow-up investigations and generally applied enforcement and arrests.  Many agencies have no systematic follow-up process in place to revisit misdemeanor offenses that have not been closed or an offender identified upon initial investigation.  Felony cases are usually given much more attention by investigators, and due to their serious nature should be, but neglecting the follow-up of unresolved misdemeanor cases shows a lack of agency focus and is ignoring criminal activity and quality of life issues in the most basic way.

Numerous studies have shown that addressing issues through problem oriented and evidenced based policing is much more effective than generally applied enforcement. Focusing enforcement efforts and coordinating efficient follow-through can reduce crime, build confidence and legitimacy in the police and demonstrate a motive-based trust that is rooted in a social alignment between the police and the community. You have a much better opportunity of hitting a target with a rock than with a handful of sand. Focused field interrogations and have been proven to be more effective than “scattergun policing.”

The fact remains that although much research in the area of policing is needed, the focused approach to this point seems to be the most promising in assisting the police in reducing crime disorder and fear within the community.

 

References

Levitt, Steven D. 1997. Using election cycles in police hiring to estimate the effect of police on crime . American Economic Review 87 (3): 270-290.

Marvell, T.B., and Moody, C. (1996). Specification problems, police levels, and crime rates . Criminology 34 (4): 609-646.

Sherman, Lawrence W., and John E. Eck. (2002). Policing for prevention. In Evidence based crime prevention, edited by Lawrence W. Sherman, David Farrington, and Brandon Welsh. New York: Routledge.

Skogen, W.G., and Frydl, K. (2004) Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

 

Intellectual Property Disclaimer

  • Users are permitted to read the website and the Information and make copies for their own personal use, for example by printing or storing it. All other use of the website or the information, for example the storage or reproduction of (a part of) the website of Chief Concerns in any external internet site or the creation of links, hypertext links or deeplinks between the website of Chief Concerns and any other internet site, is prohibited without the express written consent of Chief Jody O’Guinn, Carbondale, IL.
Advertisements

How Do Police Behaviors Affect Public Opinion And Why Should That Matter?

Many would say that public opinion is in the eye of the beholder.  In most cases it is, as some might believe that the perception of how the police behave when they make contact with a citizen is largely a subjective account of how that particular citizen felt that particular day, towards that particular officer, during that particular contact.  Others perceive that the police behave poorly on almost all occasions, especially whenever a minority is involved, particularly an African-American individual.  Skogen (2006) identifies this perception as the “collective insecurity” of African-Americans, positing that the statistical effect of dissatisfaction by race disappears when controlling for perceived levels of crime and disorder.

Numerous studies have been conducted examining public opinion against the attitudes and behavior of the police.  According to Skogen (2006), all research on American’s views of the police begins with race.  As with most studies, some find overwhelming evidence that the police are disproportionately stopping, questioning, mistreating and arresting young, poor, minority males.  Other studies provide mixed results, especially when comparing the socioeconomic status of the person contacted to satisfaction.  Skogen (2006) asserts that many middle-class African-Americans are more attuned to racial discrimination believing it to be an abstract concept that impedes their class-based aspirations. Brown and Benedict (2002) assert that confidence in the police is higher for higher status whites, yet lower for higher status African-Americans.

The concept that seems to surface and resonate in all the studies is that people who are contacted by the police are by and large dissatisfied with the attitude and behavior of the police, whether it be a citizen requested contact or a police-initiated contact.  Why are the police viewed so unfavorably in so many instances?  Are the police really behaving badly in the majority of their contacts with citizens or have we come to expect too much from fellow human beings who we as a society have forced onto a pedestal of higher expectations that simply cannot be met in some instances?  To me, they are important questions to answer.  Police derive their legitimacy by striving to be just that; being those in society who do rise a level above the rest, to instill confidence in society that the police are competent and efficient in protecting the public and that they can do so without the suggestion that they lack procedural fairness, are discriminatory, intimidating, brutal and lacking responsiveness to the concerns of those they are sworn to protect.

What doesn’t help is the current media trend of spinning half-truths based in one-sided conjecture and negative innuendo, designed to sensationalize a story, and further erode the legitimacy and confidence that the public has for the police. Sadly, it has become more popular to vilify the police and aggrandize the perpetrator.  The result of this phenomenon is the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which causes many honest, virtuous, incorruptible officers to flee the perlustration and constant media assault of public service, to take a less provocative career path .

It boils down to the theoretical frameworks mentioned by Van Craen (2012).  In order to maintain legitimacy and solidify a basis for people to build their level of confidence and trust in the police, they must embrace and employ the concepts of Social Capital Theory, Performance Theory and Procedural Justice.  Proactively and aggressively pursuing criminal activity through evidence-based and focused patrol is only part of the larger puzzle.  For policing to be successful there must be a fair and accurate portrayal of law enforcement by the media, as well as, the added components of making connections with citizens through civic engagement, building confidence by meeting citizen’s expectations by maintaining accountability by meeting performance expectations and through the consistent, fair treatment, of everyone, and through respect and responsiveness to the concerns and priorities of citizens.

 

References

Brown, B., & Benedict, W. (2002). Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 25(3), 543-580.

Skogen, W.G., (2006). Asymmetry in the Impact of Encounters with Police. Policing and Society, 16(2), 99-126.

Van Craen, M. (2012). Determinants of Ethnic Minority Confidence in the Police. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38 (7), 1029-1047.

 

Intellectual Property Disclaimer

  • Users are permitted to read the website and the Information and make copies for their own personal use, for example by printing or storing it. All other use of the website or the information, for example the storage or reproduction of (a part of) the website of Chief Concerns in any external internet site or the creation of links, hypertext links or deeplinks between the website of Chief Concerns and any other internet site, is prohibited without the express written consent of Chief Jody O’Guinn, Carbondale, IL.

Why Do Criminals Commit Crime?

Understanding the relationships between biology, family, labor markets, economy and community, and how these forces intertwine with criminal conduct, has been perplexing scholars for decades.   As a result of rigorous study, we tend to have a much wider base of knowledge regarding the patterns and causes of criminal activity on an individual level, than we know about factors that create criminal environments. In as much, we also posses a great deal more insight regarding the factors that create criminal environments than we know about factors that influence trends in crime longitudinally.  Regardless, there appears to be no single theory as to what causes an individual to participate in deviant behavior.

The law and the legal system in general set forth technical standards and expectations that represent an official normative source for defining what is deviant; it is, by definition, legitimate (Mastrofski, Snipes, Parks, & Maxwell, 2000). Throughout ones lifetime, at some point, most people will commit a crime of some sort.  It can be something as serious as a murder, or something as innocuous as violating the speed limit or littering. Additionally, some teenagers in their youthful indiscretion, tend to commit relatively serious crimes, but desist in participating in further criminal activity as they transition into adulthood.  This leads one to believe that engaging in criminal activity is not merely a biological inadequacy or a genetic flaw, but a temporary manifestation fostered by a wide array of available life choices and environmental influences. The task of criminological study in the future will be to further define those life-course influences that shape our being and influence our behavior to participate in criminal activity.  That will be no easy task, because all human beings are different, and their life experiences and exposure to criminal deviance will vary greatly.

One thing is certain.  The factors that cause one individual to participate in deviant behavior may not necessarily be the same factors that cause another individual to participate in deviant behavior.  So, one needs to be careful in how he or she defines deviant behavior and crime, because as previously stated, crime encompasses everything from littering to murder.  Additionally, one needs to examine the current level of public tolerance towards crime and the age composition of the population.  Research has shown that youthful offenders between the ages of 15-24 commit most crime, so one would expect an increase in deviant behavior to correlate directly with the age composition of the population at the time.

The underlying cause of criminal activity and deviant behavior are many to say the least. American policing has entered a time when reformers have shifted the meaning of the term professionalism from being a snappy bureaucrat to being a well-trained decision maker, acting like a clinician serving clients based on their informed judgment of what they need (Mastrofski, Snipes, Parks, & Maxwell, 2000, p. 314; Bittner, 1970)). The challenge for the criminal justice system will be its ability to be flexible, resilient and adept to change in a quickly evolving society.  Of all the ideas in policing, one stands out as the most powerful force for change: police practices should be based on scientific evidence about what works best (Sherman, 1998, p. 2). In today’s economically distressed times, police departments are required to do more with less resources. So, like it or not, it is a huge advantage to have an entire field of research dedicated to the study of what police do, at no cost to them (Engel & Whalen, 2010). The criminal justice system needs to be able to form partnerships with scholars and utilize the wealth of knowledge obtained through research to guide and define their initiatives.  However, researchers need to understand the political environment of police agencies and criminal justice systems, remaining aware that most criminal justice practitioners need quick solutions to their concerns, not something that stems from research conducted that produces a result a decade later.

In any event, inequality, poverty, unemployment, weak social controls, substance abuse, poor parent-child attachment and parental supervision, family factors, influence of peers, increased availability of firearms, public tolerance of crime and inadequate law enforcement will all no doubt have long-term influence over the ability of the criminal justice system to effectively combat criminal activity and deviant behavior.  As such, since it is obvious that deviant behavior is not a result of a single influence or a combined set of influences, it makes no sense to try and force one end-all solution.  In order to truly understand the far-reaching aspects of deviant behavior, it is necessary to observe criminal activity as it unfolds in a dynamic environment (Maguire & Katz, 2002). Varied strategies, including ethnographic research, should emphasize the particular nature of the crime and focus on the formulating options for the time.  Only through the implementation of creative methodologies will the criminal justice system be able to expand their knowledge of the problems they face (Maguire & Katz, 2002).

 

 

References

Bittner, E. (1970). The functions of police in modern society. Bethesda, MD: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Engel, R. S., & Whalen, J. L. (2010, April). Police-academic partnerships: ending the dialogue of the deaf, the Cincinnati experience. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 11(2), 105-116.

Maguire, E. R., & Katz, C. M. (2002). Community policing, loose coupling, and sensemaking in American police agencies. Justice Quarterly, 19(3), 503-536.

Mastrofski, S. D., Snipes, J. B., Parks, R. B., & Maxwell, C. D. (2000). The helping hand of the law: Police control of citizens on request. Criminology, 38(2), 307-342.

Sherman, L. W. (1998, July). Evidence-based policing. Ideas in American Policing, 1-15.

 

Intellectual Property Disclaimer

  • Users are permitted to read the website and the Information and make copies for their own personal use, for example by printing or storing it. All other use of the website or the information, for example the storage or reproduction of (a part of) the website of Chief Concerns in any external internet site or the creation of links, hypertext links or deeplinks between the website of Chief Concerns and any other internet site, is prohibited without the express written consent of Chief Jody O’Guinn, Carbondale, IL.

 

The Question of Reintegration

In today’s depressed economic environment more and more lawmakers are searching for creative ways to reduce government budgets, yet still provide the vital services that are necessary to maintain life and safety within our communities.  With incarceration rates growing to over ten times what they were between 1972 and 2008, what has become blatantly obvious, is that we as a society are spending an incredible amount of resources on incarceration and care of prisoners; resources that if used more wisely could not only result in reducing prison population, but could help to reintegrate those released as productive members of society.  Obviously, this option cannot work in all instances, and can only be reserved for the less serious, non-violent offenses.  As such, diversion, reintegration and restorative justice strategies could prove to be an effective means to help gang members establish productive bonds within their communities.

The notion behind the tough-on-crime stance that was so pervasive over the last couple of decades was to lock offenders up and throw away the key.  Any deviation from that thought process and one was considered to be too liberal and lacking of fortitude to treat criminals as criminals.  However, as this generation of mass incarceration trundled along, the residual effect was profound in the disparity in which it impacted the African-American community.  Disproportionate incarceration, poor neighborhoods and debilitating unemployment proved to be the civil rights trifecta to impact an already persecuted segment of society. Studies have shown that isolated programs such as hot spot crackdowns, recreation programs, or classroom anti-gang instruction sessions are temporary at best and not sufficient in the long term (Linden, 2010).

It is important to understand that only a comprehensive approach to reintegration and restorative justice will truly have a lasting impact on reducing gang crime and recidivism. Gang crime has many different causes and facilitators therefore; the solutions to the problem must also be multi-faceted and involve a combination of prevention, intervention, and suppression programs (Linden, 2010).  Eliminating just one piece of this combined gang crime reduction strategy will jeopardize the success of the remaining pieces, and of the strategy as a whole.  Combined program strategies have the greatest potential to provide lasting reductions in gang crime and hold the greatest potential for reintegrating members into their communities. In this essential mix, suppression in the form of hot spot patrols and aggressive enforcement can reduce existing street gang crime, while prevention programs such as G.R.E.A.T., reduce the number of potential gang recruits.  As the final piece, intervention strategies help gang members to exit gangs and to avoid gangs after being released from prison (Linden, 2010).  An effective, well-planned and uncomplicated comprehensive reduction program can make the difference between a resounding success and miserable failure.

Repeated studies have indicated that incarceration, whether the offender is youthful or an adult, many times leads to recidivism and re-incarceration.  Prisons and correctional facilities become the training grounds in which gang members can hone their skills by networking with more hardened, seasoned criminals.  Once paroled, these at-risk individuals are socially ostracized, and succumb easily to substance abuse, depression and violence resulting from overwhelming despair and an inability to imagine the future (Koffman et al., 2009).  Reintegration strategies, as evidence suggests, helps to reduce the mental trauma and provide the necessary intervention to allow individuals to take control of their lives and chart out their path for the future.  Coping strategies can dramatically increase resilience and help to reduce anti-social behaviors.  Empowerment through training in social and cognitive behavioral strategies, attention focusing, social skills learning and personal guidance have all proven to improve outcomes (Koffman et al., 2009).

The significance of developing programs that act as correctional interventions, that address the needs of gang members, particularly as it relates to the development of prosocial support networks, is a particularly poignant subject (Huebner, Varano, & Bynum, 2007). Without complete commitment and community support, programs such as these fail due to lack of funding and the unavailability of resources needed to keep the programs operational.

Truly effective reintegration programs should be coupled with community-wide interventions designed to improve neighborhood economies, encourage maintenance of treatment services and develop prosocial support networks (Huebner et al., 2007).

The important aspect of any reintegration, suppression or restorative justice program is the ability to address the needs of individuals on an ongoing basis as they transition from their prison community and re-enter society.  Being able to identify and address behavioral and high-risk behaviors before they reach the tipping point is even better.  However, until we as a society are willing to invest ourselves to understanding that the road to effective deterrence and offending desistance is a long-term proposition, we will continue provide shallow programs and hollow promises.

 

 

 

References

Huebner, B. M., Varano, S. P., & Bynum, T. S. (2007, April, 27). Gangs, guns, and drugs: recidivism among serious, young offenders. American Society of Criminology, 6(2), 187-222.

Koffman, S., Ray, A., Berg, S., Covington, L., Albarran, N. M., & Vasquez, M. (2009). Impact of a comprehensive whole child intervention and prevention program among youths at risk of gang involvement and other forms of delinquency. National Association of Social Workers, 239-245.

Linden, R. (2010). Comprehensive approaches to address street gangs in Canada [Policy Brief 014]. Manitoba, Canada: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.

 

 

Intellectual Property Disclaimer

  • Users are permitted to read the website and the Information and make copies for their own personal use, for example by printing or storing it. All other use of the website or the information, for example the storage or reproduction of (a part of) the website of Chief Concerns in any external internet site or the creation of links, hypertext links or deeplinks between the website of Chief Concerns and any other internet site, is prohibited without the express written consent of Chief Jody O’Guinn, Carbondale, IL.