Analysis & Application Police Complaints November 21, 2011 Abstract Conducting ourselves as mature individuals could determine whether or not we’re taken seriously within society. Since the beginning of time, black, white, Hispanic, etc. , have filed complaints against police officers, regardless of their maturity level or regardless of their own fault level. Is society too disrespectful to law enforcement? If civilians could walk in police officer shoes for one day would the complaint level decrease?
This paper will focus on the perception of the police by measuring public complaints and identifying two key aspects that affect the relationships between law enforcement and civilians. Background One may be shocked to learn that police officer complaints and the final outcome of said complaints are not handled by the police chief, the city’s mayor or a review board, but instead by an “arbitrator”. (Iris, 1998) This has been a particular struggle between police chief’s and review boards across the United States.
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In the years between 1990 and 1993 “there was a total of 328 disciplinary actions decided by binding arbitrators” involving the Chicago Police Department, and under a new policy in 1993, “205 disciplinary actions were reviewed by arbitrators for non-binding advisory opinions. ” (Iris, 1998, pg. 216) Despite a rigorous review process, surprisingly disciplines imposed upon Chicago police officers were cut in half by the arbitrators. Could the ineffectiveness of the police discipline have a major affect in regards to civilian complaints?
If arbitrators are not punishing police officers appropriately, this could be a reason for their actions and why some officers feel as though they are above the law. More officers need to be held accountable for their actions and across the United States, each complaint made against an officer should hold the same outcome if found guilty. Concerns/Issues In an article written by Dina DeCrescenzo, the author mentioned two forms of holding police officers accountable early on in their careers and those are; internal and external. Internal forms include the presence of an effective internal affairs division; proper recruitment; selection peer or coworker pressure”. External forms include; civilian review boards and citizens reporting deviant police behavior”. (Burns, 2009, pg. 69) Identifying deviant police officers early can definitely have an affect on civilian complaints. In 2005 in Los Angeles, CA, a 13 year-old, 8th grader was killed by a police officer after failing to stop a vehicle and leading officers on a chase. The officer had not idea that the assailant was a 13 year-old boy.
The police chief had a very challenging job at the time, of reforming the police department. The police chief found that the officers’ actions were justified because his life was threatened. However the commission, headed by a civil rights activist, “voted 4 to 1 to set aside” the police chiefs’ finding and ruled that the officer “violated department policy when he fired into the car as the boy backed toward him”. (Murr, 2005) Many disagreed with this decision; some thought that because the officer risks his life to protect the public, the decision was unjust.
This may be the key reason why complaints are not reported or are not taken seriously. If law enforcement are not being held accountable, how can civilians trust them? Now in the aforementioned case, the ruling was overruled; however the public opinion by law officials in regards to the ruling weighs heavily on society and the criminal justice system. If law officials believe that every shooting incident is warranted because police officers put their lives in danger, then the public will not have faith in the legal system. Proposed Solutions A key issue in this sample is the measurement of how civilians feel about law enforcement.
Trust and confidence for law enforcement are the main reason individuals feel compelled to either speak up or not speak up at all against officers. How can we help society gain trust and confidence in its law enforcement individuals? 1. Personal experiences with police: Questionnaires offered to individuals that would love to see a change in policing and less complaints. The questions would consist of thoughts on fighting crime, crime prevention, victims of police brutality, community concerns and thoughts on unlawful stops. Collecting this data will allow law enforcement to react in the appropriate manner.
Not necessarily criticizing information, but helpful information. 2. Community: Questionnaires in regards to community policing (good or bad), teenagers within the community, policing programs to assist single parents. This type of information is critical to identifying reasons for crime. Working together with the community can decrease police complaints because confidence and trust has been replenished in the neighborhood. Conclusion Unfortunately the number of police complaints within the United States by citizens are hard to identify because each law enforcement agency records and processes complaints differently.
Police officers are held accountable for not only their partners, themselves, but the community. If tactics are not used to build better relationships within the communities they police, citizen complaints will continue. The aforementioned samples can be used to help offset some of the miscommunication happening between law enforcement and citizens. Society and law enforcement must come to a middle point on the ruler to help make a safer environment. References Burns, Ronald G. (2009) Critical issues in criminal justice. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall. Murr, A. (2005). Back on the Mean Streets. Newsweek, 145(8), 32.