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Law enforcement in the United States has endured constant changes as society has progressed. Through these changes, the internal structure of law enforcement has remained almost the same. The relationship between officers who serve the public as always been different from that of other career fields. Due to various aspects of their job, men and women in the field of law enforcement have developed a subculture separate from society. In looking at some law enforcement agencies from the Southern Tier, it can be concluded that even in small departments of less than a hundred officers this subculture exists.
The role of law enforcement in society has enduring countless changes throughout the history of the United States. At the beginning of the twentieth century police were seen as crime fighting saviors of justice. The methods they used when working was never second-guessed by society, nor was their judgement. Citizens knew that police were rough with people, but they did not strongly discourage it. The term "police brutality" was not a frequent headline in the papers either. The police were admired by children and respected by adults in the early part of the twentieth century. In the mid - 1960's this relationship changed. Police were being called upon to break up protests and riot spawned by the Vietnam War and civil rights issues. Police often used tear gas, fire hoses, and physical force to disperse the crowds. In doing so, the police started to be viewed as oppressors of the people. The event that had the most impact on the image of police was the 1968 Democratic C!
onvention in Chicago. A large group of protesters converged on the convention center after several warnings by Mayor Daly not to do so. The Chicago Police department was called in to disperse the crowd. Unfortunately, many television crews were caught in the melee that followed. The entire incident was plastered across the nation on every television set. The Chicago Police department was show swinging their batons about and hitting anyone they could. These images put the final nail in the coffin for police. No longer would police be seen as protectors or helpers, but instead they began to represent the political machine that ran the country and oppressed all the less fortunate. These events also began to strengthen the subculture that exists amongst law enforcement.
Most police agencies have the same type of setup when it comes to organizational structure. There is usually a direct chain of command with clear and concise channels of communication set up between the various levels of authority. At the top is always the Chief or Sheriff whom are in charge of the entire department. Each Chief or Sheriff will usually have at least one deputy chief or under - sheriff to assist them with their duties. Next in line are what is usually referred to as "the brass" which generally consists of captains and lieutenants. They are usually in charge of a bureau or division such as detectives, S.W.A.T., or platoon, shift, or specific function such as media relations. Below the brass are the sergeants. Sergeants generally act as a liaison between "the brass" and the other officers. Also included in their responsibilities may be role call at the start of each shift, quartermaster duties, and reviewing paperwork before it continues up the chain of c!
ommand. At the bottom of the structure are the "beat cops". These are the officers out on patrol that handle calls. The duties of a police officer are endless. Their job is to do whatever they are called upon to do whether it is chasing a bat out of a house or breaking up a fight. The diversity of the situations that officers handle puts a large strain on them. This strain, along with the division of power amongst the department is one of the causes of the formation of a police subculture.
To understand the subculture of law enforcement, the term "subculture" needs to be defined first. A subculture is any social group that as a whole shares the same culture of the larger society, but has its own set of distinctive norms, values, beliefs, or social patterns. The major reason for the formation of a subculture is a shared problem amongst the group. This common ground gives the group a reason too work together. The problem could be anything from economic inequality, racism, or role conflict. In the field of law enforcement there are a number of possibilities for which problem is the cause of the formation of a subculture. In researching these possibilities, two smaller law enforcement agencies from the local area were studied. Many hours were spent speaking with the officers and observing them on and off duty.
The first department studied, which will be referred to as Department One, is a small, urban police department. The department serves a city of about 40,000 people and covers an area of about eight square miles. There is a substantial minority population in the
Terminology mentioned in this term paper
law enforcement, law enforcement agencies, Vietnam War,
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New York City Police Department, Chicago Police department, Los Angeles Police Department,
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