Politics and Police Administration
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The system of appointing police varies across the world as it depends on the constitution governing a given country. Therefore, in some instances, police are appointed or recruited by a commission, a city council, and local chief executive or by other police departments. The term “police” also varies in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the police force. The appointing mechanism also differs on the position of the individual being sought. For instance, when appointing police bosses in various agencies, the government is highly involved.
More often than not, such appointment is normally affected by politics. In some states, commissions or police agencies are compelled by the situation to have a political inclination which affects the way the appointments are made. In fact, the chief of police or sheriff in various agencies is required to not only take lead in enforcing laws but also be a politician. Such individuals are always in support of the ruling party because they are under the command of their president. This means that they must support the ruling party. This evidently shows that such an individual plays a political role in one way or another. When the rates of crime rise in a given state, politicians point their fingers to the police departments (Skolnick 7). The law enforcers are highly criticized for such events. However, the effects of politics in the law enforcement agencies affect their effectiveness and always lead to problems.
Political patronage has played a key role in appointment and promotion of the police force. For instance, in states such as Chicago and Philadelphia, the way the police were appointed in both high and low positions as well as the way promotions were carried out were highly influenced by politics. With this in mind, those appointed were to pay allegiance and loyalty to a politician who led to their appointment, then they observed integrity and honesty to the police force. In fact, police played a key role in re-election of politicians; something that guaranteed their stay in the police force.
However, in most states, this aspect of police working for certain politicians has diminished considerably. In large police agencies, the chiefs of police to some extent have been alienated from politics. On the contrary, in smaller agencies, this aspect of political patronage is still evident. This is shown by the fact that promotion and appointment of police officers is based on who you know and how you relate instead of consideration of the merits of an individual (McMullen 201). On a rather similar scenario, they are required to support the ruling government. These politicians continue to influence their work throughout their term; something that influences the effectiveness of the entire agency. In addition, the aspect of political patronage in police administration affects the ability of the police officers to offer services impartially. In this case, when the appointment and promotion of police officers is influenced by a politician, it is unlikely that such an individual will be able to offer administration justice to the public without favor. Therefore, police enforcement is highly effected by political concerns.
Formulation of policies that govern police administration has been influenced over the years. The formation of the police is supposed to be a legitimate and participatory by the general public, police and the authorities. However, due to high political patronage, such policies are developed in favor of the politicians. In such scenarios, police are torn between the task of fulfilling their duty to the public and the obligation to obey their godfathers. In some instances, national interests are exchanged with individual ambitions that have long-term effects on the effectiveness of the police. This effect is evident in developing countries that are highly affected by corruption. Recruitment, appointment and promotion of police officers is dominated by corruption as individuals seek to fulfill their own desires disregarding the interest of the public. In some instances, development of clear policies for police administration is also affected by politicians when the definition of who has the authority to foresee development of such polices is not well developed.
At times, police are faced with a dilemma of whether they should be leading in safeguarding the public opinion or whether they should just follow it. One more thing to consider is whether to prevent occurrence of crime or wait for it to happen and pursue the offenders. In this mixed by the police scenarios, the expectations by the public and the government remain high and ambiguous (Perry 24). For instance, the government does not have a clear definition of whether the police constable should be in a position to influence issues and decisions making related to policing or whether he should just sit and wait to be told what to do. Parliament or executive plays a key role in many states in influencing the issues and administration of the police. They are involved in making key decisions. In some instances, the decisions made by the arms of the government may influence police administration force negatively or positively.
The extent of political influence on police administrative decisions is based on the nature of authorities entrusted with such roles. For instance, the extent of influence is different while making those decisions in cities governed by a mayor compared to those governed by a city manager. Similarly, there is a difference in the amount of political influence by individual citizens compared to the amount of pressure exerted to the police by the government officials. In addition, the amount of pressure on decisions making is also determined by whether it is coming from areas of budgetary allocations or from the personnel practices within the government operational mechanisms.
The parliament and the executive arms of the government in several countries are entrusted in making key decisions affecting the police force. The appointment of the bosses of various agencies is made by either the president and passed by parliament, or by commissions. In some states, such as the U.S., the system is different; the state and the federal government play almost similar roles in formulating decisions that influencing the police force (Kratcoski 74). However, as earlier explained, neither the state nor the federal governments have a direct influence on the affairs of the police force. This is meant to limit any loophole that may be used by politicians to control or influence the law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, the president is always in command of the military and has the responsibility of authorizing major operations which the military must obey.
When the police departments or agencies are able to sit down and address the problems affecting them, there is likelihood that they will make more objective mechanisms to handle them. In this regard, law enforcement may be influenced by government decisions to limit them with finances. Nevertheless, in a democratic system, law enforcement is given preference in any budgetary allocation so that internal and external peace prevails for economic growth.
Police administrators may take different action against their fellow officers on disciplinary measures depending on the external influences. Similar misconduct may also take a different path depending on public influence, public opinion as well as media coverage. The way the issue is to be investigated and decisions to be made is altered by these factors among others. However, the nature of misconduct is attributed to the position of the officer who has it linked with that misconduct. Generally, the police are required to nature their relationship with the external public and shape their perception. Despite the effect of politics in the operation of the police officers, especially in budgetary allocations, it influences their smooth running (Perry 24). For police officers who have been involved in a misconduct and have a larger political support it is hard to take the necessary disciplinary measures. Although the police believe that discipline should be accepted where warranted, it sometimes becomes hard to do the same to senior officers who have marshaled support from key politicians. For instance, some senior police officers have been known for not playing their duty well causing a mishap that resulted in the death or injuries due to a crime that should have been prevented. Similarly, some senior police bosses normally sleep on their job resulting in the rise in the rates of crime (Pascarella 121). The public outcry on the call for resignation or disciplining of such an individual may fall on deaf ears simply because he has political support. Therefore, decisions made by the authority or individuals in political sphere who control police administration may negatively or positively influence the work or effectiveness of the police agencies (Bureau of Justice Statistics 12).
Evaluation of police officers conduct starting from the senior to the junior officers for years has been influenced by politics. In most cases, the incompetence by some police bosses has been in question but the issue of determining whether they are right for the job has been underplayed by few individuals who also work under political patronage. When faced with difficult administrative situations, it is sometimes hard for police bosses to come up with objective results since as much as they try to be objective enough, they also have to pay their loyalties and trust to their seniors. On the contrary, when a junior police officer is involved in misconduct, he or she is subjected to the full force of law (Kratcoski 74). This is because he or she has no one to protect him or her. As stated above, politicians influence the process of recruitment and appointment. Thus, even if the individual involved in a misconduct is a junior officer who is under protection of a certain powerful politician, there is a likelihood that no action will be taken. Thus, corruption among the officers comes in where the focus on the public protection is disregarded and given to fulfillment of individual desires, and that of few sycophants. Therefore, competence and effective law enforcement cannot be delivered in such agencies where political patronage takes a prominent role.
The administrative system in the police forces is normally divided into departments. In the United States, due to the vast number of states subdivided into towns, cities and villages, law enforcement agencies are classified into departments. Therefore, the police force in the US has traditionally been regarded as a local function. All the agencies are autonomous and are subjected to the jurisdiction in which they serve. These departments play different roles in maintaining peace and order in various states. However, instances of multiple or overlapping jurisdiction in police administration is at times evident. In the U.S.A., the state or federal governments do not have the right to exercise direct control over various agencies involved in law enforcement (McMullen 201). However, the state law is used to develop minimum training standards that a law enforcement agency should consider in recruitment, appointment and promotion processes. Likewise, the state and federal government are involved in providing specialized programs for training of the officers. Due to the autonomy given to various law enforcement agencies in the U.S., the agencies are funded by the agencies they serve. On the other hand, local departments are primarily funded from taxes where the rich pays more than the poor (Kratcoski 74). The police agencies however vary in terms of the salaries, resources available to them as well as equipments of work.
As analyzed above, the U.S. offers a rather close to ideal case where politics plays a minimal role in the administration of the police. The autonomy of the police agencies is not the case in some states where they directly rely on the political inclination in order to acquire resources and support for their work. In most developing countries, police rely directly on funding from the central government. This means that the agencies are controlled by the government, which means that the senior bosses must incline to the ruling political leaders. Despite the presence of constitution which safeguarded the autonomy of law enforcers, such clauses are bypassed by politicians in the name of safeguarding their interest as opposed to maintaining peace and order to all. Selection and training of law enforcers’ personnel in the U.S.A. has set benchmarks that a person must have attained to be recruited in police forces. Some, like the police and Sheriffs’ departments, require at least a college degree. In case of promotion, the merits of individuals play a key role. For instance, for one to be promoted, the education level plays a pivotal role (Kappeler, Sluder, and Alpert 22). Generally, the training standards are established by the state, but the individual agencies are given autonomy to decide whether to exceed the minimum training or remain at the same level. This limits any room for corruption to occur in the police. Proper payment also reduces instances of bribery and incompetence among the law enforcers. On the contrary, due to political patronage, police officers who are paid poorly as well as failure by the government to take care of their welfare leads to corruption. These factors caused the incompetence and unprofessionalism in some states due to this direct political influence.
Deviance in law enforcement leads to corruption among the law enforcement agencies. Some police officers accept money or physical goods and in return engage in activities that result in violation of the laws that they are trusted to obey and enforce. Historically, corruption has played a major role in influencing the administration of the police force. It saw the rise of organized crime in the United States between 1919 and 1933 (Spector 13). With the public on the receiving end, police officers trusted with the law enforcement were paid to ignore such violations. However, the resultant public outcry caused major surgery ushering in police reforms. This has seen reduced corruption among the police forces in the recent years. For instance, in 1997, FBI in cooperation with other agencies filed 190 cases of corruption. This resulted into conviction of 150 law enforcers with related corruption offences (Bureau of Justice Statistics 12).
The law deviance and corruption among the law enforcers is hard to measure. However, the sentences for deviant police officers are harsher than those for the civilians are. This is because the judges have a feeling that police officers should be the ones to obey the rules, hence should be held at high standard compared to the common public. However, most of the crimes committed by the police are related to their job. In this regard, police deviance contravenes the agencies mandate to stand by the rules and regulations both nationally and those enshrined in the national constitution. Criminal behaviors by the police hinder the effectiveness of its administration. Indeed, corruption among the police agencies can be handled internally. Likewise, the state has a role to play in ensuring that the police undergo the right training programs. Most importantly, when they are paid well and given proper remunerations, chances of the police engaging in bribery or other related activities is minimal.
It is difficult to purely separate political aspects from the police administration. However, it is possible to diminish or limit negative influence. Despite the fact this form of influence leads to problems within the police agencies, the nature of relationship can be changed to achieve a common goal, which is protecting the public and the nation at large. Although several states have come out of the old dark days where political patronage had a direct influence on police administration, some have been unable to come out of this mess. The appointment of police officers is still highly influenced by politicians where corruption plays a key role. When this is said and done, incompetence and unprofessionalism happen within the police agencies, and a blame game starts since the police are not able to do what they are supposed to. The dilemma as to whether the police senior bosses should be involved in making key decisions affecting police administration should be resolved, and the police should be given the autonomy to implement some of the decisions as a result of limited political interference. Just like states such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia have been able to come out of political patronage of the police, other states of the USA and various countries around the globe can also solve this problem.