Chapter One: Police and Society
I. A Definition of Terms
A. What is a Law Enforcement Agency?
a. Many different kinds of government agencies have responsibility for
enforcing law and/or providing protection.
i. State parks departments, federal agencies like the US Supreme
Court Police, college campus police
b. General Service Law Enforcement Agencies
i. Regularly engaged in preventing crime
ii. Investigating crimes and apprehending criminals
iii. Maintaining order
iv. Providing other miscellaneous services
i. Government regulatory agencies with personnel who have law
ii. Investigatory and prosecutorial agencies
1. Bureaus of criminal investigation, coroner’s office,
iii. Corrections agencies
B. Who Is a Police Officer?
a. Police officer is often used interchangeably with peace officer
b. However, police officers are all peace officers, but not all peace officers
are police officers.
c. Peace officer status grants certain powers and provides certain legal
protections that ordinary citizens don’t have.
d. Peace officers have a broader power than citizen arresters and have
greater protection from liability when acting in good faith.
C. Myths, Realities, and Possibilities
a. Many myths are about what the police do and what they should do.
b. Realities are around what the cops in fact do on duty and what role they
play in society.
c. Possibilities are around what policing could be different from what it is
II. Myths about Policing
a. Primary myth is that police officers are crime fighters.
i. Devote most of their time to patrolling, deterring crime,
investigating, and arresting.
ii. Many people believe they should be doing this.
b. Crime fighter image
i. View police as ‘thin blue line’
ii. Fight a war on crime
iii. Not an accurate description of what police do.
c. Most police work is described as peacekeeping, order maintenance, or
A. Sources of the Crime-Fighter Image
a. Entertainment media plays major role in popularizing crime fighting. b. News media also overemphasizes police crime fighting
i. Crime stories are displayed more than other topics
ii. Dramatic story with victim story from them.
c. Police perpetuate the crime fighter image themselves in reports by
emphasizing crime and arrests.
B. Consequences of the Crime-Fighter Image
a. Ignores the peacekeeping activities and order maintenance that
consumes most police time.
b. Creates unrealistic expectations of police to catch criminals and prevent
c. Police have distorted image of themselves and are hard to manage.
d. Conflict amongst individuals when detective work in emphasized over
III. The Realities of Policing
a. Police role is hard to define
b. Police Services Study found that a small percentage of calls involved crime,
and an even smaller amount involved violent crimes.
c. Officers exercise enormous discretion in handling situations.
d. Every situation requires good judgment and human relations skills; not
simple enough to just make an arrest.
e. Police work is extremely complex.
i. Involves a wide variety of tasks.
ii. Many of the tasks are extremely vague.
iii. Different responsibilities often conflict with each other.
1. Maintain order during a protest while respecting the First
f. Tension between freedom and constraint is one of the central problems in
A. Factors that Shape the Police Role
a. Most important factor is that the police services are available 24 hours a
b. Policing involves society’s ‘dirty work’ or tasks that no one wants to do.
c. 24 hour availability of the police gives them a heavy workload
d. Some calls are ones that do not need officers with arrest power or an
expertise, but are necessary for cops to handle with little or no training.
e. Police required many responsibilities because they were the only agency
B. The Authority to Use Force
a. Authority to use force is one of the most important factors shaping the
b. ‘Capacity to use coercive force is the defining feature of the police’
c. Force includes:
i. Power to take someone’s life (deadly)
ii. Use of physical force
iii. Power to deprive people of their liberty through arrest
d. Authority to use force is not unlimited. i. Limited by the law; cannot shoot to kill anyone
ii. Officers may only use force in performance of job.
iii. May not use maliciously or frivolously; cannot arrest, harass, or
arrest for personal reasons
e. Use of force is latent and present and defining relationships between
officers and citizens.
f. Generally, people comply with police requests, suggestions, and threats.
C. Social Control
a. Police part of a system of social control
b. Social control: organized ways in which society responds to behavior
and people it regards as deviant, problematic, worrying, threatening,
troublesome, or undesirable in some way or another.
c. 3 types of social control
1. Most basic form of social control
2. Primary form
3. Carried out by family, friends, and other groups that
exercise control through criticism, praise, ostracism and
1. Secondary social control
2. Exercised by community organizations that have stake in
the individual but not as sentimental as the private level
a. Schools, churches, neighborhood groups, and