Written by: Devon Knox
Prompt: “The history of policing reminds me of the circle of life. It feels like we have ended up right back where we first began.”
I found this prompt interesting for several reasons that have motivated me to choose this topic of discussion for this project. History itself is an exciting topic, and the ability to distort or modify account plays a significant role in how policing mimics the circle of life. The circle of life is an all-encompassing topic that is practical in helping to understand why things happen in America the way they do.
By aligning the sphere of experience with the cycle of policing, things can become more evident. Police work aims to attain justice and fairness in the execution of their duties. Historically, this doesn’t happen all the time. Just as in police work, the cycle of life is often experienced with various interpretations of injustice and unfairness.
Responding to the Prompt
This course has revealed that the history of police work is much like the circle of life in that new approaches are continually being introduced to address the current problems of the day and the environment. This section will look at several empirical examples throughout history that highlighted how the approach to policing has changed. This change represents the similar processes that each life must go through from birth to maturity. Each of these empirical examples represents artifacts themselves and represent both a scientific and historical value.
The state of policing has changed dramatically in the course of the last 100 years. Vollmer & Schneider (1916) captured the state of police work in their research article published over a century ago. This article attempted to describe a teaching method that was used by Berkeley police. The report references the history of police before this time. These authors described police as being generally untrained, unregulated, and appointed by sheer violence and coercion in many cases. This article promoted the training methods used at this police department and advocated for more standardization of the profession.
The education that was supported by these authors was comprehensive yet very extensive. According to the article, “a school for police officers’ special training is a requirement of the times. Those authorized and empowered to enforce the laws, rules, and regulations intended for the better protection of the public should have some knowledge of the fundamental principles underlying human actions, especially those that are commonly designated as criminal or contrary” (p.878). This research captures the early life cycle of police education.
Several years later, the policing profession within America grew and evolved to a new point of effectiveness. Vollmer (1930) approached the idea of science being a helpful tool in police work and that a new way of thinking would be useful for at this time. The article suggested that the scientific method and scientific instruments, such as the microscope, can help solve crimes and provide a new safety level for the public. This stage of history suggests that police work is in a new phase where the old way of doing things had to be destroyed and reshaped.
The evolution of policing continued to change in the 20th century. McNamara (1950) provided a meta-analysis on police work history in the first 50 years of the century. According to this author, “it must first be understood that there is no uniform pattern of police administration in the United States-whether at the federal, state, or local level” (p.2). The review of this problem admitted that police work had come a long way, but there were still many political and social issues that needed to be solved. The article concluded that these problems will always be present in police work because the nature of the policing environment changes and that new forms of resistance will always oppose legal forces. This demonstrates the cycle of life by highlighting that even though things have changed in 50 years, there are still requirements for humanity to invent new ways of solving them due to environmental limitations.
More recent empirical evidence also supported the idea that policing is very much on a particular cycle. According to Skogan (2008), community policing is now a new means of addressing police problems. This decentralization approach mirrors what humans must do in their lifetime by splitting away from their family and becoming one with their community. The old ways of policing will not work in the 21st century, and a new approach is necessary. Life requires innovations, and community policing is a more modern innovation that represents a unique solution to an old problem.
There are many important implications for understanding this model, which incorporates the life cycle of humans and the need to start over in policing systems continually. As a result, returning to where we first began, is a model of how in life, we return to where we came from in many aspects. The cycle of being born, living, and dying is natural and reflects human nature in all of its endeavors. Police work is no different and must also adopt this life cycle as police is an artificial invention of man and need to reflect the more natural stages of life to resonate with human beings in general truly.
Exposing these ideas, and understanding the history of policing as merely responding to the various cycles of life, better solutions, and more effective systems can replace outdated and worn out methods; this requires a frank and open discussion regarding the truths of policing and the truths of life. The ever-changing environment of life requires that people invent new things all the time. Police must change their tactics to respond to these changes. One day crack cocaine is the main culprit; the next week, it is crystal meth.
The old systems and policies must die to create new ones that address current concerns. Life is no different because people must continually update their habits and methods to address the changes that they see in their environment. When change is accepted and respected as a fundamental human function within the policing theories, a new understanding of the profession can be envisioned that is more natural, responsive, and conducive to change.
Impact of the Course on the Response
My experiences heavily influenced my response to the prompt in this course. This course presented new information to me and helped me develop a new awareness of what the critical concept of police work reflects today in society. The main idea is that there are no universal solutions, and a perfect police force does not exist. The historical record is proof of this argument, and individual expectations must place upon what is considered auspicious and what is considered a failure in this profession.
This course helped to reinforce other, more general ideas about life and learning as well. This prompt helped me sort out some essential ideas that contribute to my values and personal philosophy. To me, these are crucial qualities that can help me become a better professional and have a broader base of understanding towards knowing what is best for all parties involved. My perspective on this will continue to evolve as I continue to grow and gain more experience in these areas. As a result, just as in police work, I must evaluate and redirect my energies to address the new problems that will continually arise in any environment possible.
MacNamara, D. E. (1950). American police administration at mid-century. Public Administration Review, 181-189.
Skogan, W. G., & Williamson, T. (2008). An overview of community policing: origins, concepts, and implementation. The handbook of knowledge-based policing: current conceptions and future directions, 43-58.
Vollmer, A., & Schneider, A. (1916). School for Police as Planned at Berkeley. J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology, 7, 877.
Vollmer, A. (1930). The scientific policeman. Am. J. Police Sci., 1, 8.