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Police Operations




Thisessay explores the concept of policing by identifying and describingthe key functions of police officers and the approaches they use inexecuting their work. The essay also defines the doctrine of probablecause and its impact on policing work.

Functionsof a police agency

Thepolice agency is one of the three primary components of the Americansystem of criminal justice. This is to say that the police workalongside courts and the corrections systems to ensure that order andjustice prevail within the society. Even so, the police are said tooccupy a very special position within the system, essentially becausetheir functions determine the effectiveness of operations within theentire system. For example, police function as the system’sgatekeepers in the sense that they make initial contact withoffenders, and frequently initiate the journey that offenders willtake throughout the justice procedure (Kappeler, 2012).

Anotherimportant function executed by the police is deterrence of crime. Inthe U.S., like in many other nations, the responsibility of investingcrime and ensuring that perpetrators are arrested lies with policeofficers (University of New Orleans, 2007). It is important to notethat in an attempt to deter crime, police officers usually conductpatrols, besides doing investigations. Two styles of patrolling havebeen noted to be common amongst police officers. The first is theproactive patrol, which is a style wherein police officers conductregular patrols with the objective of detecting crimes before theyoccur. Conversely, the objective of reactive patrol is to arrestpersons that are responsible for the crime. In short, the proactivepatrol is a preventive measure, while reactive patrol occurs in orderto take action against offenders (Bumgarner, 2004).

Theabove discussion insinuates that police officers are required toexercise good judgment and to make sound choices as they executetheir work. This brings in the issue of discretion, which can bedefined as the freedom and ability of an officer to choose among avariety of alternatives (Bronitt &amp Stenning, 2011). In practice,police officers rely greatly on this discretion to decide whetheraccused persons should be arrested, investigated, or searched.Similarly, it is also in the discretion of police officers to decidethe group of judges to which a given case will be put before (Bronitt&amp Stenning, 2011).


Withouta doubt, the police play a very important role in ensuring thatcitizens live in safe neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the relationshipbetween police officers and members of the public has not been verypositive, and particularly where minority groups are concerned. Infact, poor police-community relations have, traditionally, been amajor obstacle to the effective functioning of the U.S. criminaljustice system, more so with respect to minority populations (Dempsey&amp Forst, 2010). Such a negative relationship makes it hard forthe police to execute their functions. To begin with, police rely oncitizens to obtain crucial information that will enable them todecide the approach to use. In most cases, good relations between thepolice and the community facilitate proactive patrolling, whichreduces the crime rate.

Itis in light of the foregoing reality that policing has graduallyshifted from traditional approaches to community policing. Accordingto the University of New Orleans (2007), the type and nature of crimehave become complicated in the modern world, thus renderingtraditional policing strategies somewhat ineffective. By definition,traditional policing is a model of policing whose focus is to detercrime. More specifically, the traditional policing strategy involvesheavy police patrol, the notion being that this kind of patrol willdeter possible offenders from engaging in crime. Additionally, therationale behind traditional policing is that regular patrols willenable police officers to react swiftly to crime when it occurs.

Communitypolicing has gained popularity in the contemporary society, one ofits central features being those police officers must forge andmaintain good relations with citizens in order to perform theirduties effectively (Conser 2005). This intimates that communitypolicing facilitates constructive relations between police andcommunities in the sense that it involves strategies used by policeto collaborate with communities in identifying problems (Brown,2012). Subsequently, traditional policing differs from communitypolicing in that the former emphasizes reactive policing approachesand depicts police officers as the only important group in crimeprevention. By contrast, community policing favors proactive policingapproaches, postulating that crime prevention requires group effort.

Howpolice protect citizens` constitutional rights

Theconcepts of community policing and proactive policing have raisedmajor issues regarding the extent to which police officers violatecitizens’ constitutional rights. This is a key issue, more soconsidering that the US Constitution demands that every citizen`scivil liberties must be protected (Penn, 2013). Precisely, policeofficers are usually thought to be violating the Fourth Amendmentthat prohibits illegal searches together with seizures. Likewise, theconstitution provides that every citizen should be allowed the rightto speak. However, it is the norm for police to demand that suspectsremain silence pending prosecution (Rushin, 2011). These two examplesindicate that the protection of citizens’ constitutional rights isone area in which the police have failed.

Typesof searches and interrogation practices

Policeofficers use a variety of techniques in interrogating and searchingsuspects. The most common technique that is used today is Reid, inwhich police officers try to build rapport with suspects, besidesobserving suspects’ body language with the aim of identifying cuesthat may suggest that the suspect is lying (The Forensic OutreachTeam, 2016). Besides the Reid methodology, police officers alsoemploy traditional methods, which basically entail the use ofpressure and intimidation so that the suspect may comply with policedirectives. The PEACE technique is also used in interrogation andpolice searches. PEACE stands for preparation and planning, engageand explain, account, closure and evaluate (the Forensic OutreachTeam, 2016).

Probablecause and its impact on police officers

Amajor theme that is reiterated in the foregoing discussion is thatpolice work is not as easy as it appears, precisely due to theparadoxes involved. For instance, it has been noted that theproactive policing practice is usually interpreted as a violation ofcitizens’ constitutional rights, especially the right to privacy.At the same time, police officers are expected to apply discretion inexecuting their work. While this creates the impression that policeofficers may occasionally find themselves facing charges of actingunconstitutionally, the doctrine of probable cause has been createdto make policing work easier. Gaines and Kappeler (2014) defineprobable cause as the degree to which a police officer reasonablybelieves that his/her actions are legal. In legal terms, probablecause is said to have existed when a police officer acts inaccordance with the prevailing facts as well as circumstances (delCarmen, 2010). In a practical sense, the doctrine stipulates thatpolice officers may arrest a suspect when all available facts andinformation suggest over 50% likelihood that he/she committed acrime.

Theimplication of the doctrine of probable cause is that police officersmust carefully assess any facts and information brought to thembefore making the decision to arrest or conduct a search on asuspect. If this is not done, then a police officer may face legalcharges. On the other hand, probable cause implies that policeofficers must always act in good faith, which simply means thatpolice officers must act in accordance with department policy as wellas regulations.


Policeofficers help in maintaining justice in the society they deter crimeby conducting regular patrols. Additionally, police officers liaisewith community members to ensure that deviant behavior is apprehendedand prevented. Due to the nature of work, police officers are oftenaccused of breaching citizens’ constitutional rights. Thankfully,the doctrine of probable cause exists to enable officers to takeaction against suspects against whom there is significant evidence ofwrongdoing.


Bronitt,S. H., &amp Stenning, P. (2011). Understanding discretion in modernpolicing. CriminalLaw Journal, 35(6),319-332.

Brown,L. (2012). Policingin the 21stcentury: community policing.AuthorHouse.

Bumgarner,J. B. (2004). Profilingand criminal justice in America: A reference handbook.Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Conser,J. A. (2005). Lawenforcement in the United States.Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

DelCarmen, R. V. (2010). Criminalprocedure: Law and practice.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Dempsey,J. S., &amp Forst, L. S. (2010). Anintroduction to policing.Australia: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Gaines,L. &amp Kappeler, V. (2014). Policingin America.Routledge.

Kappeler,V. (2012). Whatis the Place of Police within the Criminal Justice System?Available at &lt&lthttp://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/what-place-police-within-criminal-justice-system&gt&gt

Penn,E. (2013). Homelandsecurity and criminal justice: five years after 9/11.Routledge.

Rushin,S. (2011). Rethinking Miranda: The Post-Arrest Right to Silence.CaliforniaLaw Review,151-178.

TheForensic Outreach Team. (2016). 4police interrogation techniques you should know (and why not all ofthem work).Retrieved from &lt&lthttp://forensicoutreach.com/library/4-police-interrogation-techniques-you-should-know-and-why-not-all-of-them-work/&gt&gt

Universityof New Orleans. (2007). TheNew Orleans police department: melding police and policy todramatically reduce crime in the city of New Orleans.ProQuest.