Free «The Police Component of Criminal Justice» Essay

The Police Component of Criminal Justice

A good understanding of the police as those entrusted with the function of maintaining law and order involves understanding their functions and structures at the local, state, and federal levels as well as their responsibilities. Generally, the police exist to perform such functions as crime prevention, ensuring criminals are brought to justice, maintaining peace and order, and interpreting the law. This write up will seek to identify, compare, and contrast the policing function at the local, state, and federal organizational levels of the United States. It will also present an analysis on how the organizational, management, administration, and operational functions at these three organizational levels are similar or different while presenting elaborate reasons for this differences and similarities. 

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The total number of police agencies in the U.S. is currently estimated to be 18,760. The agencies have employed approximately 940,275 officers. The officers are categorized into three law enforcement agencies. These include; the local, the state and the federal levels. Even though all the three levels of law enforcement have unique responsibilities and the procedures followed to achieve them, there functions are closely related and impact on the society.  Basically, the police agencies are involved in enforcing laws, preventing crimes, conducting arrest of offenders, maintaining of order as well as providing related services to the community. This write up will examine various aspects of the policing function in the U.S. at the local, state, and federal organizational levels (The National Academy of Science, 2004).

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Unlike the state and the local level police agencies none of the federal police agencies involves itself in maintaining order or peace keeping missions. Additionally, none of the federal police agencies can be considered as a national police force.  Instead, each of the federal agencies have specialized functions. The Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for monitoring and controlling the way in which the immigrants flow in and out of the country. They thus patrol the country’s borders and territories. It is their duty to charge, apprehend, and depot those who are found to have entered the country without authorization. The Federal Aviation Administration works closely with the US Marshals and Customs to help in providing the needed security on aircraft. Finally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is responsible for investigating organized crimes, terrorism, white collar crimes, espionage, and certain federal drug offenses (Clerk, 2004).

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Additionally, the Federal Bureau of investigation is charged with assisting the local and state agencies in such services as training, fingerprinting, and carrying out DNA and laboratory tests. This is because of their large capacity in terms of skills and operation. Similarly, the DEA which is entitled with providing leadership in the enforcement of national laws on drugs also do assist the local and state agencies in this aspect through providing them access to the regional laboratories as well as registering qualified physicians to carry out the prescription of drugs (The National Academy of Science, 2004).

Unlike the federal agencies which have specific functions for each agency, the state agencies have four major functions. It is involved in; assisting the agencies responsible for enforcing law at the local level, carrying out investigations of the cross county crimes, enforcing laws in areas lacking the local or county agencies, and finally breaking of strikes and controlling of labor movements. The local police on the other hand are composed of the municipal and county police departments as well as the county sheriffs. Their mandate is the broadest compared to that of the federal and the state agencies. They are involved in enforcing criminal law, maintaining order, while also providing the public with other daily miscellaneous services (Clerk, 2004).

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In terms of management, the federal police agencies obtain directives from the Homeland Security Presidential Directive which is totally in charge of the management of incidents happening at the domestic level. It, for example, directs that the federal agencies have to adhere to the requirements of the National Incidence Management System (NIMS) and use it while carrying out their duties such as response and prevention of emergencies. It also mandates the federal agencies to ensure that the requirements of NIMS are implemented at the local and state organizational policy levels. Additionally, NIMS pass agreements on the utilization of all the three organizational police agencies through its duty of managing the policy agency resources. The NIMS also gives the state and local police agencies the needed power and authority to carry out various response activities in their specific areas of jurisdiction (Clerk, 2004).

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On the other hand, the local government because of its constant contact with the community is linked downwardly to community and upwardly to both the state and local agencies. These agencies work closely with the department of homeland security. The agencies operating at the municipal level are answerable to their relative jurisdiction’s chief administrative officer who may be either a city officer or a mayor. The officer enjoys the authority to engage, terminate the officers as well as allocate funds to the local agencies.

For technical and financial assistance, the local organizational police agencies do seek assistance from state and federal organizational police agencies. However, the three organizational level agencies are authoritatively independent of each other. That is, each of them lacks the legal authority to pressurize the lower agencies to perform. Instead, the state agencies are directly under the governor (Clerk, 2004).

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Operationally, all the agencies operating at the federal level are normally specialized. This means that they are responsible for carrying out specific mandates in the enforcements of certain types of federal laws with the federal crimes estimated to be 200 in number. In addition, they are organized in such a way that some of the federal agencies have increasingly stationed some of their agents in other nations to increase their efficiency in dealing with the increasing transitional crime. The federal agencies are thus guided by the laws formulated by the federal government. Top on the list of the federal agencies are the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, Bureau of Prisons, and the Customs (Clerk, 2004).

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Though for a long time the state organizational level of policing acted like governors’ personal tool, today they provide general law enforcement services. This has been witnessed since 1925 when every state came up with either the department of highway patrol or that of a state police force. The state police force acted as central all-purpose policing which makes it different from the federal level agencies. On the other hand its departments of highway patrol had a number of bureaus of investigation, crime labs, examination of driver licenses, identifications and the control of drug issues related to drug and alcohol. It therefore worked closely with the FBI whose major function is investigation. Additionally, every state agency is involved in the administration of computer system linking up with that of the federal agencies. However, they differ from that of the federal agencies because they mostly handle the cases of violations against state property laws (The National Academy of Science, 2004).

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By the year 2000, the federal level had around 69 agencies involved in enforcing the law. It is through these agencies that it employed close to 88,000 officers. On the other hand, the state level had 26 agencies as Highway Patrol and 23 agencies as state police with states like Hawaii having a Police Safety Departments instead. Moreover, though with limited purpose, 35 of the U.S. states possessed additional state agencies. At the local level, the country also had 3,088 departments of sheriffs as well as about 15,000 municipal police departments. It is the federal officers who have a higher authority to handle firearms and to carry out arrests because of the urgency and technicality of the issues they are dealing with. However, unlike the other levels of law enforcement, their roles are very specific; as defied in federal law. This clearly shows that all these police agencies are structured in different ways to enable them perform different functions at the local, state and federal levels (The National Academy of Science, 2004).











Moreover, a number of states organize the maintenance of their state law bureaus of criminal investigation around law enforcement responsibilities which are broad in nature. However, a good number of states have also maintained a number of organizations, like the game police, which have limited and special powers in their involvement in enforcing law. This entails areas or towns which have not been incorporated to enable them to be allocated police forces. The county sheriff departments or the state law enforcement in most cases employee their officers in these areas though after a formally contract has been signed (Clerk, 2004).

Unlike the federal and the state police agencies, the local agencies have the longest contact with the public since they provide routine services which require them to patrol throughout the community. Additionally, it is the municipal law enforcement agencies which is entitled to the provision of the greatest number and volume of services related to the police in the U.S. this is because the few existing sheriffs only provide the services related to the general policing. At the local level, the law enforcement agencies are also organized at the level of the county. This is majorly around the county sheriff’s office though some are also known as police departments. The sheriff’s offices differ from those of the municipal and the county based on the fact that they are headed by nearly an elected official. On the other hand the head of both the county and city police agencies are normally appointed from amongst the branch employees (Clerk, 2004).

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In conclusion, it is evidenced that as much as the three levels of policing are performs different functions and follow different procedures, the three are dependent on each other. The federal agencies for example get information from the state and the local police agencies regarding criminal trends to help it in its understanding of criminal activities. Equally, the state and the local agencies also depend on the federal agencies especially the FBI for such information as related to complex investigation. This means that the government must ensure that it offers appropriate support to its policing at all the three levels.

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