The emergence of cybercrime in the past decade, coupled with the departmental changes in the police force, has caused a shift in the policing model from community policing to neo-professionalism. This change has been a debatable issue with some scholars arguing that the move is justified and others having a totally different view. Hierarchical law enforcement agencies in the past centuries, which focused on societal welfare, served as the foundation of neo-professionalism. Though the changes caused by events and situations over time resulted in the implementation of the community policing model, the recent changes in technology have reverted the model back to neo-professionalism to curb the emergence of technology-related crimes (Maguire & Okada, 2011). Research shows that the police in the 21st century are more involved in surveillance and information gathering. This state-based notion has indeed replaced the traditional community-based policing, and thus, citizens are denied their right to participate in the running of their country.
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This paper determines whether the police is shifting from the community policing model to a different model called neo-professionalism. It responds to the above claim by using various theories, including normative-rational, conflict, and institutional theories.
The normative-rational theory focuses on the reaction of the public to the police. The primary objective of police officers since time immemorial has been the maintenance of law and order. Using the contingency theory, the community policing purpose has changed, and the results can be identified. In the 1960s, community policing was introduced to bridge the gap between the police and the public and change the handling of matters by police officers. The image of the police by then was tainted and therefore, there was a need to enhance it.
The emergence of cybercrime as a result of technological advancements has, however, curtailed the growth of community policing. Cybercrime is the use of a computer or computer related devices and technology to commit criminal activities. The definition of cyber has caused an uproar and debate on its exclusivity as compared to the normal crimes. In spite of having an inconclusive definition, the fields encompassed in the idea of cybercrime are clearly articulated. The boundaries of cybercrime are also vaguely defined. Technology is a virtual commodity that cannot be limited or confined within the jurisdiction (Maguire & Okada, 2011).
Cybercrime occurs in numerous ways, including the invasion of privacy and hacking into confidential files. These crimes have caused the police department to move back to problem solving. Efforts made to prevent these crimes have not been successful, which resulted in the violation of various rules, including privacy and surveillance of people. The government’s involvement in surveillance has also caused an uproar among members of the public. The case of Snowden vs. the U.S. Government illustrates the security vs. privacy antagonism. Snowden leaked the surveillance programs to the public, arguing that it was the right of all individuals to know they were being watched, yet the government sued him for espionage. However, the majority of people supported Snowden’s actions. The above situation relates to the normative-rational theory, whereby, despite performing normal activities, individuals will be in fear of surveillance equipment and those who monitor it (Maguire & Okada, 2011).
Surveillance has distanced community policing from people and shifted the focus to the apprehension of criminals. With the efforts to combat cybercrime through surveillance, the results are that people are more aware of the presence of police officers or surveillance in their vicinity. In addition to surveillance, there are hidden sections on the internet that facilitate the black market and are encrypted to protect the privacy of dealers. Thus, the advancements in technology have indeed made the police department switch to neo-professionalism to curb cybercrimes.
The evolution of crimes and vices has impacted the police department’s choice of the policing model, whereby the police are now concerned with eliminating crimes as opposed to collaborating with the community. For the crimes to be solved, new methods to curb them are necessary. Innovations will play a critical role in enhancing the police department’s goals. Today, the police use sophisticated approaches to curbing crimes. For instance, there has been an increase in the use of drones and unmanned aircraft in rescue and surveillance operations. These approaches have proved to be efficient in gathering key security information and preventing and solving crimes. Despite their effectiveness and efficiency, communities are left out as far as policing roles are concerned (Maguire & Okada, 2011).
The core of the institutional theory is having an organizational structure that deals with the rendering of certain values but does not emphasize the efficiency of services. The inception of the organizational structure of the police department dates back to the 18th century where there were clear ranking distinctions of the sheriff, constable, and town watch. Historically, the ranking and composition of the constituent values and staff formed the basis of institutionalism. The transmission of these values is dependent on the environment and the community in which the department lies. Different rates of adoption of laws in various states have an impact on the institutionalism of the police force (Maguire & Okada, 2011). In the modern age, there is an ongoing process of adjustments. Currently, the hierarchy of the police is clearly outlined and their roles are clearly stated. Police officers are also required to follow a code of conduct in their course of actions (Maguire & Okada, 2011).
The police department has over the years transformed in order to align itself with the modern-day world and handle issues effectively. The transformation has, however, posed various challenges to the police department. The complexity of the force has been attributed to the emergence of additional departments, which has resulted in institutionalism. For example, the recruitment process has been widened to cater for different races and genders. Departments dealing with different problems like cybercrime and community policing have been added to enhance specialization in the force, which has significantly contributed to curbing crimes. Thus, it is a form of neo-professionalism.
The success of the organizational structure is evident as it supports community policing while also promoting crime combating procedures. Each department is fully mandated to perform its duties, which has broadened the technical ability through the structure. Technical officers can solely pay their attention to rising computer crimes in their cybercrime department. In recent years, there has been a sub-division of the force into smaller departments in order to strengthen law enforcement procedures. These changes clearly show that the police are shifting from the community policing model to a different model, namely neo-professionalism.
The conflict theory is based on the assumption that the law favors the majority groups in the society. In the 1960s, there were waves of riots and crimes that were attributed to racism. The increasing Black American population had a meager representation in the police force. Together with the brutality and aggression of the officers, this situation caused uproars and several protests by Black Americans, which is an example of the conflict theory. The complaints of the Black Americans, coupled with unsolved criminal activities, changed the perception of the police by the public. The aftermath of the chaos was an increased representation of other races in the police force, which led to the change in the structure of the force.
Currently, the minority groups in the United States protest again the lack of their recognition and equality in the force. For example, gender equity and representation in the force in different departments has caused changes in the police structure. The incorporation of policewomen while also catering for their rights has resulted in the shift to the law enforcement and protection of women. With regards to the latter, the laws that are imposed on the department have been made stricter with harsh punishments, which is the evidence of neo-professionalism.
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The role of the police in keeping law and order cannot be underestimated, especially in these turbulent times. Traditionally, the police worked hand in hand with community members. However, with the advancements in technology and the resultant increase in cyber and other sophisticated crimes, the focus has changed. The above theories have clearly shown that the police department is slowly transforming its activities to be more professional in crime handling and focus less on community policing. Currently, police departments in many parts of the world are highly digitized. This change has necessitated the introduction of innovative practices. However, the practices do not actually incorporate people, despite being intended for the public. It is, therefore, right to say that the police is shifting from the community policing model to a different model, namely neo-professionalism. Modernity and technological advancements have widened the gap between the police and the public because the methods used in curbing the modern day crimes are unknown to people owing to technological advancements, which creates fear and tension in the public domain. Thus, as the new era beckons, the police should not replace the community based policing.