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Posted on August 27th, 2012, by

The performance of law enforcement agencies can to a significant extent define the social stability since law enforcement agencies maintain the existing social order and aim at the prevention of crimes and offenses. In such a situation, law enforcement agencies, including police should be perfect from legal and moral points of view. Hence, the law enforcement reporting is needed to ensure that law enforcement agencies observe all the regulations and legal norms. At the same time, often the work of police is accompanied by the use of force which may evoke the question concerning the extent to which the use of force by police officers is justified. In such a context, it is necessary to clearly define the limits and rules which police officers cannot surmount.

 

 Introduction

Today, the work of law enforcement agencies, especially police is very important because the growing number of external threats to the national security, such as international terrorism, and the growing crime rates poses new challenges police and other law enforcement agencies have to overcome. In actuality, the effectiveness of the performance of police is closely associated with the number of crimes committed on local and national level. In fact, crime rates have become indictors on the ground of which the effectiveness of the police is assessed. In such a situation, law enforcement agencies, including police, attempt to improve their performance, but their effort can evoke certain threats, such as the misuse of power and excessive use of force.

To put it more precisely, the public perceives the improvement of the work of the police as the increasing presence of the police in streets.

However, the public remains ignorant of the fact that the work of police can be accompanied by a number of stressful factors which can lead to the excessive use of force by police officers. At the same time, the public is aware of the fact that police officers have to be controlled and the excessive use of force is absolutely unacceptable. In such a situation, reporting comes into a play since it is introduced in order to strengthen the control over the work of police officers as well as other law enforcement agents. Therefore, the effectiveness of the control over police officers and law enforcement agencies highly depends on the effectiveness of reporting. This is why, today, law enforcement reporting, being highly formal, should provide ample opportunities for controlling officers and the public to assess adequately actions or inactions of police officers and other law enforcement agents when they perform their professional duties, especially in cases of the use of force.

Law enforcement reporting

Traditionally, reporting constituted an essential part of the work of law enforcement agencies. At the same time, reporting often evoke quite negative reaction of police officers because they believe that reporting prevent them from performing more important tasks (Braithwaite, 769). Consequently, they argue that reporting interferes into their regular work. To put it in simple words, many police officers argue that instead of doing their duties and preventing crimes they have to do routine reporting.

However, specialists (Siegel, 2003) point out that such arguments are inconsistent, while reporting is essential for the normal functioning of police and other law enforcement agencies. In fact, the major goal of reporting is the establishment of an effective system of control over the work of police officers and other law enforcement agents. Reporting allows controlling actions of police officers. As they have to report, police officers feel their responsibility and, normally, they cannot violate law or misinterpret laws somehow because they will have to explain and describe in details all their actions in their reports. In such a way, it is possible to evaluate the work of each officer and define whether his/her actions were correct or not.

At the same time, it is necessary to understand that reporting is not the only source of the control of the work of police officers and other law enforcement agents. In actuality, specialists (Hayward, 2004) argue that reporting should be viewed as a complementary instrument of control of police officers’ work. In other words, it is impossible to rely on police reports solely, since there is a risk of misinterpretation or omitting of some important facts in reports of police officers. On the other hand, reports can be used as the basis for the analysis of actions of police officers and assessment of their work. For instance, in case of excessive use of force, it is possible to refer not only to factual evidences, eyewitnesses, but also to police reports which can represent the position of police officers whose actions are under investigation.

Furthermore, the introduction of new technologies facilitates reporting consistently. The introduction of new information technologies and telecommunications have opened larger opportunities for minimization of time spent by police officers and other law enforcement agents on reporting. The procedure of reporting can be simplified, but, still, it is necessary to preserve the legal value of reporting (Barak, 1998). What is meant here is the fact that reports are official documents and, therefore, they should be protected from threat of some external interference, such as making corrections, for instance. In addition, the introduction of new technologies which can be used in reporting raises another problem the necessity of adaptation of new technologies by police officers, who need to learn how to work with new technologies.

Nevertheless, reporting is essential and the work of modern law enforcement agencies is practically impossible without it. Otherwise, it will be impossible to control the work of law enforcement agencies and they can outgrow into a powerful institution threatening to democratic principles of the modern society because without reporting the public and authorities cannot get detailed information about their work and assess it.

Use of force

In this respect, the use of force may be one of the cases when reporting does matter. Today, when crime rates are growing, the risk of the excessive use of force by police officers increases consistently, because of the high psychological pressure they suffer from during their work. It is necessary to understand that police officers cannot be similar to the general population because of the specificity of their work.

In fact, the major goal of the work of police officers is the maintenance of the existing social order, the protection of rights and liberties of the general population. The safety of the general population is the ultimate goal of the work of any police officers. The latter can be achieved through the prevention of crime or the investigation of crimes that have been already committed.

In such a situation, police officers should develop specific skills and abilities as well as the model of behavior at large which make them different from the rest of the population. Police officers should not only protect rights and liberties of the general public but they should be also able to show an example of a positive social behavior. In other words, they cannot misuse their power in their personal interests or to punish offenders, etc. In fact such actions can deteriorate consistently the public image of the police and widen the gap between the police and community, which is unacceptable because an effective work of the police is impossible without it close interaction with the community.

However, police officers are not machines and their professional duties and the need to maintain the positive public image of the police, through the observance of the law, protection of the general public and prevention of crimes, can be substantially affected by the psychology and personal traits of police officers. At the same time, the professional work may affect the personality of police officers as well. What is meant here is the fact that often police officers cannot afford working in extreme situations when they confront criminals in their daily work. In such a situation, a crime becomes a routine, while the cruelty and severe offenses police officers may witness inevitably affect their psychology that can affect their personality dramatically, leading to changes in the behavior of police officers, which can become more aggressive, for instance, or problems in their personal life. For instance, many police officers are divorced and, what is more, it is their work and its impact on their personality that plays the determinant role in their decision to divorce or that ruins their family life (Dworkin, 2005).

In such a way, numerous stressors as well as the lack of qualification can lead to cases of excessive use of force. However, often it is difficult to define whether the use of force was justified or it was excessive. Today, there exist numerous regulations which define the behavior of police officers and other law enforcement agents, but often police officers face situations when their life and health or the life and health of civilians are under a threat. In such a situation, the use of force is essential, but even in such moments there are limits which police officers cannot surpass. In fact, the major principle which defines the use of force by police officers and other law enforcement agents is the use of force in order to prevent any possibility of committing offense or any action which threatens to the life, health or property of a police officer or civilians. At the same time, police officers cannot use force when an offender does not represent any danger to the public.

Conclusion

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the work of law enforcement agencies is crucial to the maintenance of the existing social order and social stability. At the same time, today, growing risks and threats imply the strengthening of law enforcement agencies. Often the public demands strict punishment and treatment of offenders. As a result, police officers can feel responsible for the prevention of crimes by all possible means that may lead to the excessive use of force. In such a situation, the role of reporting can hardly be underestimated because reports can be used to control the work of police officers and prevent the risk of unsanctioned or excessive use of force. On the other hand, it is difficult to define whether the use of force is excessive or not and whether it is necessary or not. In such a situation, police officers and other law enforcement agents should be guided by existing norms and rules and common sense and limit the use of force by prevention the crime and offense making an offender unable to cause any harm to other people or private property.

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