Which of the four basic responsibilities of the police do you think is most important?

Which of the four basic responsibilities of the police do you think is most important?


1. Imagine you are a policy maker and you are thinking about the various responsibilities of police officers. Are there any responsibilities that should not be included? In recent years, the task of “providing services” has become rather controversial. Do students feel this is an appropriate function for law enforcement? Why or why not? (LO 1)

2. Ask students to conduct research on the history of policing. Have them select one of the individuals mentioned in the chapter (Sir Robert Peel, August Vollmer, O.W. Wilson, etc.) and conduct research on him or her on the internet. Have them prepare a short biography of their selected practitioner, including a photo. In a written assignment, students should discuss the impact their policing professional has had on law enforcement in the United States. Encourage students to go beyond those practitioners mentioned in the chapter—for example, consider having them select the first women to work as patrol officers, or the first minority members to hold administrative positions in the field. (LO 2)

3. Watch the video “2012 Law Enforcement Academy Video” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3omXxplhxQ . Research the requirements for your local law enforcement agency. Explain why they have such requirements (why are they important) and whether you think the requirements are appropriate. Discuss whether the requirements should be the same for males and females. Justify your decision. (LO 3)

4. Have students go online to research the topic of racial tensions between police and citizens. Following, research the impact of minority police officers on the police-citizen relationship. Do you think that diversification of police would reduce the racial problems and hatred towards police? Prepare a class report including two discussion questions. (LO 5)

5. Profile a federal agency with law enforcement responsibilities towards the objective of homeland security. You should document the agency’s mission, number of agents, jurisdiction, etc. Create a handout for the class which includes not only this information, but information on gaining employment with the agency: duties, qualification, salary, and a description of the hiring process. Lead a class discussion on this topic. (LO 6-7)

Answers To Critical Thinking Questions In The Text

1. Which of the four basic responsibilities of the police do you think is most important? Why?

ANS: All of the tasks are important, but for many people crime prevention would probably rank the highest. People are most afraid of being victimized because the emotional, physical, and financial consequences can be devastating.

2. Some law enforcement agencies have the same physical agility and fitness requirements for male and female applicants, while others do not hold women to the same physical standards as men. Which approach do you favor, and why?

ANS: On the one hand, women naturally do not have the same body composition and make-up. Therefore women do not compete with men in professional sports. For instance, the fastest female 100 m sprinter cannot beat the fastest male 100 m sprinter. This is true for most sports. When it comes to shooting and other skills based tasks, I would set the standards to be the same. For physical agility and fitness, however, it seems unrealistic. You either have to decrease the requirements, so that women can meet them or have different requirements.

On the other hand, criminals do not run slower or jump lower because a female officer is chasing them. Thus, females need to be able to fulfill the same requirements as male officers. Also, female officers must be able to provide help and backup to their male colleagues. Thus, all recruits must meet the same requirements.

3. Review the discussion of double marginality in this chapter. Why would members of a minority community think that police of the same race or ethnicity were “traitors”? What can police departments to do dispel this misperception?

ANS: Because they believe that minority officers betray them by being part of the “bad cops,” engaging in racial profiling just like the white cops, and therefore discriminating against minorities. Police departments could diversify the police force further to help minority officers feel more accepted and equal within the police force. They should also improve the police-citizen relationship by engaging the community and providing services to the communities. Community policing has been shown to effectively improve the relationship with the community. This may be a good approach for minority officers in minority neighborhoods because they would be perceived as a “helper” rather than a “cop.”

4. One of the major differences between a local police chief and a sheriff is that the sheriff is elected, while the police chief is appointed. What are some of the possible problems with having a law enforcement official who, like any other politician, is responsible to voters? What are some of the possible benefits of this situation?

ANS: Elected officials tend to cater to their constituency. This can have positive and negative consequences. A positive consequence is a certain accountability to the population. Accountability reduces the likelihood of corruption. A negative consequence is that sheriffs are politicians. They may implement policies that are wanted by the population even though these policies have been shown to be ineffective by research. They may also repay their political debt by promoting those who have given them support rather than those who are most capable.

5. Twenty-nine states do not require any specific training for private security personnel. What are the arguments for and against requiring at least forty hours of training, as is the case in California and Florida?

ANS: Private security should have training that teaches them appropriate responses to crime victims. They need to know the rules of law and the boundaries of their job. This is important so innocent people don’t get hurt and evidence doesn’t get destroyed.

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