Because of discussions I have been involved in with some of my ex-colleague and other members of my community on Facebook and other forums, I have been made aware that there is a deficit of knowledge as it relates to the responsibilities of and other key elements of the operation of the police service, force, department, etc., even among serving policing officers.
It is my desire, therefore, to use my knowledge and understanding of this field to fill this gap in this series entitled Police 101, of which this is my first submission.
A police force or police service is a state run organization or institution that is responsible for the enforcement of local or state law, peacekeeping, crime prevention; as well as public safety education. Wrapped up in the forgoing sentence are key facets of a police organization; be it a force, a service, a department, etc.
I will take this opportunity to further explain the characteristics that were outlined in the opening paragraph, which should give you a better understanding of the obligations the police as an organization has to the community as a whole, the institution that makes up the community as well as the individuals.
The police organization is a state-sponsored institution that has a state-created mandate, which means, the police are financed by the state or local government under which they operate. The total operation, which includes: salaries, equipments, training and the core regulation under which they are asked to operate, is laid out by the state legislature. The difference between the police and other commercial institutions that perform similar service as the police are as follows:
1. The police are an establishment that was instituted by a lawful or legislative act of parliament.
2. The police find a prominent place for its establishment within the state constitution.
3. The authority that is awarded to the police is more intense and such authorities are protected by the law.
4. The police coordinate their activities in collaboration with the judicial and the penal systems.
5. The police are a not for profit government organization although fines that are collected as a result of police coordinated activities generate a hefty portion of the state’s operational budget.
The duties of the police:
The police as an institution have several critical responsibilities and when the organization is successful in fulfilling its mandate, it contributes to the maintaining of civility of the society.
The main duties of the police are to enforce or to ensure the law of the land is adhered to. The laws that the police are expected to focus upon are the criminal laws and other legislation, which, if ignored, can cause societal chaos; laws such as the traffic laws and/or regulation. If such laws are ignored, it can adversely affect the smooth functioning of the many facets of the society. All of the other responsibilities of the police are hinged upon ensuring the community’s adherence to the law.
1. Prevention: The primary police function is to ensure that the law of the land, criminal and other, is not violated. The police can best ensure this via two means: education and a visible police presence. When the community is educated about the law and the reason for the law, the members of the community find a greater appreciation for the law and compliance to the same. In the same process, when there is a visible police presence, would be offenders are given a visible and valid reason not to breach the law.
2. Maintain Peace: another of the police obligations to society is to ensure that peace is maintained. There may be activities that may cause a breakdown in the community’s peace without causing a breach of the law. However, such activities may infringe on a person’s rights as a member of the community. In such cases it is the police responsibility to create an atmosphere where the parties involved can exercise their opposing rights without infringing on the rights of another; in such cases the police are required to work out a compromise between the parties involved.
3. Investigate reports: when an offence (crime or other unlawful violation) is or was committed or there was an allegation that an offence was committed, it is the police responsibility to investigate such offences. They will look into the matter to verify whether an offence was actually committed, who was responsible for committing the offence and the level of culpability that can be attributed to the offender.
4. The arrest (if the breach of the offence requires such), lawful processing and prosecution of culpable offenders.
It will be important to note that the authority, procedures and the terms of operation of the police institution is stipulated by law and no agent of the police are authorized by instruction or otherwise to function outside the perimeter of the laws which governs his or her conduct.
Allan H. F. Palmer