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POLICING ISSUES
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Technology used in policing
The Crime commission of the 1960’s helped bring technical modernization first onto the
forces (Foster, 2004). Thereafter, as needs have been realized, research and development
allocations and technological revisions have been made. This operation is overseen by the Law
Enforcement and Corrections Technological Advisory Council. Given the continuing war on
drugs and the persistent threat of terrorism, recent stress has been on technology to detect
contraband and weaponry in a non-intrusive way. The force is also very interested in
incapacitation of unruly persons without having to resort to excess force, to stop vehicles that are
fleeing (without putting oncoming traffic and bystanders in harm’s way) and to further DNA
testing technology (Foster, 2004).
Technology typically has only enabled the work of law enforcement. However, some
technology in the hands of the general public has also aggravated their difficulty. All of the
following are directly utilized by the force: vehicles, radios, firearms and computers. These have
gradually adapted to meet with law enforcement needs more closely. Other technology in the
realms mentioned above is still evolving. Futuristic examples involve the following: a passive
millimeter wave which is being considered for detecting metal due to the high failure rate of the
metal detectors. A flux-gate passive magnetometer, which is also finding increased popularity
for its ability to ferret out weapons from a distance. Acoustic devices are also being used to help
detect weapons. Likewise, velocity range correction projectile launchers are next in line to
replace non-lethal weaponry because these devices temper the velocity of the shot depending on
the distance of the target. This makes sure that projectiles like rubber bullets etc are not lethal if
fired at a small range; issues escalating from such chaos have caused grave losses to department
coffers in the form of awards made to defendants who suffered excess force. Other technologies
POLICING ISSUES
that cause physiological responses against energetic stimuli are being evaluated because they can
induce nausea, dizziness and disorientation on a subject. A disabling net and launcher system is
being readied for snaring of fleeing or attacking suspects. Retractable barrier strips, fleeing
vehicle tagging systems, radio communicators, caltrops and tire shredders are being employed to
ensnare fleeing vehicles (Foster, 2004).
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Less than Lethal Weapons
In line with the police forces of the world, in the US, more and more non-lethal weaponry
is being brought in. The following are examples of such weaponry: night sticks, tear gar (CN or
CS), pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean bags, tasers and more recently, fire pellets, stinger
grenades and wood dowel guns. The modus operandi is inflicting pain. However, the better part
is that these weapons reduce the risk of lethal injury. Non-lethal weaponry can be used in two
situations: where ever the police are to be in a non-confrontational role or wherever lethal force
is not an option or is simply out of context. Practical situations involve self defense, riot control,
crowd control or prisoner control.
Precarious situations involve police using a variety of tactics together with non-lethal
weaponry. For example, a slowly advancing front of officers with batons is a common tactic
against unruly mobs or mounted officers trained in dispersal techniques. As fire hydrants became
accessible, they started being used in water canons as well.
Less-than-lethal policing is the call of the day increasingly as Congress looks to clamp on
dangerous weapons and violence slows in even the most ensnared regions (for example New
York and Los Angeles). The force appeals much more when non-lethal weaponry is used, given
a choice, specially in a country like ours, where race relations and social divisions are extremely
POLICING ISSUES
sensitive issues. A lot of violence directed at the police erupts from perceived injustices when
excessive force is used (Sauter & Carafano, 2005).
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Dangers of policing
The inherent nature of policing induces dangers in the job profile of a police officer.
There are active as well as passive dangers, however, there are some that take on a bigger role as
an occupational hazard.
Line of Duty Deaths
Line of duty deaths are perhaps the most important statistic on the active dangers of
policing (Scaramella, McCamey & Cox, 2010). Line of duty deaths denote the casualties while
discharging of duty. Homicides are a big reason behind line of duty deaths, but the more frequent
one is automobile accidents. While these may come about during active pursuits, they may also
come about from the sheer amount of time that police officers spend driving: either patrolling,
traffic management etc. As many as 35 percent of overall deaths were caused due to vehicle
related reasons in 2005. Besides accidents, police officers are at a very high risk of assaults.
There are risks from contracting diseases from exchanging bodily fluids during physical
altercations, contaminated emergency transfusions, accidental gun discharges, falls and
drownings. It has been additionally claimed that the job of a police officer is more dangerous
than actively serving overseas. Passive dangers come in form of work related stress. Passive
Threats
Alcoholism, divorce rates and suicides, traditionally considered the stress indicators are
all much greater than the population average in the police profession when compared with others.
POLICING ISSUES
Suicides. A National Surveillance of Police Suicide Study (NSOPS) data showed that
there were 141 suicides in 2008 when compared to 143 in 2009. This calculates to a suicide rate
of 17 per 100,000, which is 50 percent higher than the general population rate of 11.3 suicides
per 100000 persons. These figures are controversial though. Critics have warned that these
numbers could be under-reported since it is the fellow officers reporting on their colleagues’
deaths. Suicides at times are falsely reported as accidents to under report suicides. Then there are
jurisdictions that voluntarily do not carry data on suicide rates.
Divorce Rates
Divorce rates among law enforcement officers is reported as being the second highest
among all professions. There are increased instances of domestic violence as well. Law
enforcement officers have also been shown to be having greater friction and relationship issues
when it comes to their superiors at work as well as against political interference.
Alcoholism
Alcoholism has been found to be high in the police force as well. Research shows that
police officers are twice as likely to be alcoholics when compared with members of the general
public. This again, has been attributed to stress the job entails and the amount of social discord
they are exposed to.
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