The Criminal Justice System is made up of series of parts with distinctive goals. It is a form of social control which seeks to ensure that the particular criminal law of the land is followed. The criminal justice system comprises three main components mainly; the law enforcement, the courts and the corrections units. All these components need to work in co-ordination but also independently without usurping the function of another. At the initial stage of the criminal trial process does the law enforcement unit come in. the law enforcement is charged with the arrest of the offenders, conduct of investigations and collection of relevant evidence. This is the preliminary stage pending the arraignment of a suspect in court. The courts deal with the suspect based on the evidence presented by the prosecution and in consideration of other factors. In the event that the jury and the courts adjudge the suspect guilty, does the corrections unit step in? The corrections unit concerns itself with incarceration of the offenders for several reasons which include rehabilitation, incapacitation of the offender and punishment for the offense. This paper shall restrain itself to the law enforcement component of the criminal justice system. It shall seek to evaluate the past, present and future trends of the law enforcement component in the United States. This is in a bid to finding out the budgetary and managerial impact that future trends in the law enforcement arm is likely to have on the whole criminal justice system.
Law enforcement is but the first component of the criminal justice system. It is the most visible of the components of the criminal justice system which has the first contact with both offenders and victims of crime. In the United States, this agency consists of federal, state and local departments. This component is charged with enforcing the law, protecting life and property as well as reducing acts of civil disobedience. While discharging this mandate, the police are empowered to use such force as is only necessary.
Past trends of the law enforcement agency show a substantial variation with the current trends and without doubt, future trends. Most of the early police forces were mainly made up of night watchmen. However, this mode of policing was never effective owing to a period of political corruption and patronage that lasted until the year 1930. A report presented by a presidential Commission in 1931 and other reformers helped weed out the corruption that was in the police sector and spurred it towards technological advancement.
Following funding for research and education by a federal agency, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, between the years 1969-1982, the police sector witnessed the emergence of scientific and professional policing. Owing to this funding from this agency and other sources like the Ford Foundation, several studies were undertaken in the police sector. These studies that aimed at finding the best ways of policing included experiments on random patrol, foot patrol, team policing, one versus two officer units, reduced domestic violence, reducing fear of crime, as well as problem-oriented policing. These experiments were conducted in different states such as Kansas, San Diego, Minneapolis, Houston and Cincinnati among others. Indeed, it is these experiments that informed community policing which is practiced in the modern day.
In the present, the law enforcement agency is marked by a number of practices. These practices include patrol and maintenance of order, investigations and social work. The police take on these tripartite roles in a bid to enforce the law. In essence, patrol and maintenance of order is the main primary duty of law enforcers. Patrols have the effect of maintaining law and order by preventing crime. Usually, the police are usually dispatched to an area before a crime is perpetrated. Similarly, patrols conducted by the law enforcers have the effect of averting possible crime by potential offenders. As such, it acts as a preventive measure. This mode of operation is the most prevalent trend among law enforcers in their quest to ensure law and order prevails.
Besides maintaining order through patrols, another key duty of the law enforcement component of the criminal justice system is that of investigations. As earlier outlined in this paper, the police are charged with conducting investigations and collecting the necessary evidence. In this way, the court process, which is the other component in the system, is facilitated in its work. It therefore follows that all these crucial components of the criminal justice system need to work in coordination to ensure the success of all. In most of the times, the law enforcers work in conjunction with the District Attorney to aid in prosecution of the suspect when he is arraigned in court.
The other practice of law enforcers presently is that of social work. The police have taken the role of a social worker in that they check on the welfare of the persons they interact with. This group of persons consists of suspected offenders, the elderly in the community as well as victims of crime. The law enforcers step into the shoes of social workers by attending to the individual needs of these persons. They also take an active role in helping sort out problems that do arise among persons in cases of domestic conflict. Assistance to the elderly in the society has also increasingly become a role of law enforcers.
Following the September 2001 Terrorist attack, the role of the law enforcers has fundamentally changed. The terrorist attacks were followed with the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Patriotic Act. This brought with it several changes in policy, communication and training programs in the conduct of law enforcement. Some of the changes that ensued as a result of these implementations are the increased presence of police at airports to boost security through the Transportation Security Administration organization.
Future trends and the impact
The increasing terrorist attacks continue to pose a challenge to the security apparatus of the United States. This is also bound to have an effect on the work of law enforcement as a component of criminal justice system as indicated by the Bureau Justice of Statistics which shows increasing levels of sophisticated crimes. The changes brought by the US Patriotic Act passes into law immediately after the 2001 terrorist attack essentially cut down on protection of individual rights accorded by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Going forward, it is predictable that challenges that will confront the law enforcement agency will be how to counter the increasing threats of terrorism. More so, other challenges could be those of technology as well as training and communication. The training and communication required to combat terrorism and modern day crime means increased budgetary allocation to the department. This in effect has the effect of cutting down on the budget allocated to other arms of the system such as the courts and the corrections departments.
The advancement in technology required to stem the rising cases of crimes such as terrorism, money laundering and cyber crime also require more funding. This means that going into the future, more money will need to be channeled to this area. Consequently, the change may mean a cut on spending for the other crucial components thus reducing their effectiveness. It thus calls for increased funding for the whole criminal justice system.
Georgia Department of Corrections. (2012, December 31). Offender Information. Retrieved January 13, 2013, from Georgia Department of Corrections: http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/InmateInfo/InmateInfo.html
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