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Police Behaviour Needs More Scrutiny

by Karen Clark Stapleton

We at The Law Journal (UK) welcome a new contributing author, Karen Clark Stapleton, an ex-Police and Prison Officer who is currently an MSc Student in Criminal Justice Research. Your comments are welcome on this and any of our articles -- contact Brian Risman, Publisher, The Law Journal (UK) regarding your thoughts.

Does the poor attitude of the police cause crime?

Much evidence exists where the character of the person the police arrest is laid bare.

However, not much evidence exists or indeed empirical research done that examines the role the officer played when making the arrest and indeed whether his attitude was the explosive factor during this interaction with the public. Accordingly, we are going to examine the decision to make an arrest and why the need for this examination is paramount in order to prevent a division between the police and its public -- which in UK may have already commenced.

Many of the research studies which have examined police decisions to arrest suspected offenders have tended to concentrate on detailed analyses of the characteristics of the persons arrested compared with those whom no formal action is taken by the police, and on the personal interaction which surrounds the arrest decision. Alternatively, other studies have focused on the organisational and occupational pressures upon the police to exercise their arrest discretion according to certain expectations.

However, we are aiming to re-address that imbalance and clarify how police behaviour is leading to arrests which will undoubtedly cause a division between the police and its public.

Skolnick (1966) found that during his research that the highest proportion of respondents(39%) gave ‘disrespectful behaviour’ as the reason for force being thought to be necessary in the arrest situation, directed particularly against the ‘ wise-guy’ who thinks he knows more than the officer, who talks back or insults the policeman. This is an important factor when considering rising crime figures because we must examine whether crime is actually rising or is it merely the police have lost their way and feel impotent, thereby making arrests which in reality should not be occurring. An argument relative to this would validate the claim that police are creating crime .Many arrests occur in the heat of a situation in which tempers are flared. As police officers are drawn from the society they police they are as susceptible to this as any other member of society, however this creates an imbalance set firmly against the citizen.

The police officers flaring temper will not result in his or her arrest , while the citizen won't have any redress. This situation is simply unjust.

Controlling any situation is paramount to settle and prevent any further possibility of a disturbance. In order to maintain control the role of the police is constantly being assessed and any imbalances found are counteracted -- well, that's what we would all like to believe . Assuming that police control and authority have been established in a particular situation , to what extent is there a secondary handling problem of what to do next? This is where many arrests occur, all seems quiet, but a simple misjudged statement made by the officer directed wrongly or thoughtlessly towards the suspected offender then interpreted incorrectly will undoubtedly lead to an arrest. The arrest is usually for Breach of the Peace or assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty. No officer has been touched in reality but that is not important at this stage. What is more important is that the officer has gained respect (if even in his eyes only) and he has gained control. His power has been firmly established, and when he gets back to his colleagues he is once again a man amongst men.

Unfortunately this will have a lasting effect upon community relations and how the public see the role of policing within its community. To maintain excellent community relations the police need to be constantly aware of the attitudes they are expressing whilst in contact with the public. If they are constantly abusing this and arresting merely because the officer was unable to be dominant then respect will not be given freely and in fact the police will have to work to earn the same.

Karen Clark Stapleton

Here is reply back from one of our readers in the UK:

The issue here is also that Police have and will always continue to have a set frame of mind when on the look out for suspecting criminals. This is in itself an abuse and cause of a lot of criminal activities since many people are arrested by just having criminal characteristics. Since Police have the power to arrest based on suspicion, this causes a breakdown in the attitude of individuals towards the police. Sad to say most criminals nowadays take the form of average looking people and the poor unsuspecting criminal suspects are targeted for crimes.
It is also a problem when police Officers go out onto the streets with a closed minded attitude and fail to expose themselves the reality of the situation which is... if they of themselves have had a bad day or night as the case may is surprising how much more criminals are found.
I agree in a lot of instances the Police help cause crime.
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