Metropolitan Police Force
This essay will evaluate the following question; “Focusing on one criminal justice agency, discuss the extent to which you consider that agency to be currently meeting its stated aims. Please explain your answer.” The criminal justice agency that will be highlighted in this essay will be the police. The essay will also include the history of policing, their stated aims, Key themes the social and political challenges that the police face and how they respond to these.
Looking at the historical development of the police, Tim Newburn said that during the twelfth century, Henry II brought in a system of criminal justice which included a trial and jury system. This was an attempt to establish order within the community. (Newburn, T. 2017). This was when the Statue of Winchester was introduced.
The Statue of Winchester was created in 1285. The Statue of Winchester stated that every citizen had a duty to maintain the King’s peace. This involved a tactic called ‘hue and cry’, raising the hue and cry involved a person making loud noises to draw the villagers to the scene of the crime, this involved noises such as; shouting, ringing bells and blowing horns. People responding to the hue and cry were required to come out with bows and knives. ‘The hue and cry’ was a mandatory act and failing to do so was an amerceable offence.Following the statute of Winchester, changes were made, and a group called the “watchmen” was introduced who patrolled towns between sunrise and sunset (Newburn, T. 2017).
Moving into the 18th and 19th century where capital punishment remained relatively common. Capital punishment included; electrocution, hanging, firing squad and gas chamber. (Deathpenaltyinfo.org 2018).This is one of the biggest contrasts between the police in the 18th century and today’s police, due to capital punishment and the death penalty becoming abolished in 1965 in the UK.Due to the high amounts of statues passed during this time, it is often referred to as the ‘Bloody Code’ (Newburn, T. 2017). The eighteenth century saw an immense social and economic change and movement of population to the towns. The system of the “watchmen” failed completely, and later led to the formation of the modern police (Leishman, F., Loveday, B., and Savage, S. 2000).
Phillip Rawlings explained that the Metropolitan police force was established in 1829 by a man called Sir Robert Peel. Police were sometimes called ‘peelers’ after Sir Robert Peel. In its long history, the metropolitan police force passed through 3 stages. The first stage was called the blood feud. This stage involved the victim taking direct action against the offender. The second stage brought in a supreme ruler who placed restraints on an individual being able to take direct action against an offender. The third stage then followed, and this is where the communities were reluctant to perform policing duties and instead hired others to do this for them (Rawlings, 2002). As the metropolitan police grew, it acquired a range of responsibilities and this included matters that were way beyond those of crime and order. Its development over time has changed immensely. The police are still growing today to improve on how they deal with crime and are setting aims and objectives to help reach their goal.
Three of the police’s aims that are listed in Core Issues in Policing (Leishman, F., Loveday, B., and Savage, S. 2000), will be discussed in this essay. The three aims are, promoting safety and reduce disorder, reduce the fear of crime and contribute to delivering justice in a way which secures and maintains public confidence in the rule of law.
Preventing crime or reducing disorder is one of the police’s main aims. The Northumbria police noticed a rise in anti-social behaviour among young teenagers where alcohol was involved and criminal damage. Due to the public making complaints, the police force stated that they are working with certain groups within Newcastle to help and reduce these crimes. These groups are; Newcastle Community Safety Officers, our Newcastle ASB Lead, Youth Services, Nexus and Ward Councillors (Northumbria.police.uk, n.d.). The Northumbria police patrolled specific hotspots to try and bring the situation to an end. Focusing on these hotspots would be an effective way to allocate the correct resources, therefore, the police will understand what is causing such a high volume of offending and this then allows the police to drive down crime. This also links to the aim of promoting safety and reducing crime that was mentioned in the book, “core issues of policing”. On the other hand, criminologists often criticise the police and their role in fighting crime. One point that Alan Wright discussed was that there are arguments that question how efficient the police are in fighting crime. One of the arguments suggests that police patrols do not influence crime levels. He then went on to explain that a criminologist Banton 1986, found that over a 50-year period in London, police patrols did not affect robbery rates (Wright, 2002). From this, it could be said that police patrols aren’t an effective way to reduce disorder. This could be due to the police patrolling the wrong areas or possibly due to not having the resources.
The police also have the aim to reduce the fear of crime. Fear of crime is considered a major problem and is a problem that police should be aware of. When looking at the consequences of fear of crime it becomes clear why this is such a major issue. Certain areas of a city may become a place where people are hesitant to venture into when it is dark because they are considered as dangerous. Peter B. Ainsworth wrote that “the police should know the groups of people who are most afraid are the least likely group of people to be victimized” (Ainsworth and Pease, 1987). According to an article based on UCL news research “Fear of crime is perpetuated by the opinion of others, and often doesn’t correlate to the actual likelihood of experiencing crime” (UCL.ac.uk. 2017).
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) is also linked to the three aims discussed. PACE was first introduced to create a balance between the police powers and the publics rights. It created codes of practice detailing the minimum standards which were required from them. PACE covers areas of; stop and search, arrest, detention, questioning and treatment, documentary evidence in criminal proceedings, complaints and discipline (Rowe, 2018). Failing to follow this code, evidence found may be inadmissible in court.
An article stated that older people are considered weak and are more likely to fear crime, whereas younger people are stronger and are less likely to fear crime (Tulloch, 2000). People’s sense of safety and their experiences of crime are an important factor to include because people may feel safe in their neighbourhood and may not experience a lot of crime. However, there are neighbourhoods considered dangerous and experience more crime. The police should consider the at-risk groups of crime and aim to reduce their fear. The police also need to investigate the areas that the community sees as dangerous and focus on making these areas feel less dangerous. This can be linked to the polices aim of contributing to delivering justice in a way which secures and maintains public confidence in the rule of law. When the police begin to reduce disorder and fear of crime, the public will become more confident in the police and the law because this shows that the police are working hard to meet their aims and to keep the public safe.
The media has a strong influence on the world, especially in recent years. Television, newspaper articles, films and other media types are a staple of the mass media where crime is a dominant theme. The media portrays crime in a way in which the public interpret crime and the media also are a huge part of the fear of crime. Naturally, people are only able to discuss and form their own opinions about the crime that they have been informed about. This results in people’s perceptions of crime and deviance being influenced by what media want to include in their report and what they want to leave out.Authors, Marsh and Melville, pointed out that people will overestimate the amount of crime and the seriousness of the crime due to what the media is portraying in their news articles. They then go on to discuss in terms of linking the crime in the media and fear of crime, the question of whether it is the amount of crime is covered by the media or do the media just cover more crime because they think the stories will sell more newspapers and magazines (Marsh and Melville, 2014).
Over the last few years, there a have been profound changes in the status of the police, both legal and constitutional. The year 1981 was a critical period for the politicization of policing, due to the creation of the Scarman Report Following the Brixton Riots, but also because of the Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure (RCCP). Robert Rainer explained that the RCCP was a response to the growing political pressures which concerned police powers. On the one hand, there were increased amounts of evidence and complaints made about the police abusing their power. On the other hand, Robert Rainer stated that suspects’ rights made the police in such a way that they had “one arm tied behind their back” (Reiner, 2010 page 206). Robert Rainer then explains that the issue with police powers is how to regulate police actions. There are 2 arguments that surround this issue. The first is that the police would never have the resources for full enforcement of every law. This would mean that the police would need to choose their priorities. The second argument is that the law can be interpreted no matter how precisely it is written. (Reiner, 2010 page 206). Without interpretation of the law, cases involving exceptionally older offenders would cause arguments. The reason it would cause arguments is that prisons are generally built for younger offenders and wouldn’t have things like wheelchair access for older people, therefore the law makes things easier for older people when they are in prison (Newstatesman.com, n.d.). These political issues are just a select few, the police need to deal with much more than this.
Tim Newburn explains that one of the key theories in policing is the recruitment process in the police. Several studies have shown clear evidence of racial prejudice within policing (Newburn, T. 2017). Despite numerous accounts of Britain trying to change the recruitment pattern, minority recruitment remains low. An article explained that 6.3% of police officers in England and Wales are black and minority ethnic compared to the 14% of the population (BBC News, 2018). There is evidence of change but is very clear that there are still problems continuing in relation to police and the ethnic minority community.
In conclusion, it is evident that the police have grown since the first idea of a criminal justice system where capital punishment and the death penalty where how criminals were dealt, to the establishment of the metropolitan police force in 1829. In more recent years, policing has become more efficient with new aims challenging the police to make society a safer place for the public. The police force needs to deal with the media releasing articles that may be untrue or exaggerated, which then results in the public having a fear of crime. Although many studies have shown that people who fear crime are the least likely to experience it, the police need to help convince and prove to them that the police are able to reduce crime and keep the community safe. Lastly, the police face the political challenges and the issues of police powers. The main issue comes from police actions, so this challenge may never end due to the law continually changing and there are still ongoing debates about the matter. Considering all the challenges the police deal with, it may create a better police force through time.