What is policing? Well, from my experience and perspective, policing is keeping the community in line and at peace with each other. We could discuss here the evolution of policing from when it was privatized and organized by Sir Robert Peel in England or we could start from the first effort to codify law during Hammurabi’s time and the need to enforce these codes, but those are just snippets of policing history.
I will instead stay with what is policing and how all these efforts had come about due to the need to maintain order in the ever growing population of the world, as they came together into communities. The belief was that prior to these times, religions and their priests maintained the policing of their tribes through the enforcement of a higher being’s laws. So, policing and the institutions it spawned, either private or public, exist as an agent of the community and its leaders to keep peace and order.
Where this simplistic idea gets complicated, is when our communities grow larger and the dynamics get more complicated, due to evolution of technology and the way of life in these communities. Life gets more fast-paced, with lesser and lesser feeling of community and respect for each other. New vices get introduced and abused, exacerbating the policing problems.
Gone are the days when the lone officer in the village knew everyone as he was part of the same village. He knew who were the drunks, the wife beaters, the petty thieves, and usual bad boys. As communities grow, the old belief that mere visibility of the beat cop was sufficient to deter crime has lost its full value. These days, the criminal element just waits for that ‘visible’ cop to go by and he gets on his way of victimizing the community. The police today can no longer just wait to be called by the victim. To make matters worse, drugs have impaired the morals and better judgement of the criminally inclined that inflicting unnecessary violence and death upon their victims has become a commonality.
Policing can use old tactics, but need to develop new techniques. Police need better intelligence and information gathering techniques in order to return to the days when an officer knew the people in his beat. The officer needs to interdict these crimes, relying on old methods, such as your mother had when she profiled the neighborhood by chatting away with her friends and neighbor, sharing information. Remember when she would tell you not to play with a certain kid because his dad was a drunk and a thief? Well, she was profiling and applying human dynamics and wasn’t she right! It has been said that “once a criminal, always a criminal” and there is truth to this. Criminals live in what we call “Life on an instalment plan” or life through the revolving door; they commit crime, get caught, get sentenced, serve time, come out, live life for a bit, then commit crime again.
As a modern police officer, you must work your area, getting to know the players in your corner of the community. It is not your job to rehabilitate these criminals. The badge gives you authority to investigate, yes, investigate those people who look like they are up to no good. No, you are not a politician trying to win votes; you are an officer receiving salary from the community with the expectation that you will keep them safe. If this evil doer gets to rob or enter a dwelling and steal something from one of your community members, it doesn’t matter whether you get to catch the bad guy and, if you’re lucky, recover the goods, because your victim’s psyche will always be that of one that has been violated. You, as a cop will never recover that and for all intents, you failed that community member.
It is your job as a policeman to interdict every suspicious-looking, criminally inclined person in your beat. It is sad, but you must treat these people as guilty until they prove themselves innocent. No, you are not the judicial system who will impose punishment and who has to prescribe to ‘Innocent till proven guilty,’ but it’s for you to prevent crime from happening in the first place. That’s policing. The police visibility expected, is “Police Enforcement Visibility,” which means that people see you taking down these bad guys and discouraging their peers who may have thoughts of being a bad guy.
A modern day police has to go out there and crash crime day in and day out, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, all year, until the day you can no longer do it. If you can’t do that, then policing is not for you. No, you don’t become a detective without earning your time on the streets, getting to know how a bad guy talks, acts, and smells. Once a rookie officer describes a suspect to you and you are able to say who it is, then, you can be a detective. You don’t become an officer and command patrol officer either just because you have a college degree! That doesn’t give you the foundation of being a good police officer, you too need to learn what a bad guy is by sight, smell, and feel, before you can tell the patrol officer how and where to go about policing the community. You’ll never be good at it either if you keep moving around or chasing your promotion.
We don’t need investigators in the office to write reports! We need you, the patrol officer to be an investigator. After all, the crimes to be investigated are out on the street and not in the office. You need a secretary if all you have this person for is to write reports, at least the secretary will have better spelling and grammar than a policeman. Every officer in the field must be an investigator! Yes, an investigator, since that is what an officer is supposed to do, investigate every suspicious person, activity, and vehicle he sees. The crime doesn’t happen in the police station – we don’t need cops in the stations. You weren’t hired to watch the station! We don’t need platoons of cops roving either; we want individual cops, ranging out in the community conducting patrols in organized sectored areas, coordinating their activity by radio communications.
That’s how the term ‘beat’ came about. In the old days, before there were radios, policemen would walk parallel streets at night and they would beat the pavement of the sidewalk to indicate that they were walking the beat. If the officer rapped rapidly on the pavement with his night stick (baton), it meant he needed assistance as he was in contact with a suspicious person. If he needed immediate help, he blew his whistle. Best use of available technology, now that’s innovation. You are a grown man, you don’t need to ride around in a car, like a gaggle holding hands in that police vehicle. Venture out and do your job or quit if you’re too afraid to do it.
Much like the military, it is successful in defeating its enemy when it searches them out and destroys them. This is only done, by closing with the enemy. If the enemy finds you sleeping in your barracks, then you’ll be the goner. The police need to go out and shake the trees, rip the low-hanging fruit first and then work together to get the higher stuff, meaning, all these street criminals don’t need task forces, operational plans, tactical SWAT team, they need a cop going out there and interdicting them. A cop formulating information on patrol regarding high volume drug sales, chop shops, illegal growers, information developed from interdicting these ‘doodoo runs’ slinging dope on the street and running courier duty.
Talking about SWAT and tactical teams, these things are for going after bad guys that are already trapped by the patrol officer and require special weapons to eliminate, err, capture. A patrol officer needs to flash out these bad guys first, before these tactical teams can go to work. It is like hunting wild animals, one needs to track it down, corner it, and capture the animal. The tactical team is for dangerous animals that cannot be taken by the individual hunter. These teams are for incidents like barricaded suspects, hostage situations, and high-risk arrest of armed suspects, such as going after armed bandit groups rampaging around in the guise of being some kind of revolutionary gang. Definitely, tactical teams are not for conducting patrols.
If we want to have a nice and friendly image, conducive to tourism, then we don’t want to appear like a third-world country ruled by some military goons. Put these tactical teams away and use them appropriately. Imagine what your Western tourist thinks when he lands at the airport and is met by black uniformed, helmeted people carrying machine guns? He doesn’t see this sight on the streets of his home and this is the last vision he had of a tropical paradise!
Now go out there and crash crime, hook ‘em and book’em and all that good stuff!