Challenges Facing Police Organizations


The new millennium brought with it new challenges for the police organizations. Not only has globalization increased but also the pace at which information technology devices are advanced. Globalization has meant that people can move from one country to another without many restrictions (Friedrichs 2007). On the other hand, advancement in information technology implies that crimes can easily be committed trans-nationally. As a result, the number of crimes committed has increased significantly and so has the complexity of the crimes. Today, the police and other law enforcement agencies face new challenges in trying to combat crimes such as corporate crimes, crimes committed against the environment and hate crimes. Because of globalization and enhanced migration from one country to another, law enforcement agencies have been forced to rely on cooperation from the international criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies of other countries to combat crimes. The aim of this paper is to analyze and discuss the new challenges that currently face police agencies as a result of corporate crimes, hate crimes, and crimes committed against the environment (Anthony & Cunneen 2008).

Corporate Crimes and the Policing Challenges They Pose

Corporate crimes have been on the increase in the last two decades. Even though there have always been investigations and trials involving individuals and corporations found guilty of corporate crimes, such crimes have intensified since 2002. The explanation given for this increase is that law enforcement officials tend to react more swiftly to criminal activities which have actual victims and in which the harm caused is great. In times of economic boom, businesses tend to make high profits, the rate of unemployment is down, the rate of bankruptcies is low and corporate misconduct is shrouded by economic success. On the other hand, when there is economic downturn, the rate of bankruptcies is high, unemployment rate is high, losses are great and misconduct by corporations become obvious to the public. In such situations, corporate crimes are observed more closely and investigations into such crimes become more thorough (Lowell & Arnold 2003).

Police officers usually encounter challenges when dealing with leaders of firms which seem to have suffered from corporate crimes. The leaders are the most visible personalities, and they usually have reaped the greatest benefits and compensations from the criminal activities that employees have committed. As high-ranking corporate officials, nevertheless, corporate leaders usually are not the business directors or officers engaged in the real criminal act that is under investigation. Obviously, if a corporate official directs a fake entry, misallocates a company’s asset, or is involved in an internal security exchange such an official can be criminally charged under ordinary state laws with their overall conditions for knowledge, motive, and behavior (Lowell & Arnold 2003).

Nevertheless, the speculation is usually the fact that corporate officials may have just stood by, knowing about (or even discreetly supporting) the crime, whereas employees lower on the career ladder executed the criminal offense. Law enforcement officials may wish to have high-ranking corporate officials to take responsibility for the company’s criminal activity, asserting that such an action would have a big impact on corporate crime and would act as the greatest deterrent against future misconduct. However, even with the abolishment of the prerequisite for an offense to be judged to have been willful, it is still usually hard for a prosecutor to show that the high ranking corporate officers were engaged in the crime if they stood by the corporate sidelines.

Hate Crimes and the Policing Challenges They Pose

Hate crime can be defined as “that section of criminal behavior that is motivated by the victim’s membership or perceived membership of a particular group,” (Mellors 2009, p. 33). Victims are commonly targeted on the basis of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, faith or a disability. In some instances legislation exists to prohibit it, for example the specific offence of ‘inciting racial hatred. In other cases, where hatred is contributory in the commission of a more generic offence, for example a criminal assault, it is regarded as an aggravating factor, and is thus accorded greater priority in its investigation. A successful prosecution can result in greater sanctions against the person convicted. However, it is a reality of the criminal justice system that not all hate crime is reported, not all of that reported is recognized for what it is, and not all of that recognized is recorded or prosecuted as such. One reason to recognize hate crime as a category is that police become required to gain an understanding of it, to measure the size and nature of the problem. Walklate (2005) refers to “the three ‘R’s: recognizing, reporting and recording’ of crime” (p. 33). She points out some difficulties of gathering an accurate picture of what crime is occurring. In particular not all hate crime that occurs is recognized as crime, not all crime recognized as such is reported to the police, and not all crime reported to the police is recorded as such.

In the police service, crimes are recorded through more than a single process. In those cases attended by a police officer, the victim or person reporting is questioned about the circumstances. Through this conversation and the investigation that follows, a party may suggest the presence of a hate motive, or through investigatory work, the officer may come to suspect and then confirm it. In these situations, motives are recorded on the Crime Management System, an electronic tracking system and database, so cases can then be recognised as hate crimes. As a result, not all reports of crimes attended by officers are successfully recognized as hate crimes (Purdy 2007). Sometimes the motive is simply concealed, and may never be identified, either by victim, witness or officer. In other cases, one or more parties may suspect the motive, but that suspicion may go unvoiced (Gerstenfeld 2004). One challenge facing effective recording lies in the design of the electronic form used to populate the Crime Management System database.

Purdy (2007) describes how the field for recording the offender’s motive makes use of codes drawn from a list. Before 2007, the list only recognized hate motives based upon the dimensions of ethnicity, sexual orientation and faith. The recent additions of transphobia (crimes against people with transgender characteristics) and disability to the list have been accompanied by limited publicity, which may mean that the awareness of the workforce is incomplete in this regard. A challenge specific, but not exclusive, to crimes committed against people with disabilities is in working out whether the motive of the offender is based on hatred, or whether instead the offender merely took advantage of a real or perceived extra vulnerability accompanying the disability. In these and other situations, as Bell (2002) suggests, it may be more preferred to deal with the crime in its generic form and not as a hate crime. For example, where an offender causes damage to a car owned by a member of a faith group against which she holds hatred, if sufficient evidence is present to prove the identity of the offender but not her motive, then it is entirely likely that she will be charged with the generic offence of criminal damage. This may be preferred to the more appropriate hate crime charge of “racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage” (Mellors 2009, p. 37) owing to the greater ease of proving the generic offence.

In such a situation the crime record is unlikely to be included in hate crime statistics, as it is the charge type, rather than an unproven motive, that is more likely to determine how the case is recorded. In these circumstances, for purposes of performance management, a generic crime with which a person has been charged will be regarded as a positive outcome, even if the offence charged does not reflect the entirety of the crime’s events. Where the crime charged is a hate crime by its tide, the challenge of recognition is reduced. An example is the offence of “Using Words or Behavior intended to stir up Racial Hatred” (Mellors 2009, p. 38). This crime exists in legislation, so whenever a suspect is charged with the offence, it is commonly recorded, and included in the statistics.

Some crimes are reported by telephone to the Crime Recording Bureau. For instance, cases of minor damage in which no evidence to help identify an offender is readily available may never be attended by an officer, but simply recorded for statistical and crime intelligence purposes. An example is damage reported only in order to fulfill a condition of claiming against an insurance policy. In these cases, call handlers question the caller about the circumstances, but recognition of a hate motive depends entirely upon what information the caller provides. As these calls are script-free (that is, callers are asked to describe the circumstances in their own words, rather than being interrogated through use of a standard template of approved questions), the call handler may or may not ask those questions necessary to elicit the specific suggestion of the presence of a hate motive.

Some crimes are recorded from third party reporting facilities. Such schemes are increasingly used where crimes are committed against people who have something to lose by reporting the matter to the police. Examples include people who conceal their sexuality, or who secretly use sex workers, and who become victims in circumstances that mean standard reporting measures would compromise anonymity or reveal them. Third party reports generally involve a form or template to be completed with some assurance of confidentiality of the victim’s identity. They do tend to solicit information about the suspected motive of the offender, and can therefore achieve inclusion in hate crime statistics, though it does not follow that such is always the case. A barrier to the broader recognition of hate crime lies in its origins as a category. As Hall (2005) describes, “the Lawrence inquiry and its subsequent report by Sir William Macpherson (1999) led to intense criticism of the Metropolitan Police accompanied by considerable media and public attention” (p. 52). Recently, a series of related reports and action plans (for instance Winning the Race (1997), Winning the Race Revisited (1999) Winning the Race: Embracing Diversity (2001)) have served to preserve the link in the police service conscience between hate crime and racism. This suggestion is reinforced by the findings by Purdy (2007) that, among a sample of hate crimes recorded by South Yorkshire Police during 2007, more than ninety-eight per cent (98.5%) were cases of race hate.

Crimes with race-based motives seem the most likely, therefore, to be recognized as hate crime. Purdy (2007) describes how no cases of disability-based hate crime were recorded in South Yorkshire Police during a six-month period of 2007. The inequity of this situation seems to be compounded by the limitations of the criminal law and the advisory bodies concerned. For example, the offence of ‘using words or behavior intended to stir up racial hatred’ exists to address the dimension of racism, but no similar offence exists for dimensions such as sexual orientation, disability or gender identity. Inevitably, such omissions fuel allegations that race hate crime is given special priority by law-makers at the expense of members of other disadvantaged groups. Also, guidance released by ACPO (2007) prescribed that crimes with a hate motive based upon the dimension of age (for example, the victim is made a target owing to being elderly) or gender (for example, the victim is attacked owing to being a woman) do not meet the definition of hate crime, and should not be recorded as such. The same document excludes violence carried out in a domestic setting (for instance between husband and wife or civil partners) (Mellors 2009).

Environmental Crimes and the Policing Challenges They Pose

The criminal provisions of nearly all of the statutes that address environmental crimes are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). However, the EPA is enforced by the Department of Interior (“DOI”). The EPA’s stated policy is to conduct criminal investigations only in cases where both significant environmental harm and culpable conduct are present. However, the EPA may recommend against prosecution of criminal violations if the violating entity has voluntarily disclosed the violations prior to any EPA-initiated investigation. In enforcing the environmental statutes, the EPA emphasizes cooperation with other administrative agencies and focuses on select national enforcement priorities that are revised on a bi-annual basis. Since states have the primary responsibility for implementing many federal environmental laws, a significant amount of enforcement activity takes place at the state level and must be coordinated with federal enforcement efforts (Bartelma, Budz & Kraemer 2007).

The Department Of Justice’s policy provides for a flexible approach to enforcement. In deciding whether to prosecute violations of federal environmental statutes, the department may consider several factors, including: voluntary disclosure; the degree and timeliness of cooperation; preventive measures and compliance programs; pervasive non-compliance; disciplinary systems to punish employees who violate compliance policies; and subsequent compliance efforts. These factors are intended “to encourage self-auditing, self-policing, and voluntary disclosure of environmental violations” (Bartelma et al. 2007, p. 412). General criminal statutes can serve as alternative bases for prosecution of environmental crimes. Prosecution of environmental offenses may be pursued under general criminal statutes which provide for harsher penalties than the applicable environmental statute. Prosecutors choosing this path generally append environmental criminal offenses as additional charges.

Although criminal provisions vary among statutes, the basic elements of environmental criminal violations are an act that substantively violates a statute and intent to so violate the statute. Common acts that constitute substantive criminal violations include making false statements, failing to file required reports, failing to pay required fees, operating without a permit, and violating the limits or conditions of a permit. To be convicted of a violation, the environmental criminal provisions generally require a mens rea of “knowing;” however, some statutes do have provisions for negligent violations. The courts have declined to interpret this element to require knowledge that conduct is unlawful; instead, a defendant need only have knowledge of the discharge of a pollutant (Bartelma et al. 2007).


The discussion presented above shows that corporate crimes, hate crimes and crimes against the environment present many challenges to the police agencies. Some of the challenges arise from the inability of the law enforcement agencies to actually define the crimes while other challenges arise from the loopholes inherent in statutes and laws. Because of such challenges, the police agencies are unable to apprehend persons found guilty of committing these crimes. In some situations, these crimes go unreported making it difficult for law enforcement officials to control their occurrence. In yet other cases, such as corporate crimes, the crime may be committed by persons with great authority and power in the society. Failure to convict such criminals means that such crimes will continue to occur until an efficient deterrent method is implemented.

Reference List

Anthony, T & Cunneen, C 2008, Critical Criminology Companion, Hawkins Press, Annandale.

Bartelma, K, Budz, E & Kraemer, J 2007, ‘Environmental crimes,’ The American Criminal Law Review, vol. 44, iss. 2, pp. 409-489.

Bell, J 2002, Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights and Hate Crime, New York University Press, New York.

Friedrichs, D 2007 ‘Transnational Crime and Global Criminology: Definitional, Typological and Contextual Conundrums’, Social Justice, vol 34, no 2, pp. 4-18.

Gerstenfeld, P 2004, Hate Crimes: Causes, controls and controversies, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Hall, N 2005, Hate Crime, Wilan, Cullompton, Devon.

Lowell, A & Arnold, K 2003, ‘Corporate crime after 2000: A new law enforcement challenge or déjà vu?’ The American Criminal Law Review, vol. 40, iss. 2, pp. 219.

Mellors, S, 2009, ‘Defining and recognizing are not the same: challenges to tackling hate crime in a performance culture’, British Journal of Community Justice, vol. 7, iss. 3, pp. 33-45.

Purdy, R 2007, Review of Hate Crime in South Yorkshire Police, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Walklate, S 2005, Criminology: The basics, Routledge, Abingdon.

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