The United States has undergone significant policy evolution in establishing its current criminal justice system. America was once a British colony where people like Sir Robert Peel helped established constitutional principles. The policy eras can be divided into political, reform, and community depending on the objective of the activists and the period. Many people like George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson are credited for development of laws within the criminal justice (Brown, 2019). Moreover, there have been several technological impacts on patrol policy. The changes have made work for law enforcers efficient but opened up a gap explored by cybercriminals. The current state of policing is characterized by an electronic system of storing policies and connections of different devices and individuals in what is referred to as the internet of things. It is possible that the electronic policy system will completely replace the paper system in the future. The objective of this paper is to discuss the history and evolution of policies in the criminal justice system.
Different waves within the socio-political spheres have shaped the policy developments in the United States. As suggested by police scholars Kelling and Moore, the history of policing can be widely grouped as “political, reform and community problem solving” (White & Fradella, 2019, p.9). The political era happened in the mid-1800s when major cities formed police agencies to manage major cities due to urbanization (White & Fradella, 2019). The police officers were subject to the political leaders at the time. However, social activities started criticizing the close relations and advocating for nonpartisan police. The result was the birth of the reform era, which was established in the early twentieth century. The 1980s marked the beginning of another era which is referred to as community era and characterized by building relationships between police officers and the citizens.
Key Personality in American Patrol Policies
The American patrol policies can be traced from the eighteen century when the settlers came and invaded the land of the indigenous communities. Particularly, the e Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 and several philosophies advocated by Sir Robert Peel established the laws for managing the cities (Brown, 2019). The founding fathers of America adopted the British model of the era of slavery to monitor the black people while they worked. Allan Pinkerton is a key personality who established private patrolling comprised of white employees who would give orders and directions for work to stop train slavery (Olito, 2021). In 1900, there was an evolution of modern policy patrolling established by August Vollmer (Olito, 2021). He made several reforms and ensured that the police went through a college education.
The abolition of slavery after the end of the civil war changed slave patrol and replaced it with a militia group known as the Ku Klux khan. Martin Luther King Junior was the main personality who helped eliminate segregation policies that discriminated against African Americans (Olito, 2021). The patrol individuals were night watch volunteers who ensured the segregationist policies were implemented. Community policing and the desire to create racial justice were essential in motivating key personalities to propose methods of solving inequalities in society. For instance, in 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson urged people to return to the “good old days” by having order. Their efforts transformed the police sector, whose primary sector became law enforcement. They were guided by the broken window metaphor, which encouraged them to use their positions and authority to address individuals out of order. The people found in violation of the law are put in prisons.
The influence of technology on policing and patrols is remarkable as it has transformed the criminal justice system. One of the advantages brought about by the transformation. One of the advantages of digitalization is extra protection for law enforcers. For instance, body cameras help police officers to be aware of their environment, especially during a dangerous mission (“Technology in law enforcement,” 2019). Moreover, it is easier to track suspects who have stolen phones or cars using the tracking system. Biometric devices have also positively made it easier to identify suspects using such things as fingerprints. With electronic, it is now easy to keep records electronically and access them anywhere.
However, there are many downsides to electronic innovations as it causes more distraction. For example, a police officer can get distracted while driving by a phone call which easily leads to accidents. Privacy concerns in tracking innocent citizens by the law enforcers, some of whom may have criminal intentions, is a cause for concern (“Technology in law enforcement,” 2019). There are also emotional and psychological implications for the exposure of victims using records made by electronic devices. The people can be trolled and cyberbullied, causing more distress to people who have suffered from assault or domestic violence.
There is a significant relationship between the digitalization of criminal justice and media. Social interaction platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp are used to partner with the community in conducting crime prevention and generating intelligence (Strom, 2017). The mass media has taken a significant role in informing the public of the work that the police are doing. However, the media may negatively impact an ongoing case as it raises speculations. For instance, if there is a crime scene, people take pictures and post them on their social media platforms. The public gets unverified information even before the police can start their investigations.
Current Status and Future Outlook
America has made significant strides in making policies that promote justice. Currently, the constitution recognizes all citizens as having equal rights. There are still physical patrols by administration police officers who walk around to deter criminal activities and ensure order. Technology has been embraced in closed-circuit television (CCTV) at strategic places. Storage of data and its analysis over time has led to predictive policies which can forecast when a crime will happen in the future (Moses & Chan, 2018). For example, by studying terrorism activities of the past, the law enforcers can make a clever guess on targets and increase the number of their patrol officers in the region. Internet of things is another development where many devices are connected to link between different events. For instance, a hidden camera, phone, car, and alarm can be attached such that a prompt in one raises an alert to law enforcers. Therefore, it is now easier to understand the psychology of criminals and intensify security.
In future, the digitalization and automation of criminal justice policy system will progress. The cloud-based infrastructure is increasingly improving the efficiency of police work (Wilson, 2019). There is the adulation of technology to improve the performance of the patrol personnel through data collection, commodification, and integration in circuits of digital capitalism (Wilson, 2019). Predictive policing will become the norm in the future as police get access to more information. The physical patrols will likely decrease, and there will be less paperwork. However, the criminals are becoming more tech-savvy and will present more challenges to the police. Data privacy and confidentiality will probably become more concern for people in the future.
Conclusively, the history of policy evolution in the United States can be traced to when the British settled and colonized the country. During the slavery period, white patrols were replaced by the Ku Klux khan militia after the abolition. The end of the Civil Rights movement, of which Martin Luther King was a major proponent, marked a new era of racial integration. Technological advancements have increased as the entire police system is now embracing digitalization to gather, store, analyze and predict crimes. Despite a few drawbacks, it is expected that modern technology will be used more broadly in the future.
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Olito, F. (2021). Photos show how policing has evolved in the US since its beginnings in the 1600s. Insider.
Strom, K. (2017). Research on the impact of technology on policing strategy in the 21st century, final report. National Criminal Justice Reference Service, (251140), 1-153.
Technology in law enforcement: Pros and cons. (2019). American Police Officers Alliance.
Wilson, D. (2019). Predictive policing management: A brief history of patrol automation. New Formations, 98(98), 139-155.