Just like in every other organization, in the face of tough economic situation, the staffing department in the law enforcement has been taking the brunt of the cuts. The combination of the Homeland Security requirements on training and equipment coupled by a lagging economy has left the agencies in law enforcement with little to pay to their salaried employees. The grants are drying out and apart from the programs, many police stations have had to cut down on its payroll in order to run the basic programs.
Already, the available grants that are provided through Homeland Security do not cover personnel’s salaries as they are limited to equipment and technology. As a result, without the people to operate the technologies and the equipment, a parking lot full of cars does not contribute to maintenance of law and order in the society. As Ron Ruecker, the Superintended of the Oregon State Police pointed out, it has reached a point where his department cannot have 24-hour coverage of the state, something that he never imagined in his career (Greenberg, 2014). The problem is coupled by the fact that many of the police personnel do not accept to take huge wage cuts as demonstrated by the case of Oregon State Police agency.
The first alternative is to use trained citizen volunteers to take on surveillance and patrol roles. With minimum training, civilian volunteers can patrol areas where armed police are not deployed as well as report suspicious activity to their uniformed colleagues for response. Residents keep on calling for more frequent police patrols in the residential areas and civilian volunteers can patrol these areas, most of which have low crime rates.
With many of the volunteers acting as “ears and eyes” for the police department, crime rates within residential neighborhoods can be reduced significantly (Bartels, 2013). It would also be an important method of expanding the communication between the police and the residents. If the schedule is properly managed, it is possible to have an around the clock vigilance in the neighborhoods by volunteers using the equipment and technology that is already available through Homeland Security grants.
The other strategy is for the police departments to hire low cost personnel, mostly retired law enforcers and interns to carry out most of the clerical work and crime-lab analysis. This strategy would ensure that the departments have maintained the necessary amount of staff at a significantly low budget. Retirees and college and university graduates would not demand as much salary as professional troopers and crime-lab employees who require substantial salaries and allowances.
The interns can do most of the clerical work in the offices and monitor surveillance equipment while the retirees use Homeland Security provided equipment to do general patrols. The remaining police personnel can then be preserved for response to active crimes and high profile investigations on need-be basis (Newburn, 2008). This strategy would work well because there are very many job seekers who would want to use this platform to build up their careers in criminal justice.
Rioritization and online reporting
The most feasible solution is the use of civilian volunteers. This is because the technology and equipment is already available through grants by the department of Homeland Security and there are civilians who want to work for virtually nothing. Such tasks as bagging evidence, fingerprint taking, responding to traffic accidents and taking reports after sworn police officers have cleared burglary scene requires no extensive training. Volunteers can put in a lot of hours on various important functions for the understaffed police departments without racking up huge wage bills (Greenberg, 2014).
With a proper way of prioritization and online reporting, civilian volunteers can take on the most routine and non-priority duties. Moreover, the use of volunteers expands the communication between the police and community that is being policed, an important concept in community policing. With more people working around the police departments, mutual respect and a sense of responsibility grows in a community, enabling the community to work closely with departments (Bartels, 2013). For example, understanding that the police department is stretched thin, residents making priority 3 calls can choose to go directly to online reporting.
The long term consequences of using volunteers is that underemployment will eventually increase in a community. Underemployment would emerge if due to lack of employment, a person who is qualified has to settle for a volunteer job with only a minor pay to sustain them (Newburn, 2008). If such a person stays unemployed for long, he is unable to afford the standard of living that he would have been able to enjoy in paid job.
Secondly, organized crime may easily take root in a community whose police department’s sworn staff is in permanently insufficient (Newburn, 2008). Without having the same work ethics and training, it is impossible for a civilian volunteer to have the same level of professionalism as sworn officers and as a result, many volunteers can compromise security in their neighborhoods without understanding the consequences appropriately.
Bartels, E. C. (2013). Volunteer Police in the United States: Programs, Challenges, and Legal Aspects. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
Greenberg, M. A. (2014). American Volunteer Police: Mobilizing for Security. New York: CRC Press.
Newburn, T. (2008). Handbook of Policing. New York: Routledge.
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