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Role of Modern Law Enforcement

The role of law enforcement differs not only jurisdictionally but by mission and responsibility at federal, state and local levels of government. Using the Library and other reference sources, research and discuss the history of how federal, state and local law enforcement have related to each other and interacted. How have their responsibilities differed and compared to one another? Are there areas of tension or overlap in responsibilities and concerns between different levels of law enforcement agencies? Locate the website for one federal law enforcement agency and one state or local agency. Identify the mission and primary responsibilities for each agency selected. Describe at least one major program operated by each agency and what you believe its impact is on public safety in that jurisdiction.

-Identify the major components and operations of the criminal justice system.
-Outline the history and development of law enforcement.
-Characterize the role of modern law enforcement at the federal, state, and local level.
-Summarize the role of courts and their relationship to law enforcement and the effects of court decisions on law enforcement and corrections.

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A criminal justice system is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing the criminal law in accordance with a defined set of procedural rules and limitations. In the United States, there are separate federal, state, and military criminal justice systems, and each state has separate systems for adults and juveniles.

Criminal justice systems include several major subsystems, composed of one or more public institutions and their staffs:police and other law enforcement agencies; trial and appellate courts; prosecution and public defender offices; probation and parole agencies; custodial institutions ( jails, prisons, reformatories, halfway houses, etc.); and departments of corrections (responsible for some or all probation, parole, and custodial functions). Some jurisdictions also have a sentencing guidelines commission. Other important public and private actors in this system include: defendants; private defense attorneys; bail bondsmen; other private agencies providing assistance, supervision, or treatment of offenders; and victims and groups or officials representing or assisting them (e.g., crime victim compensation boards). In addition, there are numerous administrative agencies whose work includes criminal law enforcement (e.g., driver and vehicle licensing bureaus; agencies dealing with natural resources and taxation). Legislators and other elected officials, although generally lacking any direct role in individual cases, have a major impact on the formulation of criminal laws and criminal justice policy. Such policy is also strongly influenced by the news media and by businesses and public-employee labor organizations, which have a major stake in criminal justice issues.

The notion of a "system" suggests something highly rational?carefully planned, coordinated, and regulated. Although a certain amount of rationality does exist, much of the functioning of criminal justice agencies is unplanned, poorly coordinated, and unregulated. No jurisdiction has ever reexamined and reformed all (or even any substantial part) of its system of criminal justice. Existing systems include some components that are very ancient (e.g., jury trials) alongside others that are of quite recent origin (e.g., specialized drug courts). Moreover, each of the institutions and actors listed above has its own set of goals and priorities that sometimes conflict with those of other institutions and actors, or with the supposed goals and priorities of the system as a whole. Furthermore, each of these actors has substantial unregulated discretion in making particular decisions (e.g., the victim's decision to report a crime; police and prosecutorial discretion whether and how to apply the criminal law; judicial discretion in the setting of bail and the imposition of sentence; and correctional discretion as to parole release, parole or probation revocation, prison discipline, etc.).

Nevertheless, all of the institutions and actors in the criminal justice system are highly interdependent. What each one does depends on what the others do, and a reform or other change in one part of the system can have major repercussions on other parts. It is therefore very useful to think about criminal justice as a system, not only to stress the need for more overall planning, coordination, and structured discretion, but also to appreciate the complex ways in which different parts of the system interact with each other.

There is, however, considerable overlap between the adult and juvenile systems. The police spend a substantial proportion of their time on juvenile suspects; serious juvenile offenders may be tried as adults; and juvenile court convictions (adjudications) may be taken into account in the sentencing of young adults.
several legal regimes outside of the adult, juvenile, and military criminal justice systems can be used to impose serious deprivations of liberty and property (usually with far fewer legal safeguards than apply to criminal prosecutions). Of these, three deserve special mention. First, persons can be seized and detained, sometimes for lengthy periods, under the civil and administrative procedures used to enforce immigration laws. Second, state and federal law enforcement authorities often employ civil forfeiture procedures, permitting the confiscation of property alleged to be the fruit of criminal activity (for example, money earned from selling drugs) or to have served as an instrumentality of crime (for example, a car used to carry the drugs). Third, persons found to be mentally ill and dangerous to themselves or others are subject to involuntary civil commitment. Such a commitment can lead to indefinite confinement in a secure mental health facility that, from the inmate's perspective, is not much different than a prison. A number of states have expanded these procedures to make it easier to commit sex offenders who have completed their criminal sentences but who are believed to be too dangerous to release into the community.

Components of the Criminal Justice System

The justice system can be divided into four components:

1. Law enforcement;
2. Prosecution;
3. Judiciary; and
4. Corrections, which includes both adult and juvenile institutions, as well as probation and parole (community corrections).

Although these four components have distinct purposes, responsibilities and legal duties, the criminal justice system fails if they do not effectively work together.
Law Enforcement:

In most instances, it is the law enforcement community that has the first contact with a victim of crime.
Law enforcement officers are responsible for such legal duties as:

* Receiving and documenting reports of crime within the agency's jurisdiction;
* Investigating the reported crimes;
* Gathering and holding evidence of the crime;
* Arresting the alleged offender; and
* Conducting follow-up investigations as needed.

Depending upon several factors, including the size of the department and how divisions are arranged, the officer that responds to the scene of a crime may not be the individual to conduct the follow-up investigation. After the initial report is taken, a detective may be assigned to pursue the investigation.

Once the alleged offender has been identified, he or she is most often arrested and taken to the local jail, or corrections facility, for processing. In some cases -- depending upon the nature of the crime -- the alleged offender may be eligible to receive a citation to appear in court, and therefore, would not be taken into a facility for processing. In other cases -- normally involving more sensitive and/or serious crimes -- the evidence may be presented to a grand jury by the prosecutor. After hearing the evidence, the grand jury decides whether or not to indict (charge) the alleged offender. When the grand jury votes for the indictment, it is referred to as "returning a true bill."

The law enforcement officer's role does not end with the arrest of the alleged offender. Officers are routinely called upon to testify in the prosecution of a case. They may be involved in grand jury hearings, preliminary hearings and as witnesses at the actual trial.

The prosecutorial phase is perhaps the most critical stage of the criminal justice process, as it is at this point that many of the rights of an alleged offender and crime victim are brought into play. The offender's rights in the court proceedings include:

* The right to have legal representation;
* The right to a speedy trial;
* The right to be informed regarding the proceedings; and
* The right to be heard.

Each of these rights should be guaranteed to both parties, but currently only the alleged offender is unconditionally guaranteed these rights, in every court, by the United States' Constitution.

It is the role of the prosecutor to represent the interests of the state in every criminal proceeding -- from the first court appearance when the release or detainment of the accused is determined, during any plea negotiations, through the numerous preliminary hearings, throughout the trial and, finally, at the sentencing stage. The prosecutor also has the power to decide whether a case will be prosecuted or dismissed.

A prosecutor can assist crime victims by placing into practice many of the recommendations of the Final Report of the 1982 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. These recommendations for policies and procedures for prosecutors include such basic services as:

* Keeping victims apprised of the status of their case;
* Notifying victims of all court proceedings in their case;
* Representing the victims' interests in all court appearances, plea negotiations, restitution and at sentencing; and
* Prosecuting anyone who attempts to threaten witnesses.

The President's Task Force also recommended that prosecutors should establish within their office a victim/witness assistance program to work directly with victims and witnesses in order to provide vital services and assistance. The 1990 National Assessment Program survey of criminal justice systems in state and local jurisdictions nationwide -- sponsored by the National Institute of Justice -- found that eighty-six percent (86%) of prosecutors' offices had such victim/witness assistance programs in some form, with available services and assistance varying somewhat from one jurisdiction to another (Webster and McEwen, 1992).

Essentially, the role of the judge is to oversee the court proceedings associated with the prosecution of any criminal case. The judge is responsible for ensuring that the law is followed at all stages of the criminal justice process. The judge makes the final decision, or ruling, at each stage. The judge will:

* Decide the release status of an offender;
* Decide whether or not to accept a guilty plea or a negotiated plea by an offender;
* Oversee the trial where the indicted offender is determined to be guilty or not guilty; and
* Determine the final sentence of the court for a convicted offender.

The Final Report of the 1982 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime also outlined recommendations for the judiciary. The ten recommendations included such basic practices as:

* Allowing victims and witnesses to be on call for court proceedings;
* Establishing separate waiting rooms for victims and state's witnesses -- away from the defense witnesses and the defendant's family;
* Considering the interests of victims and witnesses when ruling on case continuances;
* Allowing written and oral victim impact statements at sentencing hearings; and
* Ordering restitution in all cases when the victim has suffered a financial loss.


The final component of the criminal justice system is corrections. The term "corrections" can be used to describe either institutional supervision or community supervision -- which is known as probation when granted by a judge on a suspended prison sentence, and which is known as parole when granted by a parole board after a portion of a prison sentence has been served. Each division of the corrections system has specific responsibilities to the sentencing court, the victim, and the community.

Probation is used as an alternative to incarceration. A person may be supervised directly by the court -- known as court probation -- or he or she may be supervised by a probation officer from the community or state corrections division. Probation is utilized for those offenders not perceived as a threat to the community and who would benefit from community supervision in lieu of incarceration. In many communities, the probation officer is responsible for preparing a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report for the court. This report provides the judge with extensive information about the defendant's background. It is also an opportunity to provide a victim impact statement and/or detailed information on the victim's financial losses.

A sentence of probation allows offenders to remain in the community where they can pay restitution, fines, court fees, and attend alcohol or mental health counseling. If offenders violate any of the conditions of probation, they can be brought back to court for revised or further sentencing. The court may increase conditions or revoke the probation and sentence the offender to jail or prison. When convicted offenders are sentenced directly to jail or prison, they become the responsibility of the staff of the facility to which they are sent. For the duration of the sentence, the corrections staff provides such legal duties as:

* Maintains the security of the facility;
* Provides internal supervision of inmates, which may include counseling or educational programs;
* Provides medical care for inmates; and
* Processes inmates for release from the institution, either on parole (conditional release) or when the inmate has served the maximum time he/she must serve before release (unconditional release).

When an inmate is released from an institution with time remaining on his or her sentence, he or she is considered paroled and is supervised in the community by a parole officer. A parolee is subject to conditions of parole -- set by the paroling authorities -- similar to the conditions of probation. If parolees violate any of the conditions of their parole, they may be taken into custody, and may ultimately be returned to the institution to serve out the remainder of the original sentence. The corrections staff should take responsibility for notifying the victim about the inmate's status and upcoming release. If the inmate is appearing before the paroling authority, the victim should be notified of the hearing and allowed to prepare a statement for the board, or testify at the actual hearing.

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, invaded and conquered England. The kind of philosophy of law enforcement brought with him was that of a highly repressive police system. Collective security was deemed far more important than individual freedom, so William proceeded to militarize the existing civil arrangements of the Anglo-Saxons. He divided England into fifty five separate military areas and placed an officer of his own selection into each shire to take charge. In this way the state assumed the responsibility for keeping the peace, and set the stage for a diminution of community responsibility. In effect, martial law was created.

King William decided that the shires should no longer try cases and therefore selected his own judges to travel about the realm. They were called vice comites and represented a division of responsibility between law enforcement and the judicial process. Until that time, each shire had done these things for themselves. The vice comites was an unpopular public officer, for the people believed his sole purpose was to collect as many fines as possible. These traveling judges were the forerunners of the circuit judge of today.

In 1116, Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, issued the Leges Henrici, from which Henry received the title, "Law Giver." These laws divided England into thirty judicial districts, and are particularly important for the following reason: "......there will be certain offenses against the kings's peace, arson, robbery, murder, false coinage, and crimes of violence." This brought into acceptance the idea of disturbance of the peace, the concept that men were to be punished by the state, rather than by the ...

Solution Summary

The role of law enforcement differs not only jurisdictionally but by mission and responsibility at federal, state and local levels of government. Using the Library and other reference sources, research and discuss the history of how federal, state and local law enforcement have related to each other and interacted.