Essay, 9 pages (2000 words)

Do the police achieve the aims of the criminal justice system?

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‘ The aims of the criminal justicesystem in England and Wales are always achieved’. Critically discuss thispositional statement with regard to one of the following – The police

TheCriminal Justice System is, “ a complex social institution which regulates, governs and controls social disorder and contemporaneously maintains the statusquo of a particular society.”(Hucklesby/Wahidin, 2013, p. 1) In order for thecriminal justice system to maintain this, ‘ status quo’, each institution insidehas its own specific aims with their own goals to ensure safety and peaceamongst communities in England and Wales. For example, preventing and deterringcrime through the use of police officers walking around the streets. Additionally, it aims to punish offenders, maintain justice in courts and ensure law andsocial order. However, the reality of whether these aims are achievedsuccessfully is questionable and one to determine.

Oneof the agencies in the criminal justice system are the police, whose aim is toprevent and reduce crime by arresting people performing illegal activities. Whendiscussing the aims of the criminal justice system this essay will focus on thepolice. In order to do this the following areas will be critically explored; thehistory of the police, their aims and their role in society.

“ The purpose of the police service is to uphold thelaw fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice thosewho break the law; to protect, help and reassure the community.” (T. Newburn, 2003, p. 87) Over theyears the aims of the police have become blurred with increasing roles beingadded. Many cases involve multi-agencies with the police taking a leading rolewhether this is appropriate or not. The number of criminal laws has greatlyincreased with the number of crimes per officer also increasing. Therefore, itis clear that the police are an agency within the criminal justice system thathave a significant duty when tackling crimes. To an extent is can be arguedthat due to this increased role it makes it more challenging for the police toalways achieve their aims on such a broad scale. An example is, “ the increasinguse of motor cars from the 1930s in particular generated challenges for thepolice.” (Turner et al , 2017, p. 188) This meansthat criminals were much harder to apprehend as they were driving motor carswhereas the police were used to being on horseback or on foot. Similarly intoday’s society the Borough Commander of Hackney Police, ChiefSuperintendent Steve Dann, feeling somewhat uncertain said,

“ Mybelief is I think we need to fundamentally review what policing is about … itis such a complex business now, so I think we need to take a bit of a time outand say: “ Okay, what are we here for?” (Affairs, 2008) This clearlyindicates that the police’s aims in modern day society are becoming confusedwith what they originally were set up to do in 1829; this could be down to theculture shift in advanced industrial society. For example, with technologicalchanges in society there are more corporate crimes committed on a day-to-daybasis which are completely internal; the police would not necessarily pick upon these crimes as part of their regular duties.

With thisbeing said, Sir Robert Peel in 1829, came up with nine principles of lawenforcement which in policing today is developed and summarised in the ‘ PeelianPrinciples’. These principles are based on the fact that the police have thepower but only by the consent of the people. These principles are still validtoday and have shaped the approach of the HMIC, formerly known as, ‘ HerMajesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’. AsChief Constable Alex Marshall from the College of Policing stated,

“ Weshould be proud of our history and constantly strive to live out the Peelianprinciples as they apply in the modern context.” (Marshall, 2004)

The fact thatthe College of Policing follow these key aims emphasises that when people trainto become part of the police force principles, such as crime prevention andco-operation with the public, are embedded in the heart of their programme. This leads society to believe that with the right training their aims can beachieved.

Alternatively, this is not always the reality, an aim in particular that the police appear tohave abused, and have not previously achieved, is the excessive use of forceupon people in some cases. As one of the police’s general instructions they canuse, “ minimum physical force if necessary after the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning.” (Office, 2012) However, one casewhere the police did not achieve this aim was with Harry Stanley in 1999. Stanley was shot dead by the metropolitan police as they thought he was armedwhen in reality he was found carrying a table leg. The Crown ProsecutionService however accepted the police’s declaration that they were acting inself-defence. However, the Guardian newspaper headline was, “ Killing of manwith table leg unlawful” (Association, 2004). Thus, the media clearlyheld the opinion that this act was wrongful although the police officers werefound not guilty by the court. A further case was that of Ian Tomlinson. In the2009, “ London summit protests”, Tomlinson was a bystander who was pushed to theground by a police officer which subsequently led to his death. The officerfrom the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Group was charged with manslaughterbut also found not guilty. Cases such as these show a clear indication of wherethe police have abused their power and have not achieved their aims.

Ashworthand Redmayne identify that, “ police behaviour is influenced by a ‘ cop culture’that is widely spread through the organisation.” One of the elements that theymention which creates this ‘ cop culture’ is “ the ‘ macho image,’ this includesheavy drinking and physical presence and may extend to sexist and racistattitudes.” (Redmayne, 2010, p. 69) Here, the ‘ physicalpresence’ is clearly used in some cases to exercise the police’s power.

Animportant case where the police did not achieve their aims but instead appearedto abuse their power was in the ‘ Hillsborough Disaster’. As the Telegraph stated,“ Hillsborough verdicts: Police to blame for disaster in which 96 Liverpool fanswere unlawfully killed.” (Watson, 2016, p. 1) The ‘ Hillsborough Disaster’was a fatal human crush during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpooland Nottingham Forest in Sheffield at the Hillsborough Stadium, in 1989. There wasa substantial amount of over-crowding and a police officer ordered Exit Gate Cto be opened, this led to more supporters entering the central pens, which subsequentlyled to the crush. However, it took 27 years for the police to finally admit andaccept the blame for causing the deaths of the ninety-six people who died inthe crush. Initially the police gave the media information accusing thesupporters of, “ violent behaviour after drinking alcohol” (Conn, 2016), however the deathswere not accidental and it has been established a, “ major cover-up had takenplace in an effort by police and others to avoid the blame for what happened…the police ‘ caused or contributed’ to the disaster and that the victims hasbeen unlawfully killed.” (Watson, 2016, p. 1) The Hillsborough Disasteris no doubt one of the greatest miscarriages of justice that was caused by thepolice. With a case like this it becomes difficult to suggest that the policehave achieved any of their aims in preventing crime and protecting people.

Incontrast to this, a key aim of the police is to make arrests when they feel it isnecessary to do so and ‘ stop and search’ anyone who they believe to be actingsuspiciously. In the year ending March 2018, “ there were 698, 737 arrestscarried out by the police in England and Wales… and in the year ending March2008, there were almost 1. 5 million arrests.” (Office, 2018, p. 6) This evidence indicates that the policeare making fewer arrests as time passes into more recent years, indicating apotential decrease in crime of the individuals. Therefore, if the statistic forarrests is decreasing, it could be argued that the police are achieving theiraim by preventing and therefore reducing crime.

Additionally, a case where a police officer went above and beyond his duty is Wayne Marquesin the London Bridge attack of 2017. Here a terrorist vehicle drove straight intopedestrians on London Bridge. Marques attempted to fight the attackers with abaton and got stabbed in the process. This heroic move and bravery wererecognised across the country especially in the media. For example The BBC newswrote headlines such as, “ London Bridge attack officer fought to keep peoplealive.” (News, 2017) Marques was lefttemporarily blinded with stab wounds in his head, leg and hand, this sort ofcourageousness saved many more people’s lives showing his heroism. Marques hadRoyal recognition and was rewarded a ‘ George Medal’ for his bravery. Acts likethis makes the criminal justice system credible as it demonstrates that their aimsare being achieved in the capacity of being a police officer but even furtherby taking near fatal wounds in the act of saving other people. Thus, an examplewhere police officers such as Marques achieve their aims in keeping peoplesafe.

Conversely, although the police in some instances save people’s lives and prevent crimefrom happening by arresting individuals, this has not reduced the fear ofcrime. For example, the Police Foundation state, “ There is a significantand sustained rise in the levels of crime for several decades…a rapid increasein feelings of insecurity and fear of crime.” (Police Foundation / PolicyStudies Institute, 1996) A reason for this could be the use of the media, forexample Ian Marsh who states that television programmes only emphasise this,“ Crimewatch has been criticised for contributing the fear of crime through itsemphasis on and dramatic reconstructions of violent and sexual crime.” (Marsh et al, 2017) This evidence suggests that theaim of attempting to reduce the fear of crime is not being achieved; in fact itis being highlighted. Thus making the perception of crime becoming worse thanit actually is, mildly undermining what the police do in terms of their roles. However, the media do tend to portray the police in a positive light, suggesting thembeing ‘ heroes’ as in the body of a text read by a news reader or printed in anewspaper, this then could arguably distort the public’s view, as with the caseof Harry Stanley where police brutality was evident.

However, there continues to be large numbers of police officers being investigated for theassault of prisoners/suspects/public with very few of these being suspended. “ TheMet in 2015 for instance has over 1200 Officers being investigated and only 5were suspended and 28 put on restricted duties.” (Gallagher, 2015) This, through itsexistence, shows that the aims of the police are being abused and not being achievedat all. It could be suggested however, that police officers are an ‘ easytarget’ and are more likely to be accused of assaults particularly if aprisoner is guilty of a crime and trying to deflect some of this blame.

In 2016there was an alleged assault by the Police on Julian Cole that left himparalysed and brain-damaged. The Police were asked to suspend the officersduring the investigation, but they did not do so. This is an example of thePolice not matching the requirements of the justice system both during (allegedly)and after the event. “ The officers were found to have lied in both their pocketnotebooks and subsequent statements to investigators about Cole’s condition” (Gayle, 2018) The fact the policenot only changed Cole’s life forever leaving him severely paralysed and braindamaged, they lied. This illustrates the horrific nature in some instanceswhere police definitely do not achieve their aims and certainly do not followtheir job role. In the end, three officers were sacked, however the fact theywere only ‘ sacked’ and no further action was taken shows a huge flaw in thecriminal justice system because it is clear there has not been any justice forJulian Cole.

In Londonpeople who live there are about, “ one third of the population but account forover 55% of brutality claims”. (Robinson, 2017) In the West Midlandsthe contingent is 14% of the population but half of the brutality cases. “ Ofthe 146 ongoing police assault investigations in the West Midlands whereethnicity is recorded, 71 complainants are white (49 per cent) and 69 black orAsian (47. 5 per cent” (Gallagher, 2015) This is rathersignificant as the statistics show that over half of the population living thecapital of England have been subject to police brutality. Alongside in the WestMidlands it appears to show that ethnic minorities are victimised by policeofficers thus indicating the police by no means achieving their aims in thecriminal justice system.

There isan argument that if quantitative targets were removed the Police could use morediscretion when dealing with an incident. However, this could result in a lackof skills in making discretionary decisions placing pressure on individualofficers and mistakes being made. Greater leadership and supervision fromsuperior officers would be required and this could unnecessarily use the scarceresources that are available.

In summary, the Criminal Justice System exists to uphold thelaw and deliver justice where crimes have occurred. It would be too simplisticto suggest that this would occur without challenge. Any system of significance, such as the police force, will inevitably have its own glitches. One wouldalways strive to achieve the ends in delivering a flawless establishment but asdemonstrated it is clear to see that any system has challenges and each in turnhas to be dealt with on a case by case basis. However, it appears from theresearch that the police do not achieve their aims in many cases and this is toa rather significant extent. Examples of statistics and cases moslty indicatepolice not performing their job role in the proper manner which leads to manyundeserved deaths and injuries. A prime example being the Hillsboroughdisaster. In conclusion, although the police have a set of rules and procudersto follow it does not seem they uphold them to their highest standard in manycases. Excluding individuals obviously such as Wayne Marques, it needs to benoted that as a whole police brutality should be taken more seriously and dealtwith sevrerely.


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