What common problems have existed throughout the centuries for people in law enforcement?

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Certainly the first answer given lays out some excellent points in answer to your question and offers a broad context for these issues that can be applied to law enforcement throughout history. It does need to be said that law enforcement through the ages has also had to confront the...

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Certainly the first answer given lays out some excellent points in answer to your question and offers a broad context for these issues that can be applied to law enforcement throughout history. It does need to be said that law enforcement through the ages has also had to confront the public perception that policing confers a sense of entitlement onto its officers that oftentimes is channeled into, at best, arbitrary treatment of suspects, and, at worst, what has come to be known as police brutality.

The notion of a "police state" (wherein the police knowingly act to forward a political agenda) became popularized in the 1970s after a number of high-profile incidents involving law enforcement during the anti-war protests of the 1960s–1970s resulted in acts of brutality (and even murder, in the case of National Guardsmen shooting unarmed protesters at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970) directed at unarmed civilians. Prior to these protests, many incidents of police violence were directed at African American citizens during the Civil Rights protests and marches of the 1960s.

Despite decades spent raising awareness of police brutality and overreach, we have again entered an era where unnecessary or excessive use of force has become an enormous problem in law enforcement, particularly where African American suspects are concerned. This suggests that racism, whether conscious or unconscious, plays a part in police behavior and has led to officers acting as "judge and jury" in their decisions to kill suspects (sometimes shooting suspect in the back as they are fleeing the scene) rather than apprehend them safely in order to allow justice to be applied.

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The fundamental dilemmas for all law enforcement personnel throughout the centuries are these:

  1. Knowing the law in enough detail to enforce it.
  2. Separating the crime from the criminal: in other words, not letting motive interfere with the strict enforcement (why a mother steals a loaf of bread is not part of the decision to enforce the law).
  3. Treating the perpetrator as a suspect, not as an already convicted person; giving the suspect all the rights of the law.
  4. Self-preservation; avoiding injury or death from the arrest procedure.
  5. Public image as part of “order,” not as an impediment to the “pursuit of happiness.”
  6. Maintaining a balance between trust and suspicion in everyday life; avoiding too negative a view of human nature.

In short, a universal and time-tested problem is being a human being while remembering you are an instrument of the law; judgment, balance, integrity, humanity, attention to chain of command.  Whether a sheriff of Nottingham Forest or Orange County, the law enforcement officer must deal with these subtleties every working day.

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