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How Reactive Policing Differ From Proactive Policing

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The criminal justice system uses the proactive and reactive strategies in their undertakings. The police officers are at the forefront in investigating crime and ensuring that appropriate measures are put in place to reduce crime. According to Williams J. (1988) there are various ranks in the police departments translating to different roles. Discretion is a valued aspect in the police force. They work to ensure that peace, order and harmony are maintained.

            The reactive approach entails the police officers responding to members of the public call for help. In this strategy the consent of people involved is sought. Real demands are addressed and people call when they are in need and the police respond immediately. The police could also be involved in patrolling to monitor and counter wrongdoing in the society. However in rare cases do the police collide with criminals from their wrongful activities. George Kelling & Mark Moore. (1988) argue that dissemination of information that would help the police curb crime is very important. Handing information relevant in curbing crimes has been of significant success. Public cooperation is more critical that legal powers in detection of crime. Cordner G. (1979) suggests that patrolling could be ineffective as the police may not be accurate in timing when crime is to be executed.

            The proactive strategies are based on prior control of crime. This could be through the building up of images that discourage breach of peace. This can be more effective especially when placed to those considered a threat to peace or more prone to criminality and using surveillance to monitor their moves. McPhail, Clark, John McCarthy & David Schweingruber. (1997) say that much intelligence is required when using this approach so that determination of potential criminals is not only accurate but timely. Inaccuracy in this approach would have negative impact on the suspects according to Paul Cooper & Jon Murphy (1995). Intelligence is also very important in determining the correct methods to counter the crime or handle the criminals. Information in this strategy is also important though it may be from informants and not necessarily the general public, it is however very secretive and hence accountability may be inadequate creating loopholes for prejudice. Stansfield T. (1996)

            Reactive approach may not be appropriate when dealing with some types of crimes like white-collar theft or professional crimes. In such cases proactive approach may suffice. Proactive approach is best for assuring the public that peace keeping is addressed. People would feel more secure when they see that the police are concerned in maintaining peace and order in the society.

            The roles of the police include curbing drug-related crimes, speedy and effective handling of offenders and reforming them, respond to emergency calls effectively as well as cooperating with local authorities agencies and the public at large.

            The police carry out three important roles or powers which include arresting or detaining, questioning after detention and search powers. Reiner Robert. (1997)

Individuals have the right to liberty and security which should not be deprived. Detention should be to bring suspects to competent legal authority under reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed.

            Proactive policing identifies, establishes and addresses the underlying problems and determines appropriate methods to tackle them. Oppal Commission Report. (1994)

Reactive policing is a response to the demands placed on police service. The best way to protect or safeguard individual rights is by upholding constitutional protections.

            The proactive approach can have negative impact on individual rights especially if the information used is incompetent. Individuals have a right to liberty and their privacy is minimized when they are put under surveillance. Kdeniz Y., Taylor N., and Walker C. (2001) points out that this is worse when they are convicted but as a matter of fact they are innocent. Without proper accountability and management systems the individual rights are further abused. Neyroud P & A Beckley. (2001).

            Maguire (2000) argues that proactive policing is a strategic, future oriented and targeted approach to curb crime focused on identification, analysis and effective management of developing crimes, problems or risks.

            The police ought to develop strategies that are in line with democracy and international human rights standards while ensuring peace stability. Both reactive and proactive strategies work to maintain security or protection which is a human right. The proactive approach is most preferred as both the suspects and the whole populations are protected.

            A combination of both reactive and proactive approach would yield better yields than using a single approach. Waiting for crimes to occur before acting means that there are people who have their rights to protection denied when criminals attack.

            In the proactive approach the police can offer proposals to be used by society after establishing or identifying the appropriate problems. They can incorporate the public view in eliminating crime. They can also provide choices for individuals by showing people how certain strategies could work to eliminate crime.

            The police should make sure that they maintain the highest level of integrity and professionalism. They should be responsible to respond to community needs. Paul Cooper & Jon Murphy (1995) suggest that they should also be culturally sensitive and respect individual rights and freedom.

            They should use discretion properly at all times. The police have been accused of torturing suspects an act that is against the individual human rights. More complaints are raised against them an indication that even though the crime rates are declining the means used are questionable. Attainment of society ‘good’ should not be at the expense of individual rights and equilibrium must be established such that rights of all people are addressed.

            The role of the police is duty to serve and protect and their powers are controlled or regulated so that individuals’ rights are not negated. They are protected by the law and cannot be prosecuted and this makes it more likely to perform their roles ineffectively.

            In the reactive approach the police could use excessive powers thus the disrupting the fulfillment of individual rights. Although use of force is allowed police could at times mishandle people especially those who comply. If a person complies with the police orders they should not be harshly treated but this happens. Their use of force should be based on the situation prevailing.

            Bribery could also occur where the police can compromise with caught suspects. They may do this due to the fact that they want to fulfill their personal interests. Police ought to be governed by the law in their acts. Bribery is more likely to occur when using the reactive policing.

            The constitution protects individuals from improper search and seizure. The reactive approach creates room for problems of this kind. This means that the police search without provision of warrant would be considered ineffective.

            The proactive approach can defy people their rights today. This is because there can be false arrests which could occur individual on the other hand may argue that their rights or individual assertion is a violation of their civil rights. The qualified immunity they get to ensure their effective performance in their work. Eck J. and Maguire E. (2000)

            Use of coercive methods like through coerced confessions is unlawful and against the individual human rights. The police ought to be professional and guided by ethics in their operations.

            When police use the reactive approach in stopping strikes they are violating the individual human rights. Machan Tibor (2005) people have the freedom of or right of free association which can organize for strikes to air their grievances. Individuals have a right to life; liberty and pursuit to happiness which the police should ensure are attained. Keith M. (1993).

            Delayed response to individual emergency calls is a form of negating from individual rights. David Bayley. (1979). Proactive policing is self initiating approach and enables society to become more moral and self regulating according to Joanes A. (2000). Education of the officers and the public is essential. It yields more attractive or desirable results it allows effective communication and those though this dissemination of effective information to the police is easier.

  Reactive mechanisms are costly and this is a plus for the proactive approach. However the proactive approach could lead to wastage of resources in trying to use various approaches to curb crime unlike what would have been used if specific allocation of resources was done. The main role of reactive approach as per Wilson G. & Bennett F. (1994) is to enforce the criminal law to solve crime and apprehend criminals while the proactive approach works to ensure peace and stability while providing services to the community to facilitate a sense of security. Proactive strategies are geared towards the community needs and the nature of crimes committed. Unlike the reactive mechanism that distances the collaboration between the police and the community while emphasizing on technology use proactive approach incorporates partnership. Bayley H. (1994) suggests that proactive measures can be used to prevent future crimes.

             According to Wilson Q. and Kelling G. (1982) the police should not violate individual rights as doing so would mean they are taking over the role of the jury which they should not.


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George Kelling & Mark Moore. 1988. The Evolving Strategy of Policing, Perspectives on Policing, No. 4. NIJ.

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McPhail, Clark, John McCarthy & David Schweingruber. 1997. Policing Protest in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. EUI Working Papers, No. 97/3.

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Information and rights, Criminal Law Review.

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David Bayley. 1979. Crime and Justice, Vol. 1.

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Bayley H. 1994. Police for the Future. New York: Oxford University Press.

Eck J. and E. Maguire. 2000. Have Changes in Policing Reduced Violent Crime. Blumstein and Wallman. The Crime Drop in America.

Joanes A. 2000. “Does the New York City police department deserve credit for the decline in New York City’s homicide rates? A Cross-city comparison of policing strategies and homicide. Rates.” Columbia Journal of Law and Social Justice 33.

 Wilson Q. and Kelling G. 1982. Broken Windows. Atlantic Monthly 211.

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Neyroud P & A Beckley. 2001. Policing, ethics and human rights UK: Willan Publishing,

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