Questions: Homelessness, The Officer Next Door Program and The Exclusionary Rule
1. The police serve extremely diverse communities. Dealing with people with special needs can be a serious challenge to law enforcement. Homelessness is a complex social issue as it influences the quality of life in community. Nowadays, many people live on the streets. The factors that affect increasing number of the homeless are the following: jail over-crowding, non-criminal public intoxication, disruption of traditional family, and the lack of affordable housing (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 339). Homelessness often presupposes alcoholism, drugs, mental illnesses, and wild behavior. Thus, there is a clear indication that homelessness is both a social and criminal issue.
According to the National Institution of Justice, 25% to 45% of the homeless are alcoholics, while 30% suffer from severe mental disorders and physical conditions (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 339). There are a surprisingly great number of military veterans and runaways among the homeless. This circumstance prevents them from having a stable job, and, hence, they experience economic difficulties and non-affordability of housing. In contrast to the past decades, more women and children compose the homeless population.
Local citizens often demand from the police to remove the homeless from the streets. They feel uncomfortable or even afraid of the strangers who ask money. Business owners also often call the police with the same requests. They claim that these members of the community prevent them from making profits as buyers are unlikely to go to the places with litter, odor, urine, and narcotics usage (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 339). Both citizens and business owners are reluctant to understand that the police, in fact, cannot do much in such cases. The homeless are the members of society as well, and they have their rights: the Constitution of the United States protects them.
Both committing a crime and being the victims of a crime bring the homeless to the attention of the local police officers. The homeless are often guilty of drinking in public, thefts, fighting, and more serious crimes, involving robberies, sex crimes, and murders. On the contrary, they can also witness a crime or become a victim. Moreover, recently, several high-profile attacks on the homeless have been reported (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 339). This situation proves the vulnerability of these members of society.
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Dealing with the homeless issue requires combining the work of many organizations. Globally, it is important to address the causes of what makes people live on the streets. At the local level, in case no criminal issues are involved, the police can cooperate with social services to locate the individuals who need help.
Summarizing the analysis, the homeless are members of community that require protection as well. Dealing with them is a challenge for the police as the law enforcement need to react even when no crimes are committed.
2. Every person wants to live in safe and secure neighborhood. However, one can never know who is going to move in to a next-door apartment. Especially, it is true about distressed areas. People have fear to live in places with high crime rates. The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services makes efforts to eliminate the atmosphere of fear of crime and prevent crimes (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 369). Different police-community-oriented initiatives have been launched during the last decade of the previous century. One of them is the Officer Next Door program.
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The Officer Next Door program was initiated in 1997 and currently is under the umbrella of the Good Neighbor Next Door program (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 367). According to the program, police officers can receive low-cost loans and 50% discounts to purchase apartments in low-income neighborhoods nationwide. The officer who participates in the Officer Next Door program must be fully employed and accept an obligation to dwell in this apartment for at least three years. This plan encouraged police officers to settle in revitalization areas. The program was made to increase the safety of residents of community and to prevent crimes.
I believe that the Officer Next Door program has been effective. Following the evidence by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program has encouraged public servants to become homeowners in revitalization areas, and, as a result, it contributed to the revitalization of communities, made American communities stronger, and helped build a safer nation (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 367). The policy has made the society involved in problem-solving tasks within their neighborhoods. The other fact that shows effectiveness of this program is that currently, it is a part of the Good Neighbor Next Door program. In other words, the whole idea to inhabit a particular area with law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, medical workers is effective.
Today, the Officer Next Door program is implemented in metropolitan communities only. It might be because the rural area is not as densely populated as urban one. Therefore, it is not an issue in the country. Of course, people afraid of crimes all over the country, no matter whether it is a city, a small town, or a village. Probably, launching of similar resident officer programs might be useful in order to strengthen relations between the police and the community in the rural area as well. The results of one of the surveys held in one of the revitalization areas evidence that people’s concern about crime changed from drugs and gangs to loud stereos and speeding cars after the resident officer program was implemented (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 364). For this reason, not only metropolitan areas require the Officer Next Door program but also rural regions will definitely win from this situation.
In conclusion, various resident officer programs, and the Officer Next Door program in particular, are beneficial for both the police and the community as they build steady relations between them. As a result, people feel safer, have more trust to the police officers, and are eager to cooperate and help with crime prevention and investigation.
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3. The criminal justice system of the United States is regulated by the Bill of Rights, the collective name of the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, and the Fourteenth Amendment. This system defines the rights and freedoms people are entitled with to protect themselves against the tyranny of the government. One of the interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment is the exclusionary rule (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 389).
The exclusionary rule holds that any evidence seized in violation of the U. Constitution cannot be used in court against a defendant (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 389). This norm applies the rejection even of the highly probative evidence, and in many cases, overturns the sentence.
The exclusionary rule was established through the series of the landmark Supreme Court cases. For the first time, the Supreme Court used the exclusionary rule in 1914. It was Weeks v. United States case. Freemont Weeks was arrested and convicted on the base of the documents and letters that were seized from his house without a warrant. On appeal, the Supreme Court established the exclusionary rule and overturned the conviction. The decision was formed on the basis of the violation of the Fourth Amendment. The exclusionary rule was applied to federal law enforcement agents (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 390).
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Another example of the establishing of the exclusionary rule is Rochin v. California case (1952). The police searched the house of Rochin without a warrant supposing that he was selling narcotics. As they entered the man’s house, the police officers noticed two pills lying on the table. In a moment, Rochin grabbed those pills, put them into his mouth, and swallowed them. The police took him to the hospital where Rochin’s stomach was pumped and two capsules of what appeared to be morphine were used as evidence against him in the court. The court applied the exclusionary rule as this case of extremely serious police misconduct shocked the conscience (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 391).
Citizens and the police consider the exclusionary rule as procriminal since it prevents from introducing probative evidence during the trial. For hardened criminals, it is the chance to escape justice on a technicality despite that the academic studies did not confirm this fact (Dempsy & Forst, 2014, p. 391). Only in minority of cases, the rule was the reason of evidence suppression. The exclusionary rule looks like to place an unfair burden on the police because, in many cases, this norm is likely to disregard the only evidence that proves someone’s fault. Actually, it encourages the police to work more thoroughly and not to violate the law by themselves. Eventually, police officers are to protect the law and not to break it.
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In any event, the exclusionary rule, at the same time, is one of the constitutional limitations on the police and it encourages law enforcement agents to protect the law and avoid violations.