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The United States of America has a federalism system for balance of power. A federal government is in place with certain powers and restrictions, the remainder being left to the individual states. This was a change for our founding fathers attempting to find a balance between the unitary government of England and the weak central government created by the Articles of Confederation in 1781 ( Constitution was ratified in 1788 creating the foundation of the United States government structure. In 1791, the first ten amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights were ratified establishing limits on the federal government (The Bill of Rights).

However, the rights were quickly forgotten, due to the majority of citizens only have interaction with their local governments. The great majority of criminal cases as well as civil cases are handled on the state level. This created a problem because the protections established by the Bill of Rights were expressly written to limit the federal government and were not enforceable on the state level. “But the critical evolution came later, after the Supreme Court, developing what is known as the Incorporation Doctrine, construed Section I of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply the protections enumerated in the federal Bill of Rights against state and local governments. In the 1960s and 1970s, a slew of decisions extended this doctrine almost comprehensively.” (The Bill of Rights).

The two constitutional amendments that traditionally have the greatest impact on law enforcement are the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment provides protections against unlawful search and seizure, requiring probable cause to obtain a search warrant (The Bill of Rights). The Fifth Amendment provides the protection from being compelled to be a witness against oneself and guarantees due process (The Bill of Rights).

There are of course exceptions to all of these rules that are usually set into law through case law.Although the Constitution provides many protections to its citizens through the Bill of Rights, some natural freedoms are surrendered. “It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these States to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all – Individuals entering into society must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved” (Barnett, R. E. 2004).

The constitution distributes and limits power between governmental agencies and establishes how much power the government has over it’s citizens and how it is implemented (Gaines, L. K., & Kappeler, V. E. 2015).

The constitution was written with federalism and a decentralized government to prevent any one agency from establishing to much power. There is no single federal police force in the United States. The Department of Justice has smaller bureaucracies within it, United States Marshal Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Secret Service. Although these agencies carry jurisdiction nationwide they are only responsible for investigating the laws prescribed to them under the authority of Congress (Gaines, L.

K., & Kappeler, V. E. 2015)  In the tenth amendment to the constitution police powers are reserved for the individual states. This allows states to create statewide agencies and allow for the creation of local agencies.

Each of these agencies although all law enforcement in nature have different operational responsibilities.  In 1835 the first statewide agency was created the Texas Rangers. Much different than the modern version the Texas rangers were established under the control of the commander and chief of the regular army (Proctor, B.H. 2010).

Every state with the exception of Hawaii now has a state patrol or highway patrol (Gaines, L. K., & Kappeler, V.

E. 2015) There are different responsibilities between a state patrol and highway patrol. An example is in the State of Florida there is the Florida Highway Patrol responsible for traffic enforcement and accidents within the state.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the investigative branch of state government tasked with investigating crimes occurring throughout the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commision has officers tasked with enforcing the game laws of the state. All of these officers have statewide jurisdiction however like the federal government are tasked with specific laws to enforce, preventing any one agency from garnering too much power and control. After statewide law enforcement agencies the next jurisdictional step is county government.

In each County or Parish in Louisiana there is an elected Sheriff. Drawing again from the 10th amendment each sheriff is granted their authority from the individual state constitutions by way of election. The sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the county appointing deputy sheriff’s to carry out agency obligations. Again using Florida as an example the responsibilities of the Sheriff are set in Florida State Statutes 30.

15. One responsibility of the Sheriff that does not fall on other law enforcement agencies is being required to serve processes civil and criminal. An exception to this would be states such as Texas who have a seperate elected official the County Constable. An elected Constable and their deputies main function is to serve processes, although they have full arrest powers. The next subdivision under the county sheriff is incorporated city departments. This can become confusing because some cities like Kansas City, Missouri are located throughout four different counties they are so large. Unlike a Sheriff who is elected the Chief of Police is appointed usually by the city manager.

Because the Chief of Police is not an elected official his power comes from the city code not the state constitution and officers work for the city not the chief. This is unlike a deputy sheriff who works for and obtains their authority from the sheriff himself. City police departments only have jurisdiction in the incorporated boundaries of the city.

It is very evident that this type of organizational method was created to keep power and responsibilities separated so no one agency has complete control. Law enforcement jurisdictions however do work hand in hand with each other cities relying on county assistance and counties relying on state assistance. During times of emergency most law enforcement agencies have mutual aid agreements when enacted gives officer’s in one jurisdiction power in the affected area to provide manpower to keep the peace.Due to the limitations of federal agencies being tied to specific requirements the Federal Bureau of Investigation branched out into several different areas to assist other agencies. “Powers also makes the point that the limited jurisdiction of the new bureau encouraged the entrepreneurial J.

Edgar Hoover to pursue ancillary functions such as a national fingerprint file, crime laboratory, crime reporting, and police training. All of these would eventually serve to provide the FBI with powerful constituencies among local law enforcement agencies, who might have otherwise opposed the agency’s expansion in favor of local control.” (Vizzard, W. J. 2008). This again is an example of the limitations the federalism system has separated powers. These resources are extremely necessary to assist law enforcement investigations and were created due to the modernization of law enforcement.The majority of changes that have come in law enforcement are from specific incidents causing case law or changing how society views it’s police force.

Many of these incidents lead to civil suits that in turn lead to policy changes or fines for civil rights violations. Some of the most well known cases that have changed the law enforcement landscape are (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 1968), (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 1966), and the passage of 42 U.

S. Code § 1983. and Civil Rights Act of 1964. These historical actions changed the daily policy and procedures for law enforcement officers such as Terry or Miranda.

The 1983 action changed how law enforcement can be held accountable bringing swift changes to training and procedures for law enforcement. The civil rights act ensured that agencies would be required to hire equally, allowing for greater diversity and representation for communities. The law enforcement field is ever changing with the citizens it protects. The modern world will bring more changes to law enforcement in the future as the constitution is always being interpreted to meet the expectations of society.


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