The police as we now know them were first formed in the 1700’s but did not historically possess the same responsibilities or power that they now have. During the Kingdom of Great Britain formation, Edinburgh was the only town to have any sort of police force that was formed in 1682 to police the city and enforce a curfew, and then in 1749 London’s Bow Street Runners established which was considered the foundation to modern police forces (Kappeler et al., 1998). During this period they were then known as ‘watchman’ or a ‘constable’ and would patrol the town at night often being paid by provisions from the local council / authority. They were in fact organised by the citizens in the community as there was a cry for some sort of authority to aid in preventing the on-going crimes. They would patrol the streets at night for suspicious characters as London had become of significant concern during this period, rising to become the nation’s hotspot for robbery and burglary which was attributed to the poor street lighting and densely populated and cramped urban conditions (Farrell, 1995).
There are many different types of agents within the Police Services which also range within areas of law enforcement for example; Special Constable, Chief Constable, Police Community Officer, Traffic Warden, Wildlife Inspector and Bailiff, whom all have very different roles and daily tasks (Smith & Hawkins, 1973). A Police Community Support Officer also commonly referred to as a ‘PCSO’ are not given full policing powers where as a Special Constable or Chief Constable does, instead they have daily duties of patrolling neighbourhoods to deal with minor offences and antisocial behaviour among small communities (Home Office, 2012). They will do this by giving out fixed-penalty notices for offenses such as littering or removing alcohol from a person who is under the legal age of 18 and can’t produce proof of ID (passport, license), they aren’t personally authorised to make any arrests however they can request a Police Officer to make an arrest. They are usually in a team of two PCSO’s which is led by a sergeant or inspector that does possess the power to make an arrest; they typically do not carry out any high risk tasks (Home Office, 2012). Other tasks can include report writing, dealing with evidence, crowd control and helping to direct traffic at public events and at scenes of an accident (Home Office, 2012).
PCSO’s are an important contribution to society and were initially introduced into every police force in England and Wales however in recent years a force has been set up in Scotland that deal with some of their duties, unfortunately funding was not established for PSCO’s in Northern Ireland (Home Office, 2012) (Cosgrove & Ramshaw, 2015). Since the introduction of the Police Community Support Officers in 2002 they have grown slowly in numbers, which then picked up quite significantly in 2007 to a high, reaching a sum of 17,000 just before the United Kingdom’s general election in 2010. UNISON’s research shows in England alone under the new Government a cut off 22.38% was made, reducing 3,585 PCSO’s (Police workforce England and Wales statistics, 2013) (UNISON, 2015).
Due to these cuts, PCSO’s are being made to cover bigger area’s and quite often by themselves, this can lead to them feeling vulnerable without backup and making it impossible for them to do what is expected of them within the community. Not only does this cause frustration for locals in the area as they would experience more anti-social behaviour due to the shortfall in PCSO supervision but many PCSO’s were made redundant and others who were able to keep their job had to endure cuts in transport, uniform, equipment, stations and being forced to work on their own (UNISON, 2015). The Government’s cuts to the police force’s budget has significantly damaged the ability for neighbourhood policing with an average of 22% of Police Community Support Officer’s being removed in England which has taken away much of the safety and security to the community and above welfare of those who deliver neighbourhood policing (UNISON, 2015).
Budget cuts however are not the only things the Police force have to face, one the largest problems they now encounter are citizens rebelling against the force. For many years citizens have felt more threatened by the police than protected by them due to years of police brutality and corruption (Miller, 2003). In a Social Research Institute report of the most trusted professions from 2015, 29% of people asked across Great Britain said they would not trust the Police to tell the truth and 68% would trust them to tell the truth, the figure has varied remarkably over 31 years generally hovering in the low 60s with the lowest police trust rating at 58% seen in 2005. However the police’s score was higher than that of politicians and journalist who are reported to only be trusted by 1 in 5 people. Doctors were reported to be the most trusted profession with 9 out of 10 people putting their trust in them (Social Research Institute , 2016).
With the majority of the world’s population now currently using some form of social media in their day to day lives this gives the police an additional platform and source of information with the ability to communicate with civilians that may have information about a crime or to help warn them of a crime. Research shows that 96% of police departments will use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with more than 80% of police forces reporting that social media has aided in solving crimes (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2013). Using these social media platforms has also had the added benefit of creating more trust between the police and public citizens and has been reported to have helped improve the relationships with the community by 73% (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2013). On the other hand however social media at times has been a huge detriment to the police, in situations such as when officers have not abided by the rules of the law or have been found abusing their power, i.e. they have then been caught on video which has then posted online for the world to see (Crump, 2011). It could be argued that this however is also a benefit as it aids in ‘policing’ the police.
Given that the majority of the world’s population are using these different types of social media platforms, it also provides criminals with the same platforms giving them the opportunity to use these technologies to their advantage providing them with many different tools to exploit people in multiple ways (Fafinski & Minassian, 2008). The role that police play in combating cybercrimes is impeded by the range of tools and information readily available to criminals; with the internet being an open access network full of information it has become a breeding ground for criminals to openly access this information too. There are multiple different types of cyber-crime including but not exclusive to; Identity theft, invasion of privacy, internet fraud, file sharing and piracy, counterfeiting and forgery, child pornography, hacking, computer viruses, denial of service attacks, spam, email hacking and sabotage. Because of this criminals have begun to utilise a wide range of methods and strategies within computer software and devices which are constantly evolving and changing the way they to make themselves anonymous on the World Wide Web (Gilmour, 2014).
The rate at which the tools and skills of criminals in cybercrime are evolving makes it extremely difficult for law-enforcements to keep up with the vast majority of change; they not only have to overcome challenges presented to them by criminals but internally as well (Gilmour, 2014) (Gercke, 2011). They face numerous challenges in combating cybercrime which can often hinder their ability from internal rules and regulations to which they must adhere in regards to aspects such as respecting the privacy of the public; for example they cannot unscrupulously hack into personal computers or accounts themselves without just cause or reason, thus achieving a balance between investigatory power and respecting privacy rights of the general public remains a very serious problem for policing the internet (Gercke, 2011)