Issue Paper #3: Policing of Skid Row
January 20, 2012
In his article, “The Police on Skid-Row: A Study of Peace Keeping,” Egon Bittner calls skid row areas “jungles in the heart of civilization, very different from other areas, filled with people who do not have the capacity to live ‘normal’ lives” (Bittner, 1967). Police officers deal with citizens in skid row areas differently than they would in other areas. They do not view the citizens of skid row areas as having any rights to protect (Bittner, 1967). Their main goal is to keep the peace in other areas through containment of these chaotic environments and maintain control of the citizens within skid row through aggression (Bittner, 1967). Police officers justify their aggressive behavior towards citizens in skid row areas by saying that these citizens expect to be treated as if they have no rights and that if they were not aggressive, they would lose control of the environment (Bittner, 1967). Police officers gain knowledge of the area and its citizens to determine what is “normal” for that particular area, only enforce the law when it threatens the “normal” balance of that area, and they solve the problems on skid row through ad-hoc decision-making, which does not consider the long-term effects on the area (Bittner, 1967). The reason police officers use ad-hoc decision-making on skid row is because they are only focused on maintaining order, containing chaos and view the citizens of skid row as being a lost cause (Bittner, 1967). They are playing the role of peace-keepers through maintaining control internally and containment externally (Bittner, 1967). Peace-keeper is not the appropriate role for police officers in skid row areas. They are merely covering up a problem rather than solving it. It is the role of police officers to protect the citizens in the area where they work, no matter what area they are assigned to, because we are all equal under the U.S. Constitution and have the right...
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