Functions of the Police

As many of you know, I have just finished my BS in Occupational Safety and Health and am about halfway through with my BS in Criminal Justice.  The class du jour is Juvenile Delinquency, and one of the texts is Juvenile Justice in America by Bartollas and Miller.  Last night, just before turning my light out, I read the most amazing sentence about the duties of the police (enforcing the law and maintaining order), and this morning, I had to pull the text out and see if I’d imagined it:


            The maintenance of order function involves such tasks as settling family disputes, directing traffic, furnishing information to citizens, providing emergency ambulance service, preventing suicides, giving shelter to homeless persons and alcoholics, and checking the homes of families on vacation.


Huh?!  In what utopia would this be?  Thinking that this must be an ancient text, I checked the publication date, but it’s the 6th edition, 2011. 


In 2000 I spent 6 months of hell as a 911 operator in Santa Clara, California, a suburb of about 100,000 people – certainly not a big city, but not a small town, either.  Granted, I’m partial to my beautiful city and think very highly of our police force, but in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine them performing some of the functions listed in that sentence.  Sure, directing traffic and furnishing information to citizens are pretty standard.  And attempting to talk someone down from a suicide attempt is conceivable, but the others items on the list?  I don’t think so.


‘Settling family disputes’ would be a stretch – breaking up a domestic argument by separating the participants would be conceivable, but our officers are not therapists or family counselors.  I remember an ugly incident between my sister and her spouse that resulted in the police being called; when the police arrived, they said it was a civil matter – they could not get involved. 


In places like Sunnyvale, California, where the Police Department and Fire Departments are combined, I can see providing an injured party a ride to the hospital, but certainly not to be considered ‘ambulance service.’  Would this be something done in a rural area? 


I can see in rural areas or very small towns the police checking on the homes of people who are on vacation, but that wouldn’t fly in most areas. 


But the ‘duty’ in that sentence that really blew me away was ‘giving shelter to homeless persons and alcoholics.’  The closest I can come to imagining this was back as the 911 operator when I got a call from some kids who had come from out of the area to visit the amusement park, Great America.  They assumed that there would be plenty of hotels or motels and hadn’t made any reservations.  Unfortunately for them, in the middle of Silicon Valley, hotels are usually booked to capacity during the week.  Thankfully it was a slow night in the Communications Center, so it was the 911 operators who called around to hotels and found a room for the kids, and one officer, who was going off duty offered to give them a ride to it.  But to give shelter to the homeless?  Really?  And alcoholics?  ROFL! 


I’d love to hear if anyone has ever seen or heard of a police department that performs these functions.  Speak up!



3 thoughts on “Functions of the Police

  1. They do in the town of Mayberry R.F.D. Don’t you remember Andy Taylor? He is still doing it on Nick At Night!

  2. I have not, however, it does sound like something from the 1920’s in rural UK where you had ‘the bobby on the beat.’

    I’m glad it still exists in print. I hope all new recruits learn that first.

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