Community policing

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Not to be confused with neighborhood watch.

Community policing, or community-oriented policing, is a strategy of policing that focuses on police building ties and working closely with members of the communities.

In the United States, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 established the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) within the Justice Department to promote community policing. According to the definition of COPS:

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.

Community Policing Defined[1]

There is no universally accepted definition of community policing however can commonly be descried as:

Defining Community Policing[edit]

"Community policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems."

—Bertus Ferreira[2]


Community policing was derived out of the “Broken Windows” theory; which suggested that since a broken window is not against the law then it would be ignored by the “professional” police officer. However, it is an indicator of social disorganization, and therefore requires the attention of the community-orientated officer. There have been multiple experiments, such as the Flint, Michigan experiment involving foot patrol officers be assigned to a specific geographic area to help reduce crime in hot spots. Many community-oriented police structures focus on assigning officers to a specific area called a “beat” and having those officers become familiar with the that area or beat through a process of “beat profiling.” The officers are then taught how to design specific patrol strategies to deal with the types of crime that are experienced in that beat.[3]

Many common elements in community-oriented policing include:

°Relying on community-based crime prevention by utilizing citizen education, neighborhood watch, and a variety of other techniques, as opposed to relying solely on police patrols.

°Re-structuralizing of patrol from an emergency response based system to emphasizing proactive techniques such as foot patrol.

°Increased officer accountability to citizens they are supposed to serve.

°Decentralizing the police authority, allowing more discretion amongst lower-ranking officers, and more initiative expected from them.[4]

Traditional V. Community Policing[edit]

Very few incidents of crime are isolated, most are results and symptoms of underlying problems. Meaning they will recur predictably, while officers handle the problem at the time they do not address the underlying issue in many situations. The goal of traditional policing is to protect law abiding citizens from criminals. They do this by identifying and apprehending criminals while gathering enough evidence to convict them. Traditional beat officers focus on duty is to respond to incidents swiftly, and clear 911 calls. Many officers working busy shifts only have time to respond to and clear 911 calls, this type of policing does not stop or reduce crime significantly it simply makes a temporarily fix to an on-going problem. [5]In contrast community policing’s main goal is to assist the public in establishing and maintaining a safe, orderly social environment. While apprehending criminals is one important goal of community policing it is not necessarily the most important goal. Community policing [6] is concerned with solving the crimes that the community is concerned about, and solving citizens concerns by working with and gaining support from the community. The most effective solutions include coordinating police, government resources, citizens, and local business to address the problems affecting the community. They get in touch with the community in a variety of ways including: polls or surveys, town meetings, call-in programs, and meeting with interest groups. They use these connections to understand what the community wants out of its police officers and what the community is willing to do to solve the crime problem.

Evaluating Community Policing[edit]

Determining whether or not community policing is effective or not is a whole different dilemma. For traditional policing determining whether police or policies are effective or not may be done by evaluating the crime rate for a geographic area. A crime rate is determined by using the Unified crime reporting system (UCRS), which is an index of crimes reported to the police. Community policing is more complicated than simply comparing crime rates. Due to the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of community policing and policies vary widely between departments there is also no universally accepted criteria for evaluating community policing. However there are some commonly used structures. One possible way to determine whether or not community policing is effective in an area is for officers and key members of the community to set a specific mission and goals when starting out. Once specific goals are set, participation at every level is essential in obtaining commitment and achieving goals. Street-level officers, supervisors, executives, and the entire community should feel the goals represent what they want their police department to accomplish. Objectives and goals should be reevaluated periodically to determine what progress the department and officers have made; along with whether or not those same goals are important to the community[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Community Policing Defined, Office of Community Oriented Polcing Services. Accessed 2014-01-01.
  2. ^ Bertus, Ferreira. The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy . Prod. National Insitute of Justice. Washington, D.C,, 1996.
  3. ^ Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.
  4. ^ Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.
  5. ^ More, Harry W. Special Topics in Policing. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Pub., 1992. Print.
  6. ^ Bertus, Ferreira. The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy . Prod. National Insitute of Justice. Washington, D.C,, 1996.
  7. ^ Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.