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 it can commonly be described 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 is a professional management organization that is structure for the support in the community to create proactive problem solving to address the immediate conditions that give rise to the public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime. Community policing has partnerships between law enforcement agency and other organizations like government agencies, community members, nonprofit service providers, private businesses and the media. Government agencies includes probation and parole, public works departments, neighboring law enforcement agencies, health and human services, child support services, ordinance enforcement, and schools. Community members can include partnerships with neighborhood association that has meetings, town hall meetings and storefronts decentralized in the community. Nonprofit organizations includes advocacy of groups like service clubs, support groups, issue groups and community development corporations. These groups work with individuals that have the same interest in the community. Private Businesses have a bigger impact on the community from the health perspective. Private Businesses often identify problems that provide the resources which can include security technology for the community. The media represents a powerful pattern by which it can communicate with the community. The community policing uses the media to assist with publicizing concerns and solutions that will impact the community. The media can have an impact on the fear of crime, crime problems and perceptions of the police in the community. Community policing recognizes that police can’t solve every public safety problem alone so interactive partnerships are involved. The policing uses the public for developing problem solving solutions.

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]

The contemporary community policing movement emphasizes changing the role of law enforcement from a static, reactive, incident-driven bureaucracy to a more dynamic, open, quality-oriented partnership with the community.[4][5] Community policing philosophy emphasizes that police officers work closely with local citizens and community agencies in designing and implementing a variety of crime prevention strategies and problem-solving measures. To accomplish these initiatives, it is crucial that officers feel closely integrated with the majority of citizens and agencies in the community they serve. Typically, this means that officers perceive themselves as sharing important community values, beliefs, and goals. It also implies that officers are confident of community support and involvement in their decisions and actions.[6][7][8][9]

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.[10]

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. [11]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 [12] 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[13][14]

See also[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 Institute 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. ^ Brown, L. and Wycoff, M.D., “Policing Houston: reducing fear and improving services,” Crime and Delinquency, (Jun. 1987): 71-89
  5. ^ Goldstein, H., Problem Oriented Policing, McGraw-Hill Publishing, New York, NY, 1990
  6. ^ Ankony, Robert, “The impact of perceived alienation on police officers’ sense of mastery and subsequent motivation for proactive enforcement,” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, vol. 22, no. 2 (1990): 120-32.
  7. ^ Bobinsky, Robert, “Reflections on community-oriented policing,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, (Mar. 1994): 15-19
  8. ^ Burden, O., “Community policing,” National Fraternal Order of Police Journal, Fall/Winter (1992): 31-35
  9. ^ Mastrofski, Stephen. and Robert Warden, “Law Enforcement in a time of community policing,” Criminology, (Nov. 1995): 539-63
  10. ^ Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.
  11. ^ More, Harry W. Special Topics in Policing. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Pub., 1992. Print.
  12. ^ Bertus, Ferreira. The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy . Prod. National Insitute of Justice. Washington, D.C,, 1996.
  13. ^ Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.
  14. ^ Wilson, Jeremy M. (2006). Community Policing in America. New York, NY: Routledge.