Community policing

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Not to be confused with neighborhood watch.
Police officers interact with civilians in Des Moines, Iowa during Police Week 2010

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:

Defining Community Policing[edit]

Community policing is a policy that requires police to inherit a proactive approach to address public safety concerns. This type of policing has been utilized in various cities for about the last 150 years. The first form of community oriented policing is credited to the London Metro Police Department around 1830, as regular patrol areas were assigned to officers, now commonly known as “beats”. Community oriented policing was a cornerstone of the Clinton Administration and gained its funding from the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Ahlin, Gibbs). According to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) of more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies that had been using community policing for at least 1 year, 62 percent stated they had less crimes committed against civilians, 80 percent stated that they had reduced the fear of crime, and 99 percent stated that they had received increased cooperation from civilians. The overall assessment of community oriented policing is positive, as officers and community members both attest to its effectiveness in reducing crime and raising the sense of security in a community.[1][2]

"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[3]

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.

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 civilian 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 civilians they are supposed to serve.

°Decentralizing the police authority, allowing more discretion amongst lower-ranking officers, and more initiative expected from them.[10]

Origins of Community Policing[edit]

The community policing era in the United States, began in the 1980s, is the result of alienation of police during the reform era. The separation between the two also prevents the collaboration of police and community efforts to reduce crime rates in the area. Public satisfaction with the police both decreased trust with law enforcement and increased fear of crime. This disorganization among the community can heavily effect the fear of crime as it can make you afraid to leave your home or walk down the street, leaving you figuratively confined to your home.[11]

Sir Robert Peel came up with nine principles to modern law enforcement in 1829, known as the Peelian Principles. Peel's principles explain that there is an alternative to using military force, in that police are there to prevent crimes. Police need to gain willing cooperation from the public and will lose public cooperation proportionately to the amount of force used in situations. The police need to maintain relationships with the public and keep their respect. These principles provide a basis for community policing in the current U.S. law enforcement.

Day 127 - Cycle all out day West Midlands Police, United Kingdom. Local cycle patrol officers concentrate on troubled areas reported by the community.

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. Research by Michigan criminal justice academics and practitioners started being published as early as the 1980s.[12][13] As a Professor of Criminal Justice, Bob Trajanowcz in the late 1990's influenced many future law enforcement leaders on how to implement elements of community policing [14][15] One experiment in Flint, Michigan, involved 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.[10]

These ideas are implemented in a multipronged approach using a variety of aspects such as broadening the duties of the police officer and individualizing the practices to the community they’re policing. Refocusing police efforts to face to face interactions in smaller patrol areas to with an emphasized goal of preventing criminal activity instead of responding to it. Solving problems using input from the community they’re policing and making an effort increase service oriented positive interactions with police.[16]

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 civilians 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 ongoing problem.[17]

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 [18] is concerned with solving the crimes that the community is concerned about, and solving civilian 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.

The structure of the community policing organization differs in that police assets are refocused with the goals of specific written rules to give more creative problem solving techniques to the police officer to provide alternatives to traditional law enforcement.[19]

Community alienation among police officers and its effect on community policing[edit]

The experience of community alienation among police officers would appear to be anathema to effective community policing efforts for at least two essential reasons. First, alienation appears to be closely tied to the experience of mastery. Mastery is typically defined as a state of mind in which an individual feels autonomous and experiences confidence in his or her ability, skill, and knowledge to control or influence external events.[20] Community policing requires departments to flatten their organizational pyramid and place even more decision-making and discretion in the hands of line officers. Thus, it would seem logical that as the level of community alienation or isolation that officers experience increases, there will be a corresponding decrease in officers' sense of mastery in carrying out their expanded discretionary role. Second, a strong sense of community integration for police officers would seem to be vital to the core community policing focus of proactive law enforcement. Proactive enforcement is usually defined as the predisposition of police officers to be actively committed to crime prevention, community problem-solving, and a more open, dynamic quality-oriented law enforcement-community partnership.[6][7][21]

Several effects of alienation on police officers' behavior have been demonstrated in the literature. For example, scholars found that a lack of community support resulted in an increased sense of alienation and a greater degree of apathy among police officers.[22][23][24] It was also found that a lack of community support and working in a larger populated community was associated with an increased sense of alienation and a greater degree of inactivity among police officers.[25] Moreover, it was discovered that an increased sense of alienation resulted in a greater degree of negative feelings and lethargy among police officers. Finally, it was found that the more police officers felt socially isolated from the community they served, the more they withdrew and the more negative they felt towards its citizens.[6][26]

Evaluating Community Policing[edit]

Determining whether 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 in the United States is determined using the FBI’s "Uniform Crime Reports" (UCR) or "National Incident Based Reporting System" (NIBRS) as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ "National Crime Victimization Survey" (NCVS).[27][28] 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[10]

The U.S. federal government continues to provide support for incorporating community policing into local law enforcement practices through funding of research such as through the National Center for Community Policing at Michigan State University,[29] small 'COPs grants' to local agencies, and technical assistance.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Community Policing". Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015. 
  2. ^ Ahlin, Eileen; Gibbs, Jennifer (2012). "The Chicken or the Egg". Police Practice and Research 13.6: 513–524. Retrieved 5 Mar 2015. 
  3. ^ Bertus, Ferreira. The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy . Prod. National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C,, 1996.
  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. ^ a b c Ankony, Robert C., "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 (1999): 120-32.[1]
  7. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c Watson, Elizabeth M, Alfred R Stone and Stuart M DeLuca. Strategies for Community Policing. Print. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1998.
  11. ^ Community Policing Dispatch The e-newsletter of the COPS Office Volume 1 Issue 12 December 2008
  12. ^ Trajanowicz, Robert C (1994). "Understanding Community Policing A Framework for Action" (PDF). U.S. Bureau of Justice Monograph Series. Retrieved 15 Nov 2015. 
  13. ^ Trajanowicz, Robert C (Winter 1987). "Society Needs its Family Doctors". Footprints. Retrieved 15 Nov 2015. 
  14. ^ Trajanowicz, Robert C; Bucqueroux, Bonnie (1990). Community Policing: A contemporary perspective. Anderson. Retrieved 14 Nov 2015. 
  15. ^ Trajanowicz, Robert C; Bucqueroux, Bonnie (1999). Community Policing: How to Get Started. (Anderson Publishing). Retrieved 15 Nov 2015. 
  16. ^ Cordner, G. W. (2010). Community Policing Elements and Effects. In R. G. Dunham, & G. P. Alpert, Critical Issues in Policing (pp. 432-449). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press Inc.
  17. ^ More, Harry W. Special Topics in Policing. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Pub., 1992. Print.
  18. ^ Bertus, Ferreira. The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy . Prod. National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C,, 1996.
  19. ^ Cordner, G. W. (2010). Community Policing Elements and Effects. In R. G. Dunham, & G. P. Alpert, Critical Issues in Policing (pp. 432-449). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press Inc.
  20. ^ Wilson, Leon, "Family structure and dynamics in the Caribbean," Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor(1989): 1-187.
  21. ^ Taylor, R. and E. Fritsch, "Core challenges facing community policing: the emperor has no clothes," Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Today, May/June (1998): 1-5.
  22. ^ Berg, Bruce, Marc Gertz, and Edmond True, "Police-community relations and alienation," Police Chief, (Nov. 1984): 20-23
  23. ^ King, Barbara, "Cops and compliance-gaining: A study of the organizational realities of two cities," Doctoral Dissertation, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, (1995): 1-294
  24. ^ Mottaz, Clifford, "Alienation among police officers," Journal of Police Science and Administration, (Mar. 1983):23-30
  25. ^ Pogrebin, Mark, "Alienation among veteran police officers," Police Chief (Feb. 1987): 38-42
  26. ^ Shernock, Stan, "An empirical examination of the relationship between police solidarity and community orientation," Journal of Police Science and Administration (1988): 182-94,
  27. ^ "Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)". Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Crime Statistics". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  29. ^ "Publications". National Center for Community Policing. Michigan State University, School of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 14 Nov 2015. 
  30. ^ "Community Oriented Policing Series". COPS. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Retrieved 14 Nov 2015.