Community policing

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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.

Community policing is a policy that requires police to inherit a proactive approach to address public safety concerns. Community-oriented policing was a cornerstone of the Clinton Administration and gained its funding from the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The overall assessment of community oriented policing is positive, as both officers and community members 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 creates partnerships between law enforcement agency and other organizations like government agencies, community members, nonprofit service providers, private businesses, and the media. The media represent a powerful pattern by which the police can communicate with the community. Community policing recognizes that police cannot solve every public safety problem alone, so interactive partnerships are created. 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.[6][7][8][9]

Common implementations of community-policing include:[10]

  • 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.


The community policing era in the United States began in the 1980s. Public satisfaction with the police both decreased trust with law enforcement and increased fear of crime.[citation needed] This disorganization among the community can heavily affect 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.[citation needed]

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 from 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 1990s 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 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 with an emphasized goal of preventing criminal activity instead of responding to it; solving problems using input from the community they’re policing; and, finally, making an effort to increase service-oriented positive interactions with police.[16]

Compared to traditional policing[edit]

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 emergency calls. Many officers working busy shifts only have time to respond to and clear emergency calls. This type of policing does not stop or reduce crime significantly; it is simply a temporary fix to a chronic 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 is concerned with solving the crimes that the community is concerned about, and solving 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.[3] They get in touch with the community in a variety of ways, including polls or surveys, town meetings, call-in programs, and meetings 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 its 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.[16]

Community alienation[edit]

The experience of community alienation among police officers is closely tied to the experience of mastery, the 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.[18] Community policing requires departments to flatten their organizational pyramid and place even more decision-making and discretion in the hands of line officers. 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][19]

A lack of community support resulted in an increased sense of alienation and a greater degree of apathy among police officers.[20][21][22] 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.[23] An increased sense of alienation resulted in a greater degree of negative feelings and lethargy among police officers. 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][24]


Traditionally, determining whether police or policies are effective or not can 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).[25][26]

Community policing is more complicated than simply comparing crime rates and there is no universally-accepted criteria for evaluating community policing. However, there are some structures that are commonly used. 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.[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,[27] small COPS grants to local agencies, and technical assistance.[28]

The Center For Evidence-Based Crime Policy in George Mason University identifies the following randomized controlled trials on community policing as very rigorous.[29]

Authors Study Intervention Results
Pate, A. M, Lavrakas, P. J., Wycoff, M. A., Skogan, W. G., & Sherman, L. W. "Neighborhood police newsletters: Experiments in Newark and Houston, Technical Report", 1985 Increasing the flow of information from police to citizens using a monthly newsletter with crime data. No impact on victimizations of recipients
Pate, A. M, Lavrakas, P. J., Wycoff, M. A., Skogan, W. G., & Sherman, L. W. "Neighborhood Police Newsletters: Experiments in Newark and Houston, Technical Report", 1985 Increasing the flow of information from police to citizens with a monthly newsletter No impact on victimizations of recipients
Davis, R. C., & Taylor, B. G. "A proactive response to family violence: The results of a randomized experiment", 1997 Increasing the flow of information from police to citizens and from citizens to police. Home visits after domestic violence and public education about domestic violence. No influence on violence.
Weisburd, D., Morris, N., & Ready, J. "Risk-focused policing at places: An experimental evaluation", 2008 Hot spot and problem-oriented policing targeting juvenile risk factors No influence on self-reported delinquency.

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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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. ^ Wilson, Leon, "Family structure and dynamics in the Caribbean," Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor(1989): 1-187.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Berg, Bruce, Marc Gertz, and Edmond True, "Police-community relations and alienation," Police Chief, (Nov. 1984): 20-23
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ Mottaz, Clifford, "Alienation among police officers," Journal of Police Science and Administration, (Mar. 1983):23-30
  23. ^ Pogrebin, Mark, "Alienation among veteran police officers," Police Chief (Feb. 1987): 38-42
  24. ^ Shernock, Stan, "An empirical examination of the relationship between police solidarity and community orientation," Journal of Police Science and Administration (1988): 182-94,
  25. ^ "Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)". Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  26. ^ "Crime Statistics". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  27. ^ "Publications". National Center for Community Policing. Michigan State University, School of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 14 Nov 2015. 
  28. ^ "Community Oriented Policing Series". COPS. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Retrieved 14 Nov 2015. 
  29. ^