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Community Policing Essay, Research Paper

Community policing has emerged since the 1970s as an increasingly important strategy for controlling and preventing crime and enhancing community safety. It is both a philosophy and an organizational strategy that allows the police and the community to work closely together in creative ways to solve the problems of crime, drugs, fear of crime, physical and social disorder, neighborhood decay, and the overall quality of life in the community. Community policing is difficult to define. Although it does not have a single definition, there are many various elements of community policing. Champion states there are several definitions to define community policing.

1. “[Community policing is] whenever citizens and police…band…together to fight crime.”

2. “Community policing is a police-community partnership in which the police and the community work hand-in-hand to resolve what the community identifies as ‘problems.’ They [problems] may concern abandoned houses, overgrown lots, zoning ordinances, school issues and other urban problems that are more appropriately in the realm of other agencies.”

3. “Community policing emphasizes the establishment of working partnerships between police and communities to reduce crime and enhance security.”

4. “Community policing [is] a working partnership between police and the law-abiding public to prevent crime, arrest offenders, find solutions to problems and enhance the quality of life.”

5. “[Community policing is] a philosophy rather than a specific tactic…a proactive, decentralized approach designed to reduce crime, disorder and fear of crime by intensely involving the same officer in a community for a long term so that personal links are formed with residents” (Champion 2).

These definitions address the key features of community policing. The common features involve cooperation between police and community residents, willingness to work toward mutual goals, and a general desire to improve community safety through more effective crime control.

Community policing in America can be traced from the colonial times to the 1900s. American policing activities transpired in early England at or about the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Chancellors were used to settle disputes between neighbors, such as property boundary issues, trespass allegations, and child misconduct. “An early equivalent of the chancellor, with similar duties and responsibilities, was the justice of the peace, dating to about A.D. 1200. Together with the chancellors or justices of the peace, reeves (now more commonly know as a sheriff) maintained order in their respective jurisdictions (Champion 22). England’s use of policing became well known. Many other regions soon adopted England’s standards. American colonist continued the English system of law enforcement and the study of law. In addition to reeves, constables were used for maintaining law and order in colonial communities. The duties of constables included collecting fees for highway usage, collecting taxes, and presiding over minor legal issues. The position of the sheriff was created and they became the principal law enforcement officers in the various counties throughout the colonies. Early policing was characterized as urban policemen walking beats and interacting daily with merchants and other members of the community.

In the 1940s, the policing model most common in America has come to be know as the “political” model. Many governmental leadership positions, including police chiefs, were occupied by people directly beholden to a city’s political machine for their position and livelihood. This was a period filled with corruption and transformation. “In the 1950’s, many communities became dissatisfied with this model and called for a new model free of corruption” (Zhao 1). In the 1960s and through the 1970s, a model evolved known today as the “professional” model. It was during this period that a law enforcement code of conduct and uniform training standards became the foundations of American law enforcement with the professional and efficient delivery of police service its ultimate goal. The present model requires that officers not associate too closely with the people they serve, an obvious reaction to the corruption evident in the earlier models.

Modern devices have added the professional model of today. “At about the same time, much-needed equipment and technology (cars, radios, telephones, and mobile-digital terminals) began to arrive on the law enforcement scene”(Zhao, 2). These tools further distanced patrol officers from their community contacts. Gradually, the patrol officers’ proactive “problem-solving” approach was replaced with reactive “call handling.” The community called for help, and the police department responded. However, when the calls for assistance reached such high levels that the ability of the police to respond to all of them was slow, drastic improvements in dispatching were initiated. To replace the old way of calling the police, fire, or medical units, individual 911 numbers were introduced. “Special units were trained to allow a very precise response to a situation that might overwhelm the officer” (Thayer 94). Various specialized units emerged out of the 911-response method. A few of these include; the weapons and tactics units, canine units, hazardous materials units, and hostage negotiation units.

There are two things that are most interesting in the evolution of law enforcement over the past 50 years. First, one can see that Community Policing, like its political and professional predecessors, cannot be some program run by a few people out of a few offices. It must pass through the entire organization. Just like the professional model, with which most of us are familiar, everyone in the organization must embrace and exhibit community-policing behaviors in their daily work. But, it’s the second aspect of this evolution that seems to be causing the most confusion; the multi-year gaps that exist between these three organizational models. “Someone didn’t just “flip a switch” turning the political model off and the professional model on. In fact, it took several years of pulling away from the political model before we could even see the professional model taking shape” (Zhao, 346).

Almost thirty years later, there is a new model for policing. It is an evolutionary and not revolutionary philosophy that attempts to refocus the nature of policing to a law enforcement that tries to do two things: first bring police officers and citizens together in neighborhoods, second, give the police responsibility for solving problems in the community. By bringing the law enforcement officer closer to the community, officers initiate trust and communication. Through the development of trust and communication, the neighborhood is going to be closely monitored and citizens are more likely to report problems. The community does not need to be the problem solver, they merely aid law enforcement officers in their primary duties – to protect and serve the public interest.

Citizens rely on community policing to ensure that their concerns and problems are included in the setting of police policy and priorities. “At the center of community policing are three essential and complementary core components: community partnership, problem solving, and change management” (www.communitypolicing.com). Community partnership identifies the importance of the people in dealing with the policing process. The society needs to come together as one or as a whole and educate each other on the problems of crime in the neighborhoods. They need to work out an effective plan that can involve each person to help with the deterioration in the neighborhoods. Problem solving recognizes the specific concerns that community members feel are most threatening to their safety and well-being. These areas of concern then become priorities for the police-community intervention. Change management requires a clear recognition that shapes community policing partnerships and beginning problem-solving activities will require changes in the organizational structure of policing. Properly managed change involves a recognition of the need for change, the communication that change is possible, the identification of the concrete steps needed for change to occur, the development of an understanding of the benefits of change, as well as the creation of an organization-wide commitment to change. By including citizens, police are more likely to receive the support and cooperation of the public.

Community policing offer a broad range of functions. They are there to ensure the citizens that they are responding to their concerns and problems along with developing new skills that will better serve the community. There are ten basic principles of community policing:

1. Philosophy and Organizational Strategy: The philosophy rests on the belief that people deserve input into the police process, in exchange for their participation and support. It also rests on the belief that solutions to today’s community problems demand freeing both people and the police to explore creative, new ways to address neighborhood concerns beyond a narrow focus on individual crime incidents.

2. Commitment to Community Empowerment: This demands making a subtle but sophisticated shift so that everyone in the department understands the need to focus on solving community problems in creative, and often ways, that can include challenging and enlightening people in the process of policing themselves.

3. Decentralized and Personalized Policing: To implement true community policing, police departments must also create and develop a new breed of line officer who acts as a direct link between the police and the people in the community.

4. Immediate and Long-Term Proactive Problem Solving: The community policing officer’s broad role demands continuous, sustained contact with the law-abiding people in the community, so that together they can explore creative new solutions to local concerns, with private citizens serving as supporters and as volunteers.

5. Ethics, Legality, Responsibility, and Trust: This new relationship, based on mutual trust and respect, also suggests that the police can serve as a catalyst, challenging people to accept their share of responsibility for the overall quality of life in the community. Community policing means that citizens will be asked to handle more of their minor concerns themselves, but in exchange, this will free police to work with people on developing immediate as well as long-term solutions for community concerns in ways that encourage mutual accountability and respect.

6. Expanding the Police Mandate: Community policing adds a vital, proactive element to the traditional reactive role of the police, resulting in full-spectrum policing service.

7. Helping Those with Special Needs: Community policing stresses exploring new ways to protect and enhance the lives of those who are most vulnerable-juveniles, the elderly, minorities, the poor, the disabled and the homeless.

8. Grass-Roots Creativity and Support: Community policing promotes the judicious use of technology, but it also rests on the belief that nothing surpasses what dedicated human beings, talking and working together, can achieve.

9. Internal Change: Community policing must be a fully integrated approach that involves everyone in the department, with community policing officers serving as generalist who bridge the gap between the police and the people they serve. They play a crucial role internally by providing information about the awareness of the community and its problems, and by enlisting broad-based community support for the department’s overall objectives.

10. Building for the future: Community policing provides decentralized personalized police service to the community. It recognizes that the police cannot impose order on the community from the outside, but that people must be encouraged to think of the police as a resource that they can use in helping to solve contemporary community concerns. It is not a tactic to be applied and then abandoned, but a new philosophy and organizational strategy that provides the flexibility to meet local needs and priorities as they change over time. (www.dps.state.mo.us/dps/programs/cmprev/commpol.html)

In many cities, large areas have been taking over by youth gangs and drug dealers. Due to this, many programs are emerging to help protect communities along with helping the children of the communities. Community patrol officer program (CPOP) is a type of community policing commenced as a pilot project in 1994 in New York City; officers were assigned to foot patrols for 16- to 60- block beats; seventy-five precincts used CPOP by 1989. The most important function of CPOP was the prevention of street-level drug problems. Police officers have begun to assist communities in establishing neighborhood watch programs. This program uses neighborhood residents, particularly during evening hours to watch for criminal conduct. Juveniles usually do not or cannot understand the point of view of police officers. Therefore, many intervention programs have been established to help the youth. Drug Abuse Resistance Education or D.A.R.E. allows police officers to familiar elementary school children about drugs and drug laws and teaches them to say no to drugs. Children also learn how to recognize illegal drugs and about different types of drugs and their hostile effects. T.I.P.S., which means Teaching Individuals Protective Strategies is geared to helping youths in schools, acquire the reasoning ability for responsible decision making. G.R.E.A.T., which is Gang Resistance Education and Training, involves police officers that visit schools and interact with students on a regular basis over a specific time period. Here, the youth can learn to overcome peer pressure involving drug use and joining gangs. Alateen is designed for youths who have alcohol problems or have parents with alcohol problems. These are only a few of the many programs operating throughout the United States involving police in positive roles. These programs will not necessarily turn around a community or the youths, but it will make them aware of a positive side of police officers.

Team policing involves teams of police officers, detectives, and other personnel assigned to a particular community area to work in a coordinated way in solving crimes. There are many different types of team policing. The most common types today are (1) animals, (2) human,

(3) mechanical, and (4) electronic. These functions include patrolling by foot, automobile, aircraft, motorcycle, horse, dog, boat, bicycle, video camera, and television. The application and type of enforcement patrol greatly influence the ability of the officer(s) to communicate with the public (Lurigio 230-232).

The recruitment process for police applicants is a combination of several steps and processes from a variety of police agencies across the United States. Every department has their own way of recruitment. However, there are two requirements that remain constant: General Equivalency Diploma (GED), high school diploma, and a U.S. citizenship. Most police departments require testing and a background check before a person is hired. A written and oral examination is usually the first step in recruitment. This examination includes objective questions and short essays, which test for grammar, verbal expression, comprehension, and observation-description skills. “Some written examinations ask job-specific questions to gauge their knowledge of the law, police procedure, use-of-force issues and the like (Champion 122-123). Most of these questions and scenarios are based on common sense. Others deal with integrity and ethical behavior. Psychological Screenings examine many individual traits that could lead to future liability cases. These liabilities might lead to costly law suites; destructive behavior that might effect the appearance of the department. “Prior to the oral psychological screening, each applicant generally is given the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) evaluation, which takes approximately one hour. The results of this test are used by the screening psychologist in the evaluative positions” (Champion 124). Background interviews require an officer to meet with the background investigator, who may ask several questions to clarify points on the application. The final step in the selection process is the ground investigation. “Internal investigators perform thorough background checks by contacting an applicant’s previous employers, neighbors, friends, teacher, professors, and anyone else who can verify the applicant’s employment record, performance, and selected character traits” (Champion 124). References are used to expand the investigative process. This is because applicants tend to provide references only from people who will give them good evaluations. Polygraph tests are also used to clarify any information that is doubtful or unclear. “While specific tests may be developed to meet the unique needs of a given department, a contemporary perspective of recruiting must be conceived. The intent of this perspective is to ensure that the best quality police officers are employed who not only have the desired qualifications but also reflect the demographic characteristics of the community” (www.wsurcpi.org/papers/policy_papers/hr_com_police.html).

Training in community policing can be very difficult. Training needs may very even within a given department depending on the types of communities in which officers are working. A few of the important topics that officers need to consider when training are: communication skills, logical thinking and deductive reasoning, self assurance training, community organization and stimulus, negotiation skills, and resources available in the community and the methods of making referrals. Learning these qualities during training will help an officer gain the ability to work effectively in a community, and in any given situation. In academic training, community police officers along with other officers, learn about many different issues. A few examples include, sociology, criminology, psychology, communication skills, and computer science. These topics allow an officer to have a better understanding of people, crime, society, and technology.

In dealing with the community on a daily basis, officers may experience difficult situations that may lead to stress.

Therefore, it is understood that a degree of stress should be placed on aspiring officers to measure and evaluate their resolve, courage, approach, tactics, restraint, ethics, and common sense. These new officers must go into the community under the supervision of a field training officer to exercise independent action and demonstrate the ability to deal with a myriad of problems (Champion 135).

With proper training, officers are provided with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in a community.

In the future, community policing has hopes for bright ideas and stronger communities. However, in order for these hopes to become a reality community police officers need to make changes as the society changes.

An effort has been made to highlight some issues viewed as central to our ability to police such as changing society. It is vital that law enforcement administrators understand that:

*Powerful dynamics are transfiguring virtually every facet of American Society

*The forces that are recasting social institutions will also alter law enforcement


*As society’s values change, so will those of law enforcement personnel

*To deal effectively with diversity, the process of change must be understood

*The role and goals of policing must be clearly and concisely articulated. (www.totse.com/files/FA019?futofpol.htm)

In order for community policing to continue to survive, a strong commitment to the officers and the citizens must be met. The officers must be willing to inform, communicate, and use various problem-solving skills in order to provide the right assistance. The community must put forth the effort and determination to want change. They must also be able to listen and provide the information and ideas to better their community. Without the efforts of the officers and the community, community policing will not exist in the future.

In the past decades, new models of policing have emerged. Community policing was formed out of these new models of policing. When community policing was formed, interaction with citizens was rare. As time progressed, citizens and officers now work together to shape a better community. Community policing allows an officer to become familiar with the citizens needs and concerns. It allows them to interact with the community on a daily and face-to-face basis instead of catching a glimpse of a patrol car riding through the community. While community police continue to handle and fight crimes in communities, the police and community work together to help improve the conditions in the community. In order to serve the community better, there are many different methods of community policing. Only with the support and understanding of the community, then community policing will be able to accomplish challenges and goals. Without that support, community policing will fall short. Community policing therefore requires that everyone in the community must become involved. In order to carry the message that community policing can be successful, it needs the support of the officers along with the community.

“About Community Policing.” 12 October 2000 .

Champion, Dean J. Policing In the Community. New Jersey: Upper

Saddle River, 1997

Lurigio, Arthur J. “An Inside Look At Community Policing Reform: Definitions,

Organizational Changes, and Evaluation Findings.” Crime & Delinquency July 1994: 230-232.

“Ten Principles of Community Policing.” 12 October 2000 .

Thayer, Ralph E. “Community Oriented Policing.” Journal Of Planning Literature 12.1 (1997) :


“The Future of Policing.” 10 October 2000 .

Zhao, Jihong. “Community Policing: Where Are We Now?” Crime & Delinquency 43.3

(1997) : 346.

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