What Is Community Policing?
Effective community policing has a positive impact on reducing neighborhood crime, helping to reduce fear of crime and enhancing the quality of life in the community. It accomplishes these things by combining the efforts and resources of the police, local government and community members.
An Idea for the Times
Community policing is a collaborative effort between the police and the community that identifies problems of crime and disorder and involves all elements of the community in the search for solutions to these problems. It is founded on close, mutually beneficial ties between police and community members.
Community policing offers a way for law enforcement to help re-energize our communities. Developing strong, self-sufficient communities is an essential step in creating an atmosphere in which serious crime will not flourish.
A Practical Approach to Problems
Community policing seeks the input and talents of all members of the community in the effort to safeguard our neighborhoods.
Leaders at the highest levels of government are advocating community policing. It has even been suggested that community policing can play a primary role in directing the way government services are provided at the community level.
Getting Back to the People
At the center of community policing are three essential and complementary core components: community partnership, problem solving and change management.
Community partnership recognizes the value of bringing the people back into the policing process. All elements of society must pull together as never before if we are to deal effectively with the unacceptable level of crime claiming our neighborhoods.
Problem solving identifies the specific concerns that community members feel are most threatening to their safety and well being. These areas of concern then become priorities for joint police-community interventions.
Change management requires a clear recognition that forging community policing partnerships and implementing problem-solving activities will necessitate changes in the organizational structure of policing. Properly managed change involves a recognition of the need for change, the communication of a clear vision that change is possible, the identification of the concrete steps needed for positive 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.
What Makes Community Policing Different?
Law enforcement has long recognized the need for cooperation with the community it serves. Officers speak to neighborhood groups, participate in business and civic events, consult with social agencies and take part in education programs for school children. Foot, bike and horse patrols bring police closer to the community.
More Effective Ways to Solve Ongoing Problems
Law enforcement leaders seeking innovative ways to enhance performance and maximize resources have struck a responsive chord across the nation with a variety of community policing initiatives. Government and community leaders are increasingly cognizant that they must accept a share of the responsibility for problems caused by lapses in many areas of society. Police have long borne a disproportionate share of this burden.
Renewed Emphasis on Crime Prevention
Law enforcement is looking to enhance its tough stance on crime with renewed focus on strategies that help prevent crime, reduce fear of crime and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. This requires an intimate knowledge of the community.
Policing concepts currently in vogue have tended to isolate officers from the communities they serve which can hamper crime-control efforts. Community policing allows law enforcement to get back to the principles upon which it was founded, to integrate itself once again into the fabric of the community so that the people come to the police for counsel and help before a serious problem arises, not after the fact.
How Does Community Policing Work?
Expanded Policing Goals
Crime prevention takes on renewed importance in community policing as the police and the community become partners in addressing problems of disorder and neglect that can breed serious crime. As links between the police and the community are strengthened over time, the partnership is better able to pinpoint and mitigate the underlying causes of crime.
Community Policing Relies on Active Community Involvement
Community policing recognizes that community involvement gives new dimension to crime- control activities. While police continue to handle crime fighting and law enforcement responsibilities, the police and community work together to modify conditions that can encourage criminal behavior. The resources available within communities allow for an expanded focus on crime-prevention activities.
Police Services Delivered Through the Neighborhood Patrol Officer
Patrol officers and deputies are the primary providers of police services in community policing efforts. They handle the daily policing needs of the community. The entire police organization backs the efforts of the neighborhood officers.
Effective community policing depends on optimizing contact between patrol officers and community members so that the officer develops an intimate knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the community and becomes a familiar figure to community members.
Trust Is the Heart
Establishing and maintaining mutual trust is the central goal of community partnership. Trust will give the police greater access to valuable information that can lead to the prevention of and solution of crimes. It will also engender support for police activities and provide a basis for a productive working relationship with the community that will find solutions to local problems.
Given the current climate of distrust in many of our communities, sheriffs and police chiefs and their officers will need to make a concerted effort to forge bonds of understanding and cooperation with community members. Building trust will require ongoing effort, but it is essential to effective community policing.
Long-term Commitment Needed
Community policing does not offer a quick fix. It requires a long-term commitment by police to work with community members to reach mutually agreed-upon goals. Forming lasting partnerships to eradicate the underlying causes of crime will take effort, time and patience on the part of all involved.
Law enforcement is finding that in addition to bringing police closer to the people, community policing offers a myriad of other benefits. Making effective use of the talents and resources available within communities will help extend severely strained police resources. As police interaction with the community becomes more positive, productive partnerships will be formed, leading to greater satisfaction with police services and increased job satisfaction among officers. Reduced levels of crime will allow more police resources to be allocated to services that have the greatest impact on the quality of community life.