Community Based Policing Essay Research Paper From

Community Based Policing Essay, Research Paper

From: To: QUICKPAPERS@TOTALLY.NET Subject: Submit a paperDate: Tuesday, November 04, 1997 2:34 PMTitle: Community based PolicingCategory: otherDescription:Body of paper: Does community-based policing reach societies desired outcome and expectations? This is one of many questions we may have about the fairly new and controversial subject of community policing. To best answer some of these questions we must define community-based policing. As stated by Zhao (1997) community policing is both a philosophy (a way of thinking) and an organizational strategy (a way to carry out a philosophy) that allows the police and the community to work closely together to create ways to solve crime and better yet, to prevent it from happening at all. 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. While traditional methods of policing fail to provide desired levels of crime control and public safety, police departments across the Nation search for new and innovative ways to provide law enforcement services to their communities. In recent years, community-oriented policing has emerged as the method of choice for many law enforcement agencies (Springer, 1994). As part of the conversion from traditional policing methods to community-orientated policing, agencies have become more reliant on a “new breed” of police officers better suited for performing proactive, citizen-oriented policing functions in their communities (Trojanowicz, 1990). Traditional policing focuses on reducing crime by arresting the bad guys. Not only does this risk demonizing everyone who lives in high crime areas, it requires relying on rapid response which makes it almostimpossible for the police to avoid being strangers to the community. This concept also suffers from reducing the role of the law-abiding citizens in the community primarily to that of a passive by-stander. As briefly stated earlier, Trojanowicz (1990) explains that community policing takes a different approach to crime, drugs, and disorder, one that can augment and enhance traditional tactics such as rapid response and undercover operations. One of the most obvious differences is that community policing involves average citizens directly in the police process. Traditional policing patronizes the community by setting up the police as the experts who have all the answers. In contrast, community policing empowers average citizens by enlisting them as partners with the police in efforts to make their communities better and safer places to live and work. Many people may say that community policing is a program, but it really is not. A program has a beginning and an end as community policing should not. According to Alder & White (1994) community policing produces improved relations between people and their police as a welcome by-product of delivering high-quality decentralized and personalized police service to the community at the grass roots level. To summarize, community orientated policing is a matter of giving people what they deserve. The innocent deserve the highest level of protection we can provide, they have the right to feel secure and that feeling may be as important as actually being secure. The guilty on the other hand must feel that the criminal activity and acts will be discovered and prosecuted and that they will become the object of unremitting attention (Silberman, 1992). To better understand today s debate over community policing, law enforcement administrators should study their history (Patterson, 1995). History shows that perhapsthe most enduring and influential innovation introduced was the establishment of regular patrol areas, known as “beats.” We seemed to steer away from these in America after the invention of the patrol car and two-way radio. Trojanowicz (1990) says that community policing must be a fully integrated approach that involves everyone in the department, with community policing officers serving as generalists who bridge the gap between the police and the people they serve. The community policing approach plays a crucial role internally by providing information about and awareness of the community and its problems, and by enlisting broad-based community support for the departments overall objectives. Once community policing is accepted as the long-term strategy, all officers should practice it. It is estimated that this could take as long as fifteen years (1990). The role of the police is to enforce the law, not to question it. This means that the police have been used to do societies dirty work. Lord (1996) explains that the police often assume that people worry most about the serious index crimes of murder, rape, and robbery only to find that people in the community care more about a totally different list of concerns. He also explains that community policing takes a proactive approach to crime and disorder, while traditional policing is reactive. Studies confirm that what people really want is crime prevention to be spared from becoming a victim (Fink, 1974). Community policing focuses on solving the problem, and arrest is obviously one of the most potent tools that community officers can use. Yet all too often with the traditional approach, making arrests drives the agenda, regardless of whether or not the problem on the street is solved (Lord, 1996). There are not statistics that show how many people community policing diverts from the formal system, but it may be part of the answer in reducing the

number of people that we lock up (Patterson, 1995). Patterson (1995) also states, “the United States now incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation on earth, yet we continue to suffer rates of serious crime far beyond what other industrialized Western nations endure.” The U.S. murder rate alone is four times that of Canada, eight times the rate in West Germany, and 10 times the rate in Japan. We must begin to think of jail and prison space as a precious resource that we can not squander. We cannot allow a flood of criminals coming into the system to impel the early release of those who have demonstrated that they will seriously harm us, given the chance. We must find community-based alternatives to incarceration for those who commit property crimes and lesser drug offenses (Silberman, 1992). Also an example by Silberman (1992), in Ontario, Canada first-time juvenile offenders who are offered diversion are automatically turned over to the community officers in their neighborhoods. The officers supervise these youngsters in community-based efforts to improve the physical appearance of the neighborhood trash removal, painting, planting flowers. According to the officers involved, everyone wins. The youngsters learn the special satisfaction that comes from a job well done and of doing something to benefit the community. The youngsters also learn that the police are human and they care for them. As mentioned by Springer (1994), community policing represents an innovative form of policing that shows great promise in many communities around the Nation. It can be extremely beneficial to all parties involved municipalities, communities, police departments, and individual officers. However, this method of policing also harbors some potentially lethal side effects. The increased interaction with a broad range of citizensinherent in community-oriented policing requires that officers be prepared to asses and respond quickly to a multitude of scenarios. However, few departments provide the training necessary to accomplish this complex task fully. Additional specific problems associated with this concept are outlined by Lord (1996). Some of the specific stressors found to be affecting officers are not unique to a department implementing community policing. These include issues surrounding role conflict, role ambiguity, and future job ambiguity; however, additional areas appear to be directly related to the major change of community policing that the department is implementing. Patterson (1995) describes community-based policing as being the most widely used term for a loosely defined set of police philosophies, strategies and tactics known either as problem-oriented policing or neighborhood-oriented policing. Community policing has encountered many stumbling blocks at the operational level nearly everywhere it has been tried. Indeed not all anecdotal evidence has been positive. In fact, community policing initiatives have been severely scaled back in two of its most prominent settings Houston, Texas, and New York City (Patterson 1995). Yet another problem with this controversial concept is described by Patterson (1995) as with police-community relations and team policing, cities often attempt to implement community policing through small, specialized units in well-defined neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to the alienation of some officers and to claims that the police are ignoring other residents. The last major area of resistance was just touched on by Zhao (1997) when he stated, “community policing reform comes from those who see the importance of the human touch, but who argue that this should be the job of social workers, not the police.” In closing, community policing will succeed or fail based on the efforts of all of us, especially those of us on the front lines. It strongly depends on the effort of the community and how this concept is to be implemented. As mentioned by Patterson (1995) Police administrators should acknowledge that crime is a natural condition of society, not a problem to be solved, so that neither they, their personnel, their political leaders, nor the public will be deluded into unrealistic expectations by new programs. Although, it may eventually be the case that police administrators will have to show evidence that real changes have occurred that fit the community policing image, reality so far has not yet caught up with the rhetoric of community policing (Zhao, 1997). This paper was written by Preston Johansen and they can be reached at


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