Community Policing and the Community

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Different types of policing models exist mainly depending on the way or focus to solving problems and carrying out the duties of policing. Community Policing is a form of policing which focuses on the use of the community to collaborate with the police, as a way of dealing with crime and criminals. The community assists the police by providing the necessary information that police can act on to trace crime or criminals in the community, as well as putting the necessary measures that can help avoid or stop the crime before it takes place. Generally, policing can either be proactive or reactive policing.

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The latter involves police response to calls and carrying out routine patrols and investigations (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999; Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994) after a request is expressed by individuals or groups from the community, while the former involves the police using their own developed (Crank, 1998; Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994) information to initiate and implement strategies to suppress crime. Community policing requires trust in the community and the police so as to function properly.

History Policing and Community Policing

The initial police movements focused on countering crime once it happened more than they focused on preventing crime before it happened through planning and strategizing. Like industrial systems aimed at preventing the occurrence of problems other than solving the problems after they occur, policing in a strategic and special way such as community policing arose or developed as a need to control crime before it happened other than countering crime through the use of force or other methods once it occurred.

The governmental reform era in 1900’s, together with the focus on professionalism throughout the United States resulted to the separation of the police forces from the rest of the communities (Kelling & Moore 1988), and the police were deployed in rotating shifts and geographical locations to do away with corruption. This was also because of the necessity to have centralized control of operation which was to make sure that the employees complied with the stipulated operational guidelines and procedures and encourage impartiality through professionalism (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994). Expanding of community policing was also enhanced and facilitated by the automobile which replaced foot patrolling.

Further developments in the technology such as the evolution of telephony enhanced the policing department to help them to quickly respond to the needs in the community. By the 1970s, the 911 system of contact calls was in use and initially slower pace, but further developments in technology allowed an almost instantaneous transmission of calls which improved police response.

Rapid response was hampered by increased technological inventions like the computer which eliminated or reduced some of the activities carried out by the police such as generating crime pattern data, crime trend, among others. In addition, the inventions encouraged the officers and the management to focus on data and the related information rather than the type of service provided. This compromised the contact between the members of the public and the police (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994). Interaction between the members of the public also was negatively affected by the emergence of unpredictable police patrols as an effort to thwart criminals.

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Further, the era of social change which complicated communication between the various fragments of the society and the police, came with increasing crime so much that the society and the police were viewed as two opposing groups, the “we and them”. Change in the policing method arose also as a result of the social movements’ activities and events of the 1960s and 1970s as the civil rights activists, antiwar protestors and other groups demanded changes in the government. The police practices were called to reexamination by the politicians and the leaders as a result of their failure to effectively counteract urban unrest.

Commissions such as the Presidential Commissions in the United States that were formed between 1968 and 1973 contributed by recommending the changes, recommendations that received responses through research from the outsiders. Research and funding education for policing facilitated changes in the method of policing to such models like community policing for improved performance. In addition, the change was fostered by organizations within the police force which wanted to improve policing.

These included the Police Foundation among others. Research studies supporting the ideas of community policing emanated and included; the study by the Kansas City Police Department which found out that rapid response did not solve crime in most cases (Kansas City Police Department, 1980), the Kansas City Prevention Patrol Experiment which found a limited impact of randomized police patrolling, (Kelling, Pate, Dieckman, & Brown, 1974), and the first empirical study of community policing carried out by the San Diego Department which looked into the relation between criminal avoidance and the “field interrogation of suspicious persons, and community-oriented policing project” (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1984; Boydstun, & Sherry, 1975).

Today, the policing reform agenda is facilitated even by the police departments themselves. The number of departments that employed personnel referred to as community police in the United States went up to 64% from 34% in the period between 1997 and 1999 while the absolute number of community police officers went to 113, 000 from 21,000 (Hickman, & Reaves, 2001; Scheider & Chapman, 2003).

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Reactive and Active policing

Proactive policing has the basic idea of using intelligence to approach crime-solving through identification, analysis and management of risk. Solving crime through intelligence requires specialized machines which are necessitated at the same time by the increasing incidences of crime. On contrast, the reactive model of policing responds to the criminal incidences that have already happened. Solving of criminal in reactive models is based on the information collected from the victims, the suspects and witnesses where applicable. This method was in use or still is as a result of imposition to the officers through regulations, lack or rejection of use of tools to apply better methods.

The problems with the reactive model of policing have been identified. It fails to completely clear-up crime sometimes even when incidents of crime are reported (Audit Commission, 1993, 1996; Johnston, 2000; Huremagić, n.d.). In cases where the criminal does not leave any trace or evidence, it may be hard to gather information pertaining crime that has already taken place and follow-up or solving it may be hard. This model does not allow the police officers to participate more in building the community and fostering the relationship between the forces and the community than does the proactive model.

Reactive model of policing is hard to completely replace for dealing with some criminal activities where intelligence services cannot work or are not efficient enough, but it is unable to compete with increasing crime rate and trends. In addition, the methods of organized crime have evolved in reference to this method of crime and therefore there is need for replacement. The organized crime has been complicated with time, for example the current organized crime associated with terrorism. Thus, development in methods to counter organized and high-tech crime requires invention for detection. Thus proactive policing has arisen as a new strategy from the older model in dealing with criminal (Maguire and John, 1995; Huremagić, n.d.). Surveillance, informants, and intelligence are the focus of proactive policing.

Informants are today used before crime unlike in the past it was used after crime to detect criminals or collect evidence. Intelligence-led policing is applicable in other areas like public order, and this is different from the proactive model which focuses on the crime investigation through a particular approach and specific techniques (Barton and Evans, 1999; Huremagić, n.d). Together with problem-oriented policing which seek to solve underlying causes of secondary problems, these models focuses on future solutions and a strategic focus to identify, analyze, manage risks and problems which have the possibility of happening or leading to other problems.

Reactive policing refers to the mode of policing where the police focus on calls for service. Scheider & Chapman (2003) hold the opinion that community policing focuses on an active problem solving and that its philosophy is helpful in preparing for terrorism and dealing with the fear created thereof. This model of policing is concerned with organizational change and external partnerships and makes possible control of crime, providing services and maintaining of order on an equality basis (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990 & Wilson, 1968).

The two components of community policing are first, the community partnership where the police must work to integrate the community to address their concerns, and secondly, problem solving in which the possible problems are identified, studied and necessary strategies aimed at resolving these problems are sought and implemented.

Organizational Change

The objectives, missions, goals of the organization need to be changed while adopting community policing. In addition to this, all the systems defining organizational culture and activities need to reflect community policing. These are training, promotion, hiring, evaluation and performance. Departments of community policing do not emphasize much on hierarchical and lower-levels can participate in decision-making. Individuals even at the lower levels can make important decisions but will be held responsible for their outcomes. Community policing necessitate deployment of the officers in certain geographical locations for some considerable time and this gives the officers the chance to build specific intelligence on that area of residence and the community activities which can boost action to counter crime through intelligence.

Community policing programs have been indicated to play an important role in eliminating and or reducing fear amongst the members of the public which can help alleviate the living standards of people, for example after criminal attacks such as terrorism (Scheider & Chapman, 2003; Dietz, 1997). In addition Scheider & Chapman indicate that dealing with fear may help to eliminate the possibility of feeling of revenge such as illegal bigotry and hate crimes against members who are associated with certain crime such as terrorism. Active participation of the police in not only solving the problems in the society but also helping build the community can boost trust and partnership between the police forces and the community. The following is an example of reactive policing;

  • A member of the public engages in robbery, the victim reports to the police and the police begin investigations. The police collect information through statements from the victim. The police use this information to arrest the suspects. The suspects record statements with the police and the police also interrogate the members of the public or the suspects to arrest more suspects. The suspects are tried, jailed or released based on the information they provide or provided in the statements.

The following is an example of proactive policing applied;

  • The members of the community inform the police officers of a possible demonstration by the members of the public as a result of the deteriorated state of a certain neighborhood. The police do not wait until the demonstration take place, but moves on to attend to the state of the neighborhood based on the information provided. The police lobbies for support from the members of the public to improve the state of the neighborhood and consult the necessary authority like the local authorities. The members of the society help the police and the authorities to improving the neighborhood and the demonstration does not take place.

The connection between the police and community

Community partnership is one of the two core components of community policing according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the United States. Success of community policing requires an optimization of the positive contact between the police and the members of the public and building of trust among the members of the public and the police force. This is because the community will provide useful information at best when they perceive that the police intend to use the information for their help, and that the police officers are trusted to handle the situations in question in the best interest of the public. Gaining trust however may take time especially after it has been lost (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994).

Trust among the police force by the members of the society is lost through excessive use of force, rudeness of the officers, aloofness, arrogance, and engagement of police officers in criminal activities among other practices. The importance of trust as fundamental of the partnership is that it facilitates the contact between the two participants and this contact necessitates proper convey of information or communication between the two. Once this is achieved, the process of community partnership is built.

The achieving of this collaboration is complicated further by the way the modern society is disintegrated. The police must not only involve the public, but also focus on the integration of schools, hospitals, families and businesses to their resources as well. Thus the police forces focusing on this model are required to participate in a number of activities that would accomplish the process of partnership through bonding them with the members of the public.

The need to build the trust, may require the police to get involved in activities that “exceeds law enforcement standards” according to the American Bureau of Justice Assistance (1994). These activities include solving family violence, settling disputes between the landlord and the tenants, helping victims in accidents, and crime scenes, participating in improvements of the neighborhoods and ensuring protection of the rights of the citizens. The involvement in these activities will improve the officers’ access to information pertaining crime and control or prevention.

The co-operation between the police and the public must according to the Bureau of Justice for Assistance (1994) break the old tendency view of a “authority versus subordinate” and “expert versus the novice” and the collaboration should not be limited as to time and to particular incidents or series of them. Although the conspicuous presence of the police through long-term patrolling officer may encourage response from the community, the police force must be willing to build cooperation and pursue goals of stopping crime and maintaining order in the community. An example is an officer who engages in talking to the members of the business organization so as to identify their needs and concerns. In addition, the members of the community must be made aware of the controversial tactics the police intends to use or is already using to counter and suppress crime so as to eliminate suspicion.

The problem solving is another component of community policing which works by manipulating the physical and social characteristics of an area so as to reduce the possibility of occurrence of crime through actions of the members of the public while reacting to the conditions presented by these factors (Goldstein, 1990; Scott, 2000; Wilson & Kelling, 1982). The model assumes that the choices made by individual members of the public will be according to the physical and social characteristics of the area. The conditions generating these problems may be the characteristics of the people themselves such as the offenders and potential victims or the conditions of the surroundings.

The conditions of the surroundings might for example lead to the generation of other problems, for instance, the enraged residents of an apartment whose conditions have deteriorated may end up intimidating people on the streets. Since the community is likely to identify the initial problems that are in their neighborhood than the police, and that since police would be required to solve the secondary problem, it would therefore be necessary that they solve the initial problem which could be identified more easily and quickly by the cooperation between the police and the members of the community. Failure to cooperate may mean that the initial problem may never be identified, or that the identification may be delayed. The problem will again be eliminated completely if the initial cause is identified and solved.

The importance of the cooperation between the police and the community is necessary to aid identification of the needs to prioritize. Without such collaboration, the police force may focus attention on solving certain problems that they perceive to be of priority, but because the members of the public view other problems to be of priority, the members of the public may increasingly oppose the efforts of the police to solve the problem the latter are solving. The interesting fact in this consideration is that although some problems are more serious than others (which may tend to be the focus of the police force), some of the lesser serious problems are in fact prioritized by the members of the public than some of the more serious ones.

For example, Sparrow, Malcolm, Moore, and Kennedy (1990; cited in Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994) noted what was reported by a police captain that in a certain community, what the police had thought as important was not to the members of the public, and some of what the police thought were not important at all like abandoned cars, were very important to the members of the public.

The members of the public gave a high opinion about the police after they began removing the cars whereas before this they thought that “it was a bad police department that wouldn’t take care of them”, (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994), although they substituted this activity and were arresting fewer drug addicts afterwards. Therefore the perception amongst the members of the society concerning effectiveness of the police may be improved by giving priority to and focusing on those activities that the general public regards as of priority. This is applicable in most cases because the general masses will judge amongst themselves what is of priority say through consensus or by majority in numbers, and that because the police are there to serve the interests of the masses.


Community policing is a mode of policing that focuses on reducing or eliminating crime through the support of the community. Community policing developed for need of controlling crime either through intelligence-led means, problem-solving means or proactive policing. The government reform era of the 1900s in the United States came up with the separation of the police force from the rest of the members of public. The police were located to certain places to end corruption.

There was also the need to have centralized operations. Although technological innovation and developments boosted police operations, the police became detached from the members of society also partly because of innovation that made the officers and managers rely more on data and information than the type of service provided. The police were unable to cope with the demands of the 1600s and 1700s; public outcry, and the leaders and politicians wanted changes in the policing. The time for reforms in the governmental structures including the police was also a step towards the police reform to community policing. Research has contributed in the development and the evolution of community policing. Community policing then emerged as a model of policing.

In community policing, the community not only provides the necessary information that helps the police identify crime, but also which helps the police identify the rest of the needs and priorities to focus on. Community policing requires that the police engage in activities which are beyond what is required in law. In this model, hierarchical structure of decision-making may not be much emphasized but that the lower ranked officers may be free to make decisions but held accountable for their actions. Community policing assists in building a bond between the police and the community, and activities more than policing are possible.

The community and the police become integrated to the community to assist one another through trust. Community policing can help the police solve problems in the society and eliminate cases of the public opposing the government and the forces because it may foster understanding. In addition, it may solve other things related to crime such as fear among the members of the society after terrorism attacks. The police may engage in activities of building the community together with the members of the public. Proactive policing was a shift of focus from the reactive model of policing. Reactive policing involved the model where the police would “wait for a call to act”.

In this model, the police mostly relied on the information not theirs: information usually came from the victims, witnesses or the suspects after the crime took place. This model has the disadvantage of not being effective and exhaustive to cases some even when reported. This is because the criminal may not leave evidence on the crime scene. This model, although cannot be completely replaced in some cases of dealing with crime, it cannot cope with increasing rate of crime and crime tendency. Organized crime incidences have occurred in reference to the ineffective reactive model of policing. In addition, proactive policing has been used as the new model to deal with crime.

Community policing may be achieved by the deployment of police officers in a certain place over a considerable length of time and in a certain geographical area. The officers may have a chance of building intelligence about the community and the police which may help reduce or eliminate crime. Trust is important in achieving community policing, and achieving this trust may be discouraged by the police’s engagement in crime activities, intimidation of the members of public, excessive use of force, arrogance, aloofness and rudeness towards the public.


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