Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability


There has been the urge to improve the image of the police agency especially regarding its efficiency, effectiveness, and sensitivity in dealing with the community in their work towards maintaining law and order. The transition has been aimed for the good of both the police and the community and has been pushed by the fact that police were involved in corrupt deals and therefore could not enforce the law effectively. It aimed at holding the police accountable for their actions and practices and to control the level of violence. The initial reforms involved the use of technology for instance; radio, cars, and telephone, and also training of the police force. There has been major evolution of the policing movements from tradition, community, problem-oriented to zero-tolerance policing. This paper emphasizes traditional and community policing and tries to compare and contrast the two on aspects of efficiency and accountability.

Background Information of Policing

The police system faced challenges in the late 1950s to 1960s. This was due to the merging of groups that were earlier separated; the youth culture, the civil rights, and the Vietnam anti-war movements. This made the police react to this in a bad manner that involved violence and their lack of accountability was evident to everybody. This brought about the communities’ negative attitude as they saw the police to be the cause of their problems rather than being in the lead in solving their problems. Consequently, this had a direct impact on the American policing and reforms were to take place in the structure and organization of the police agency to instill aspects of accountability and efficiency in the police force. The urge to create a good relationship between the police and the community arose from within the police institution and outside. The community relation movement/ policing assisted in instilling this attitude of cooperation between the community and the police to achieve mutual benefits. There was also team policing though they both failed but are the origin of the later policing strategies like community policing and problem-oriented policing. There has been an evolution of the policing movement from tradition to community policing then to problem-oriented policing and finally to zero-tolerance policing (Dempsey and Forst, 2009).

The Police and Police Department

To understand the aspect of policing it is important to know the functions of the police and the police department. The functions of the police department include initiating and reviewing policies of public safety and security, providing professional development and training to the police, supervising safety and security matters in the nation, coming up with development programs that help curb crime in the nation, and working together with the community to come up with strategies that prevent crime and solve community problems. The functions of the police include; handling complaints made by the community, conducting searches, identifying and arresting offenders, assisting prosecutors in preparation of cases for trial, conducting a preventive patrol as assigned, attending training as instructed and training new police officers, performing security inspections on buildings and making recommendations regarding security, seeking and serving arrest warrants, search warrants and other documents related to the courts, appearing and testifying in court and other proceedings, preparing accurate reports regarding their activities and always being keen to observe any form of violation of the law and taking necessary actions, etc (Siegel, 2009).

Traditional Policing

Traditional policing is a system that consists of officers that execute their duties as instructed without integrating the community in their processes. Control is mainly the task of the police force. It is not effective in solving modern problems due to the complication of crime in modern society. There is a high level of bureaucracy in the organization and execution of operations in traditional policing. Traditional policing is associated with poor law enforcement and ineffective control of crime and other disorders in the community. It largely concentrates much on crime and avoids any interference towards their stipulated work rather than community welfare and service delivery. The police force generally relies on the power of the criminal law as there is usually little or no involvement of the public as they work as a separate entity from the community. The main elements of traditional policing are uncertainty, the secrecy that avoids external control, and lessening contact with the public. Emphasis is placed on maintaining the structure and function of the police and the result attained does not matter. Emphasis is on the means rather than the result. There are certain values associated with traditional policing, for example, police think of themselves as crime fighters with their coercive force being a major element. They believe in the use of force in the execution of their functions. There is the belief that the use of force makes the police to be respected by the community they serve and ignoring challenges or acting slowly towards solving the community’s problems is viewed as a way through which respect is lost. There were also permissive sentences that were not in line with the committed crimes and disorders. The main purpose of the police was to maintain order. The police would do whatever they wished without legal or political scrutiny as accountability was not a key element in their duties, they could therefore deal with a criminal and not arrest them bringing in the concept of corruption. The police reforms were to be measured in terms of aspects like arrest rates and funding of the police. Arrests are a measure of the police functions and operations though it is surrounded by a lot off controversies. It is however argued that it is more appropriate to exercise proactive measures that would reduce instances of crime rather than spending too much on arresting criminals. When the police force arrests many criminals, the community believes that they are efficient and effective in their duties. The arrest information and data can serve as a basis to compare the trends between the reported crime offences and the rate of arrests made by the police. It is however logical to base the performance of the police force on the crime rate as opposed to arrest rate. Another considered measure of performance is the funding of the police where budget that goes towards the police is viewed as a gauge on the commitment of the police officers. Allocation of a lot of funds towards police operations indicated inappropriate use of money and in most cases reveals cases of corruption and vice versa (Scheingold, 1992).

Community Policing

Community policing is basically a collaboration of the police force and the community that aims at solving people’s problems by involving every individual in the process of ensuring that security and well being of everybody is maintained. It began from the 1980s to present. Although community policing is a new aspect, it has been received with positive attitude and police organization and structure is changing gradually for the good. It works on the principle that law enforcement can be more focused, proactive, and community sensitive. Community policing has three major components, the community partnerships, organizational transformation, and problem solving. Community partnership involves the collaboration of law enforcement agency, people and other private and public groups that work for the well being of the community. The main aim is usually to enhance problem solving process and boost the trust people have toward the police so as to enhance good relationship between them and allow combination of efforts for the good of all parties involved. Organizational transformation involves the coordination of the management, organization structure, the human resource, and communication infrastructure to support community partnership and enhance problem solving. Problem solving on the other hand involves identification of the problems in the community, assessment and prioritization of the problems, and developing strategies to effectively solve them and monitoring the impact. Community policing has been developed to curb problems that existed in traditional policing. It’s a means of reforming the police organization. One of the impacts of community policing is that it has reduced cases of crime and improved the relationship between the community and the police and in so doing improved service delivery. It also promotes job satisfaction of the police officers. There is usually a horizontal communication between the police and the community and constant feedback is there to ensure that problems are identified, communicated, and solved effectively. Apart from just maintaining order by controlling crime, as in the case of traditional policing, the police are involved in enhancing social relationships and order, reducing the fear of crime, and generally improving the community’s quality of life (Palmiotto, 2000).

Promises of Community Policing

The community policing intends to bring about various positive impacts, for example, restructuring police service delivery by connecting it with other organizations’ services, reforming the police organization, establishing specific roles for individual police offers, harmonizing the relationship between the police and the community, empowering the community to prevent crime, ensuring that there is delegation/ sharing of responsibilities such that everybody is responsible for his/ her welfare and that of others. All this is aimed at producing a more effective law enforcement system and empowering police officers, enhancing service delivery and justice, preventing crime, and reducing bureaucracy in police structure (Siegel, 2009).

Impacts of Community Policing

Community policing has been associated with many positive impacts on individuals, groups, organizations, and the environment at large. On individuals, community policing has enhanced police officers effectiveness, promoted job satisfaction, and diversified the roles of police officers, increased performance and the level of attachment towards the job. All these improve the general output and image of the police. On groups, the community policing enhance team work spirit, enables the groups to be task-oriented, improve their decision making and increase their efficiency and effectiveness. On matters of the organization and structure of the police agency, the community policing has utilized modern technology and improved the communication infrastructure and process, improved analysis and assessment of the police functions and operations, changed the traditional culture in the police force, brought about decentralization of the operations of the police, enhanced decision making and performance measurement, and changed the information flow from top-down to a horizontal manner. In regard to the environment, community policing has reduced crime incidences, improved the relationship between the police and the neighborhood, enhanced the public support towards execution of the police functions, increased public safety, reduced the level of violence, and enhanced problem solving (Palmiotto, 2000).

Requirements in Adoption of Community Policing

The perception of community policing should first change such that people should view it as an organizing ideology to be incorporated in the police system and not as a new aspect altogether. There should be the creation of an environment in the police system that allows changing and assimilation of the values and elements associated with community policing. The community policing strategy should work in a way that it overcomes the cultural constraints or the resistance to change attitude that is in the police force due to traditional policing. Community policing should in addition focus on resolving community crimes and other problems as opposed to just acting quickly on calls for assistance and leaving it at that (Vuuren and Wasserfall, 2009).

Implementing Community Policing

In implementing community policing, the following steps should be followed to ensure or increase the degree of the success of the process; the problems should be identified and prioritization done according to the community needs and views, adequate information about the offenders, victims and crime locations should be gathered and analyzed, the designing of strategies to deal with the problems should then be done putting into account the resources available. Implementation of the strategies is then started. This requires skills and efforts by all the participants involved including the police, the community and other private and public organizations. The final and most important step is the assessment of the performance of the plan to check whether it has achieved effectiveness and efficiency in problem solving. Necessary amendments should be done based on the performance.

Challenges of Community Policing

Although community policing has a lot of benefits, it is also associated with some challenges. The drawbacks include; resistance to change by the police force as they view it as a form of inconvenience due to the process involved in changing from one policing system to another. Without clear explanation of the aspects of community policing and poor leadership of those advocating for community policing, there may be cases of rebellious acts by the police. The police may view community policing as not being real since it is quite different from what they are used to. Community policing may also face reluctance from the community itself as people may find it difficult to intermingle with the police force in search of solutions to their problems and hence lack of communication between those advocating for community policing and the community may also be a hindrance to the success of the whole process since effectiveness of community policing is dependent on the communication between the law enforcers and the community. Another challenge lies in the implementation of the community policing especially in developing countries since there is no specific model to be followed in its implementation. Poor introduction of the policing would lead to poor absorption and implementation and may finally cause failure of the whole process hence not accomplish the set goals. Building of partnership is practically a problem. Implementation also involves resources such as money and personnel and so it is viewed as an additional burden. It is also not immediate and takes time before it is fully implemented and absorbed and so the community may lose patience and confidence as they usually have very high expectation towards it (Peak and Glensor, 1999).

Distinct Differences between Traditional Policing and Community Policing

Community policing enforces the community by involving them in problem solving whereas traditional policing dictates the community. Community policing comprises of community-based aspects which lack in the traditional policing system. The elements include; working together with the community, formation of partnership within the communities, creativity in solving problems, delegation of responsibilities and utilization of community information and input. Community policing is also more proactive and in most cases there are no chances of recurrence of problems since they are addressed critically and exclusively as opposed to the reactive mode of the traditional policing where problems are not usually totally solved and chances of recurring are very high. Community policing emphasizes on an effective two-way communication protocol between the community and the police to ensure that the problems are addressed sufficiently whereas communication is top-down from the police to the community in traditional policing and not a vital aspect. Community policing is much into the community’s building and welfare while traditional policing concentrates on authority, crime, and efficiency involved (law enforcement). Law enforcement in traditional policing is a crime fighting role while it is a service related role in community policing. There is sharing of the responsibility of crime control between the police and the community in community policing as opposed to where the control is upon the police in traditional policing. There is a lot of bureaucracy and centralization in traditional policing while the structure is flattened and decentralized in community policing. There is low and passive involvement of the community in the traditional policing while the community is highly and actively involved in community policing (Conser, Russell & Paynich, 2005).


Community policing is an aspect perceived different by various people. It bases its principles on the fact that the community should positively input into the police process so that they can be supported well as they understand their problems better. The community and the police should have freedom to discover new and effective ways through which problems on all aspects of the society whether it is social or political should be approached and solved. Community policing brings positive impacts in the police force and should therefore be adopted so that problems in the community can be effectively and sufficiently solved hence achieving the major role of the police, maintaining law and order.

Main Points: Traditional Versus Community Policing

  • Focus of policing: law enforcement versus community building.
  • Intervention: reactive versus proactive.
  • Discretion: unaccountable versus accountable.
  • Organization command: centralized versus decentralized.
  • Decision making: police directed versus community and police cooperation.
  • Measurement of success: arrest and crime rates versus effectiveness in problem solving.
  • Linkage with other agencies: poor versus participative.
  • Community involvement: passive versus active.
  • Communication: top-down versus horizontal/ two-way.
  • Law enforcement: crime fighting role versus service delivery role
  • Range of police activity: narrow- crime focused versus broad- crime, fear welfare focused

Reference List

Conser, A.J, Russell, D.G., & Paynich, R. (2005). Law Enforcement in the United States, 2nd ed. USA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Dempsey, J.S., & Forst, S.L. (2009). An Introduction to Policing, 5th ed. USA: Cengage Learning.

Palmiotto, M. (2000). Community Policing: A Policing Strategy for the 21st Century. USA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Peak, K., & Glensor, R. (1999). Community Policing and Problem Solving: Strategies & Practices. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Scheingold, A.S. (1992). The Politics Of Street Crime: Criminal Process And Cultural Obsession. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Siegel, J.L. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice, 12th ed. USA: Cengage Learning.

Vuuren, V.M., & Wasserfall (2009). FCS Theory of Policing Practices L3. Cape Town: Pearson South Africa.

Cite this paper

Select style


DemoEssays. (2022, December 24). Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability. Retrieved from


DemoEssays. (2022, December 24). Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability.

Work Cited

"Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability." DemoEssays, 24 Dec. 2022,


DemoEssays. (2022) 'Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability'. 24 December.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability." December 24, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability." December 24, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Community vs Traditional Policing: Efficiency and Accountability." December 24, 2022.