Community policing is a collaboration between the community and the local police department which aims at identifying and addressing community’s problems. In such a setup, the police is not the sole agency responsible for law enforcement, the community members join them to ensure a drop in crime rates and safety of the residents.
Building strong and trustworthy bonds with the local community is essential for the success of any community policing program. Community policing takes a problem-oriented and proactive approach towards policing instead of the reactive approach adopted by traditional policing. The current article provides insights into the various dimensions and aspects of community policing.
What are the Principles of Community Policing?
The key guiding principles of community policing are discussed below:
Forming Community Partnerships
Community partnership plays a huge role in developing a good community policing initiative. Community partnership means developing strong bonding with the community which looks beyond standard law enforcement. It provides a broader perspective to the police department for acknowledging the importance of activities which contribute to safety and well-being of a locality.
These activities may include but are not limited to- helping accident or crime victims, providing emergency medical services, working with residents to improve local conditions, providing emergency social services, etc. Building trust is a vital element of forming successful community partnerships. Trust cannot be developed overnight, it is a gradual process over time.
Values are an integral part of community policing. The policing values should be correctly articulated in matters involving the safety and security of the community. The police departments should develop their values and cultures which recognize the benefits of community involvement. The internal organization of policing and their way of working.
A good starting point towards achieving this is to develop a clear statement of beliefs and goals. Some of the key guiding values which are central to community policing include trust, cooperation, communication, integrity, initiative, discretion, leadership, and responsibility.
The value statement should clearly incorporate adherence to these guiding values. This statement provides direction to the police department and ensures that the values are then translated into action and tangible results. The value statement should be widely disseminated within the police department and each member should align themselves with it.
A system should be incorporated wherein the realization of planned community policing output can be measured based on adherence to the value statement. The members should know which of their actions promote or undermine the decided value statement. This will improve their compliance with the recommended actions and bring positive change in the process and results achieved by community policing.
Problem-solving approach plays an important role in any effective community policing initiative. It is based on the understanding that crime can be curtailed in a locality by studying the problematic features and then applying suitable resources. Some common problematic features in a location may include the presence of criminals, social setting, physical environment, etc.
Problems which are created by these conditions may lead to multiple incidents. Social and physical conditions in a locality can cause crime incidents like burglaries, vandalism, intimidation, etc. These incidents will keep repeating till the problems which trigger them continue to exist.
The problem-solving approach involves community participation which is essential for the success of community policing. The community needs to play a proactive role in information exchange pertaining to the major crimes in the community. For this to happen, the community policing initiative needs to take the community into trust and prioritize the crimes which need immediate attention and addressal.
Effective Communication with the Community
Each locality has a different set of problems. They will have differing concerns, wants, and priorities and it is critical to develop a thorough understanding on those. This will ensure that the beat officers understand what is important to the community and their priorities and work out solutions which they address those wants.
Effective communication with the community is important to develop an understanding of their wants and priorities. With continued communication, a stronger and mutually trustworthy relationship develops between the police and the community. This strong relationship with the community forms the foundation of a successful community policing initiative.
The beat assignments should be issued on a permanent basis under community policing instead of a rotating basis. Permanent assignments are important as it ensures that beat officers get familiar with the community and becomes an integral part of their setup. If rotating shifts are assigned, then it becomes difficult for a beat officer to develop rapport and understanding with the community.
It also helps them to make them long-lasting contacts with the community which is important for community policing. Permanent shifts allow a continuity to be developed with the community also starts trusting the beat officer which leads to implementation of an effective and successful community policy program.
Beat officers should undergo regular training on the new emerging best practices of community policing to be more effective. Community policing components should be integrated into the training curriculum and not treated as a stand-alone training component. The training should focus on aspects like problem-solving, communication, motivation, team building, etc. The training can be conducted at two levels- recruit/cadet level and supervisory level.
In the cadet training, new recruits are provided orientation on the dynamics and complexities of the community they are likely to work with and their roles in the community. It will help them to develop community organizing skills, leadership abilities, etc. Supervisory training is intended to develop problem-solving abilities. As these personnel are expected to lead the community policing initiatives, they are provided more leadership inputs in their training.
Performance appraisal can form an important management tool for facilitating change through community policing initiatives. The performance appraisal system should consider the value statement and goals of community policing to be effective. Patrol officers involved in community policing can be assessed on how well they know their beats, and how effectively they along with their supervisors have adopted a problem-solving approach.
The extent to which they have been able to forge strong bonds with the community and the nature and type of their contributions should also be assessed. During community policing, mistakes will be made which will lead to leanings. Mistakes made during problem-solving should not be assessed in the same way as mistakes made due to carelessness.
High-performing personnel should also be suitably rewarded as it is key for their retention. It is important to remember that the rewards should be consistent with the valued and goals of community policing. Personnel should be rewarded for their exceptional performance in problem-solving and community mobilization.
Community Policing Examples
Some examples of community policing are provided below:
Santa Gift Delivery- Sanger, California
The Sanger Police Department participated in a unique and successful community policing initiative. The police department participated in the annual Christmas delivery and giveaway. The Sanger Police Department took a Santa around the community and gave gifts to 9 families and other residents on the way. The event was well-planned with full Santa and elf costumes to make the occasion look more realistic and create a better impact. This initiative helped to positively shape the perspective of the locality on community policing.
Kid Community Holiday Party-Novato, California
Local Police Department planned and conducted events which were directed at both- kids and adults. This initiative included Sundays on Sherman program which is an outdoor community gathering meant for improving and strengthening bonds within the community. The Novato Police Department conducted events like ice skating and ornament making event for children, along with providing food for all the participants.
Annual Christmas Parade-Charlotte County, Florida
Police department conducted the 5th Annual Christmas Parade in Charlotte County, Florida. The event was a success with active participation from majority of the community members. The volunteers at the event were assigned the task of wrapping gifts for children in the locality. The event helped the officers to gain more traction in the community and show the human side of law enforcement to the community.
Blue Santa Gift Delivery- Austin, Texas
The Austin Police Operation Blue Santa serves the city of Austin, Texas by providing holiday gifts and toys to children under 14 years of age. The gifts are brought to the community and handed over by Santa and Mrs. Claus. This event has created an impact for furthering the success of community policing in the locality.
Operation RISK (Rescuing Inner City Students and Kids)- Colombia (South Carolina) Police Department
Operation RISK is an educational program for children between 11-16 years of age, focusing on deterring them from criminal behavior and association. The youth are educated on the merits of making good decisions on this front and the dangerous consequences of failing to do so. Operation RISK also provides an opportunity to the parents to help their children stay clear from such deviant behavior and associations.
The youth are enrolled by their parents or guardians. After enrollment, they undergo a one-day incarceration under the supervision and guidance of Colombia Police Department officers. These youths are then linked to various resources offered by police department, community partners, local businesses, youth organizations, etc. Once the youths are sent back to their families, the youths and their families remain in constant touch with the police department to help in further development of the youths.
Through the available resources at their disposal, the Colombia Police Department ensures that Operation RISK has a significant and lasting impact on the community. The parents and most importantly the youths are positively impacted which prevents them from getting into the world of crime.
Project Guardian- Camden (New Jersey) Police Department
Project Guardian is a collaborative community policy initiative between Camden Police Department and social service providers focused towards youth. It aims to address the fact that nearly one-third of the city’s violent crime in 2015 were committed by youth aged 12-23 years.
Police officers identify at-risk youths and send letters detailing the program to their parents and churches. The letters also act as consent slip which is signed by the parents and sent back to the police department.
The project has four one-day interventions per year. Juveniles are encouraged to attend these community-building activities like delivering blankets to sick children in hospitals, to help other at-risk youths, etc. They also attend sessions and presentations given by police chief, district attorney, former at-risk youth, and former gang members who are now active community members.
The youth receive intensive counseling, support services, and life skills training under the Project Guardian. The youth also get access to members of the city’s school district and community programs.
This helps them to build better interpersonal connections and stay away from crimes and violence. Project Guardian has brought a positive change in the interaction between police and at-risk youths and has contributed in building healthy and mutually trustworthy relationships.
Truancy Prevention Project- Indio (California) Police Department
The Indio (California) Police Department started the Truancy Prevention Project to help parents and youth deal with school absences and to reduce it. When a student who has missed school is found by the officers, a citation is issued to the student. The student is brought back to school and is released to his/her legal guardian or SRO. The task force officers work with SRO to enforce truancy and conduct any follow-up assistance outside of the respective schools.
The SROs are present in the area schools and help the school administration and teachers to improve students’ safety. The SROs take the role of a mentor and are available to provide guidance to the students for help dealing with a wide variety of issues. The training program is conducted for nearly 10 weeks. It includes topics like poor attendance and performance, alcohol and other drug abuse, runaways, violent teens, etc.
Community events are conducted regularly which help the police to have better communication and engagement with the youth. Various youth forums have been hosted at the Indio Teen Center which have been aimed at addressing youth-community involvement, community policing, negative consequences of school truancy, etc.
Community Policing Programs for Youth
Interacting with youths is often challenging for law enforcement. Whenever youths have their first experience of seeking justice, they come across law enforcement. Their first experience with law enforcement interactions are likely to shape their perspective of law enforcement in their lives. A positive interaction and experience with law enforcement leads to developing a positive attitude towards it and vice-versa.
Another problem of youth interaction and engagement by law enforcement is their brains differ from adults. Their brains are not fully mature which can lead them to act rash, impulsively, and illogically. Community policing programs for youth should be designed carefully with the following considerations:
The first consideration in developing an effective community policing program for youth is to recruit judiciously. Recruits should be assessed for their traits and abilities to fit in the role before hiring. A good candidate will have a guardian personality and embrace community relationships. Recruiting from local colleges and institutions is better as the recruits will have better rapport with and understanding of the community.
Once recruited, the cadets should be made to do community service during and after the academy to help them ease into their roles and enhance their qualities needed for community policing.
The hiring process and practices should be evaluated continuously to ensure they remain pertinent and help in recruiting the correct personnel. If the hiring processes need to be modified with time, then it should be done.
Training of Officers and Youth.
The cadets and officers should be intensively trained on community policing for youth. They can be provided training on aspects like youth psychology, conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, proper techniques for engaging with youth who have suffered violence, trauma, or mental illness, communicating with youth, etc. Training officers on communicating with youth in a potentially tense condition and explaining what the officer is going to do next in such situations and why will help them to deal with the situation better.
To ensure a robust and successful community policy program, training is essential for youths also. Trainings for them can be conducted on topics like constitutional rights, responsibilities, and duties, responsibilities of law enforcement in communities, communicating with law enforcement, etc. Regular meetings and trainings on community policing for youth can be conducted in the community. These events should be attended by the officers and youths both. This will help to build trust between them and bridge any existing gaps.
Identify Key Resource Persons (KRPs) in the Community
Reaching out and engaging positively with youth can be best achieved by seeking help from key resource persons (KRPs) within the community. Community leaders who are respected by the youth can be another set of KRPs for ensuring the desired engagement with youths. A common misunderstanding among youths is that interacting or helping the police makes them a snitch, which deters many youths to speak to the police.
These KRPs can be other youth who are viewed as positive role models by their communities. They can help to influence the community and other youths to engage positively and provide support to the police. These KRPs can play a vital role to help the community youths form a positive opinion and view about the police which is essential for winning their trust.
Use Social Media Effectively
Community policing should leverage the power of social media while engaging with youths. They should be active and intensively use social media platforms on which youths are active to establish a connection with them. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. can be used to communicate with the youth. This type of interaction will be more causal and help to build trust with them.
Law enforcement is mostly painted in a negative manner in most communities which makes it difficult for youth to trust them. Social media platforms should be used to share positive developments, achievements, success stories, etc. which will portray a more human side of policing and foster trust on law enforcement among the youth
Foster Non-Law Enforcement Interactions
Dialogues and interactions between the officers and youths should not be merely limited to crimes and law enforcement. The officers should plan for non-law enforcement interactions in a more casual and playful environment. Such casual and enjoyable interactions project the human side of law enforcement which is not generally visible to the community.
It also helps the officers and the youths to get to know each other better without being in a formal setting where only law enforcement has to be discussed. It is important for officers to realize that the engagement and outreach activities should be started early when the children are young to allow them to form positive perspective of law enforcement.
Community Policing Program Stats
There is a paucity of rich and extensive data on community policing and its impact on crime rates. NYPD has been one of the pioneers and leaders in undertaking community policing.
Their efforts have yielded good results as major felony rates have reduced by 5.3% in the city during the period 2013-15. University of California Berkeley Police Department has also had a successful experience with community policing. The campus has witnessed a 12% drop in violent crimes and 24% decline in property crimes during 2015.
Another prominent study conducted in 2014 covered 65 independent assessments for measuring outcomes before and after introduction of community policing. In 27 of the 65 instances, it was revealed that after the introduction of community policing strategies, the crime rates reduced by 5-10%. 16 of the 65 instances showed that citizens in the locality perceived 24% increase in improvements of disorderly conduct after introduction of community policing.
23 comparisons measured citizen satisfaction with the police. It was found that community policing programs were effective in nearly 80% of the cases. The citizens were 40% more likely to be satisfied with the work of police in the community policing programs. CWP
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