This research examines some of the theoretical aspects surrounding the concept of community policing. Over the years, people have had a wrong conception of how this new law enforcement technique works and what it is about. The most common tool and the way that police officers and agencies knew how to approach community policing is through community partnerships. However, here is more to it than just building trust with community members. This research identifies other key ingredients of community policing and their role ensuring its success. Without these elements, a community policing strategy is likely to fail even with the strongest community partnership in place. Such elements include proper strategic implementation strategies, problem solving and restructuring of the police organization.
The concept of community policing has gained a lot of interest in recent as community leaders and law enforcers look for better was of ensuring public safety and improving the quality of living in towns, cities, counties and neighborhoods. Law enforcers are working day in day out to devise mechanisms which they can use to improve the way they offer security to members of the public. Community policing brings together various practical and philosophical approaches and it is a highly dynamic concept. The strategies to be applied in community policing entirely depends on the security needs of a given community. However, there are common denominators when it comes to community policing. These are general philosophies which can be applied in different communities across the country and across the globe. Up to now, there are no clear community policing overview that can be put to work by practitioners who wish to use community policing as a tool to fight disorder and crime in the society.
This study aims to bring together certain concepts of community policing that can be applied t help promote security in out communities. On the other hand, we have to understand that the concept of community policing will keep evolving. The theoretical framework formulated will be aimed at getting a vivid image of the current status with regard to community policing. Community policing has become an essential policing tool today because olden day policing techniques do not work today. This is a clear indication that a time will come when other community policing techniques will have to be adapted. Community partnership has been the main component of emphasis when it comes to community policing. This study is going to examine the other components of community policing which will indicate that community partnership alone cannot make a community policing initiative succeed.
The significant components of community policing
The increasing urge within communities to take part in the battle against disorder and crime has significantly helped in helping people know that old policing tactics only do not help solve the crime. Community policing integrates both the old policing methods and new methods of fighting crime. A good community policing strategy will always utilize the close relationship between the law enforcers and members of the public. The law enforcers and community members will have to create a partnership which can be used to report and solve problems. Therefore, it is safe to say that community policing is about the relationship and readiness of the people and law enforcers to work together (Flynn, 2004).
Therefore, it is the responsibility of law enforcers to make sure that they develop a good relationship with members of the public. They should be ready to utilize the resources at their disposal and the resources of community members to address significant security concerns. Such concerns are those members of the community perceive to be the significant crimes and disorder incidents in the community. When it comes to problem solving, this is the point where solutions to the significant security concerns and fetched. Before a community policing strategy is implemented, it is essential for the law enforcers to understand their position (Allevato, 1989). Community policing does not mean that the law enforcers will lose their authority. It only helps ensure that they have an upper hand in to solving crimes and protecting the community.
Trust between law enforcers and the community
This is the first significant component of community policing. It involves developing and keeping trust between the community members and law enforcers. Members of the community will have to trust the law enforcers for them to work properly. This can be referred to as creating a community partnership. Once this partnership is created, community members will be ready to corporate with the law enforcers and the law enforcers will also cooperate with community members. When such a scenario is created, it makes it simpler for law enforcers to ask community members for information on a certain crime. The trust between the two parties make the police understand and believe that the community will be able to offer relevant information (Eck, 2004).
Just like companies try to establish a positive relationship between them and their consumers through social activities, the police officers can also do the same to enhance their relationship with members of the public. Therefore, police can take the initiative to participate in community events that will bring them closer to members of the community. When such a relationship is established, a clear difference can be drawn between fighting crime through community policing and using old policing methods. In community policing, police officers become a part of the community. The community helps law enforcers to align future security priorities and allocate resources. The difference is huge and involves commitments and basic security goals (Herbert, 2006).
Community partnership involves adopting security enforcement perspectives that exceed the conventional law enforcement methods. A wider scope recognizes the importance of activities that make up the well being and adequate security of the community. Such activities include offering support to victims of crime, accidents and other incidents that could result to injury. Such a relationship could go ahead to help in solving social incidents in the neighborhood such as tenancy disputes, family harassment or even family violence. At this point, police officers become more than just employees of the community but also part of the community. Policing will go further than just fighting crime. It will also include activities such as helping the homeless, helping the community improve living conditions among other services to the people (Brookes, 2006).
This helps in building trust between the community and police officers. Such form of trust gives police officers a chance to get a considerable amount of information that can help them fight and prevent crime. This form of trust only comes as a result of a positive working relationship between the officers and the community. Building trust and a relationship between the police officers and the community will involve each and every member of the police force. It is essential to understand that such trust cannot be build just like that. It is likely to take time and a lot of effort on the side of law enforcers. Trust between officers and members of the public will facilitate a lot of contact between the police officers and community members hence communication. This forms the basis of community policing (Eck, 2004).
Problem solving and community policing
Creating a positive relationship between law enforcers and the community is a concept that is being embraced in most communities. However, involving members of the public in solving security problems is not a common practice. Community policing requires more than the partnership between law enforcers and community members for it to be successful. With respect to proper community policing, problem solving is more than just coming up with solutions to crimes and crime prevention techniques. In order to get the right meaning of community policing, it is pertinent to look at this issue from a wider scope other than just the conventional techniques. At this point the authorities or law enforcers can apply the philosophy behind problem oriented policing. The theory makes an assumption that prevailing circumstances result to problems (Herbert, 2006).
Such circumstances and conditions include the behavior of the people involved in a crime. The social setting, economic position and political make up is essential in coming up with problem solving strategies. The law enforcers have to work towards understanding how members of the community deal with such conditions. Take the example of a deteriorated apartment, such an environment encourages crimes such as vandalism, burglaries and other criminal activities. Such crimes are brought to the attention of law enforcers. The communication will be even extremely articulate in the event that there is a good partnership between the officers and community members. However, the same crimes will continue if the environment remains the same (Cordner & Perkins, 2005).
Therefore, it is essential for the law enforcers to look at the environment and point out the problem. In this case, the problem is a deteriorated apartment. As long as it exists then the crimes will continue. Therefore, the problem at this point is not the crime alone but also the conditions and how people have adapted to them. With time, t has been understood that the community is an extremely critical piece of the problem solving process. Coming up with the solution to certain crimes and knowing their cause entirely rests on proper understanding of the community. Involving community members in setting priorities will go a long way to help law enforcers solve problems that lead to crimes. Involving community members in solving such problems builds the trust between community members and law enforcers.
Exchange of information between police officers and community members is critical since it also helps the police establish potential areas where crime is likely to occur. This will help reduce those conditions that are likely to lead to crime. This new problem solving scheme will not succeed with a lot of ease. The police have to understand the role and importance of concerns by community members. The community and police officers may not have a similar standpoint on what the cause of crime is. The police may see that robbery is the significant security concern. However, community members may have a different opinion such as homeless persons who sleep on doorways. Under proper community policing, the police force should quickly attend to the derelicts problem. This will involve calling for the right help from government agencies and other relevant parties to help eliminate the problem (Bullock & Tilley, 2003).
Therefore, we should understand that there is more to community policing than just community partnership, solving and preventing crimes. Community policing should go further to address those issues that are bothering members of the community. Effective community policing involves giving community members a chance to bring their concerns to the attention of police officers. A police officer should always work hand in hand with community members to solve a given problem once it is brought to his attention. This creates a cordial relationship between the two parties. The police officer may also take the initiative to tell members of the community some police concerns which they can lend a hand in addressing them. It is essential to understand the fact that community concerns are varying. Communities are subject o different conditions and there are those variables that control community concerns (Skogan, 2005).
It is also pertinent to understand the fact that there are also varying solutions to certain problems. Therefore, the police officers should be on the alert to make sure that they come up with proper solutions that fits everyone including members of the community. Though proper problem solving is an essential ingredient in community policing, the basis of community policing is the mutual trust that exists between community members and police officers (Cordner & Perkins, 2005). There are those solutions that may put in jeopardy the relationship between officers and community members. Police officers should work towards making sure that solutions reached do not breach such a relationship.
Change in the police force structure and values
As stated earlier, community policing presents law enforcers with a new method of fighting crime away from the ineffective way. However, the concept of community policing cannot be taken as a light matter by just moving in and creating a partnership with community members. There is more to it than what meets the eye. First, it is pertinent to make sure that the police force management structure supports the new law enforcement strategy. The old rigid police force management techniques should be replaced with new flexible mode of management. Responsibilities have to be delegated afresh and new mechanisms of leadership identified. The small patrol police officer is a highly valuable part of the police force when it comes to community policing (Donovan & Walsh, 1989). This is because he will be required to make decisions on the ground quickly without making consultations that will waste time. Therefore, the fist move is to ensure that responsibilities and decision making tasks are shifted downwards the police force. The small sheriff or patrol officer will have the ultimate task of interacting with community members and offering services to community members. However, if the right structure is not adopted, there is a likelihood that a given police organization will fail in implementing community policing mode of combating crime (Bayley, 1992).
The patrol officers should be given higher clearance and decision making power in their jurisdictions. This is because the people trust him and communicate t him their concerns. He understands how the situation is and how certain problems can be solved in conjunction with community members. The fact that they can create strong ties with the community members and that they understand their needs makes it crucial for them to take point when it comes to community policing. The police force must also make sure that its values are those which are accommodated by pertinent community policies principles (Skogan, 2005). The law enforcers should be ready to embrace new values that come along with community policing. This will include trusting the judgment of low level officers by the superiors since they understand the community. The police officers should also view members of the community differently than they do using the conventional law enforcing methods. Community members should be treated with respect and police officers should avoid violence and abusive language. The police should also treat concerns by community members with total respect and work towards addressing them (Allevato, 1989).
Just like in other strategic processes, implementation is a highly pertinent part of the process. The implementation stage requires a lot and if it is not done right, then there is a chance the community policing initiative will fail. It involves analysis of the situation and proper communication. On the other hard, the rigidity in the police force must be eliminated. Community policing requires a flexible environment which will ensure a smooth process in input, evaluation and output (Bullock & Tilley, 2003). The implementation strategy varies in different communities and even circumstances. However, there are those crucial elements which should not be left out of the implementation strategy. First, adequate support and resources is a highly crucial element.
The leaders and community must be ready to support the police force in every single way in the community policing initiative. The leaders must be ready to provide resources for the new law enforcing strategy. They also have to support the changes in the organization in the police force. Another crucial part of the implementation stage is the way in which the police force has chosen to implement the strategy (Flynn, 2004). There are three ways which they can do this plan and implement, plan then implement and implement with little planning. This will always depend on the position of the police organization. The police chief has to understand that each member of the force has to be on the same page with regard to implementing community policing. This is critical to ensure that all parties know their responsibilities and work effectively.
Community policing is not an aspect that involves only the police and the community members. There are quite a number of inputs required to ensure that the community policing initiative is a success. The analysis also showed that community partnership is not the only aspect in community policing. Instead, there is more than just having a positive relationship with community members. After such ties are established, it comes down to problem solving which involves more than just solving crimes and preventing them from happening. It goes ahead to address community concerns and root cause of crimes and working hand in hand with community members to see to it that such problems and causes are solved once for all.
Community policing also requires a complete shift in the police force structure and values. This is a move that gives the power of decision making to the right part of the force hence being able to serve the needs of the community and the police force effectively. Police officers also have to change their values and how they interact with community members. They should avoid arrogance and bad language since they are trying to keep trust with community members. Finally, the implementation of a community policing strategy is pertinent to the success of a community policing initiative. A poorly implemented strategy is likely to fail. From the above, it is quite evident that community policing is more than the partnership between officers and community members.
Allevato, S. (1989). DEVELOPING OF A LAW ENFORCEMENT PLAN FOR CALIFORNIA CITIES COMMITTED TO QUALITY SERVICE THROUGH COMMUNITY-ORIENTED POLICING. SACRAMENTO: CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON PEACE OFFICER STANDARDS AND TRAINING.
Bayley, D. (1992). The Best Defense. Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum.
Brookes, S., (2006). `Community Policing in Context`, in Crime Prevention and Community Safety, v8, n2, pp 104-117
Bullock, K. and Tilley, N. (2003) `Introduction – Problem-oriented policing: the concept the implementation and impact in the UK and US` in Crime Reduction and Problem-oriented Policing, eds K Bullock and N Tilley, Willan Publishing: Devon.
Cordner, G. and Perkins, E., (2005). `Problem-oriented policing in practice` in Criminology and Public Policy, v4, i2, pp155-180
Donovan, E. & Walsh, F. (1989). “Private Security and Community Policing: Evaluation and Comment.” of Criminal Justice. 17(3)
Eck, J.E., (2004). `Why don`t problems get solved`, in Community Policing (Can it work), Wadsworth: Toronto, pp185-206
Flynn, E (2004). `Community Policing is Good Policing, Both Today and Tomorrow` in Community Policing: The Past, Present, and Future, eds L Fridell and M Wycoff, Police Executive Research Forum: Washington, pp 25-38
Herbert, S. (2006). Citizens, Cops, and Power: Recognizing the Limits of Community, University of Chicago Press: Chicago
Skogan, W. (2005). `Evaluating Community Policing in Chicago` in Kent R Kerley (ed.) Policing and Program Evaluation, Prentice Hall: New Jersey, pp. 27-41
CRIMINOLOGY Community policing