Strategies to Sustain Community Policing

Published 16 Aug 2016

The concept of policing has dramatically changed in the United States. In the last two decades, we have seen a transformation from bureaucratic and traditional law enforcement agencies to a more organic and pro-relationship police force. The former paradigm that law enforcement officers’ role was limited to crime fighting has now been replaced by a more proactive role in the community. Indeed, the concepts of problem-solving, sharing responsibility for public safety and neighborhood livability have now been integrated as part of the goals of the police force in most states.

Every city which aims to adopt the philosophy of community policing endeavors “to strengthen the capacity of communities to resist and prevent crime and social disorder, to create a more harmonious relationship between the police and the public, including some power sharing with respect to police policy making and tactical priorities, to restructure police service delivery by linking it with other municipal services and to reform the police organization model by creating larger and more complex roles for individual officers.”

Though these are the goals of every modern society, the strategies to reach these goals have continuously eluded not only the police but the community as well. It is clear that not every city which has adopted community policing as a philosophy has succeeded. In this regard, it would be wise to conduct a thorough research on cities that have shifted to this philosophy and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used in implementing this philosophy.

This essay seeks to give advice on the local chief executive who plans to adopt the philosophy of community policing in his own city. The essay shall concentrate on three areas:

  • advice on the local city council;
  • advice on the local police;
  • advice on the city mayor.

This essay shall refer particularly to the research conducted in Portland regarding the implementation of its own community policing. Specific examples will be given to highlight the advice given. Also, this essay shall give reference to the specific strategies that the local mayor and the chief of police adopted in implementing community policing which have worked well for the city.

Strategies to Adopt Community Policing

Community policing can be implemented in different ways. It is, however, important that those who seek to adopt this philosophy must realize that community policing requires not only organizational development but also the active reinforcement of its philosophy. This means that the success of community policing depends not only on the empowerment of the local police but it also depends on a strong support system for the police. The most difficult part, however, is how to sustain this philosophy. It bears stressing that if there are no efforts to sustain this new philosophy then it is always possible that the police officers may revert back to traditional policing.

Firstly, the responsibility for the implementation of community policing rests not only on the local chief executive and the local chief of police but the local city council as well. The local city council must be actively involved in its implementation. In the case of Portland, the City Council passed two resolutions to implement this policy. One point of concern, however, is the failure of the city council to involve the community in this resolution. It must be stressed that the community plays an important role in the success of community policing. However, under Resolution No. 34627 and 34587, the city council identified the city’s expectation for implanting community policing without specifying the role the community will be playing. Another point of concern is that the city council must realize that community policing does not end by the enactment of a resolution but rather it requires the constant reevaluation and constant adjustment. Thus it is necessary that the local city council must after its implementation constantly monitor whether the city is achieving its objective and if necessary enact subsequent resolutions designed to improve this philosophy.

Second, the local law enforcement agency must be committed to the idea that community policing is the responsibility not just of the chief of police or selected police officers but rather it is the task of the entire police force. Thus, the local chief of police must organize the police department in such a way that everybody gets to perform this role. Also, it is important for us to learn from the mistakes of the local chief of police of Portland whose commitment to community policing was questioned not only by the community but even by his subordinates. It is very important for the leaders to reinforce the community policing practices. On the part of the local chief of police, he must not only make sure that he is committed in spirit to community policing but even his actions must be consistent with this commitment. He must avoid engaging in actions that lead the public to doubt his commitment. This is what happened to Chief Kroeker whose dress and hairstyle were considered as culturally insensitive to the minority officers and who was questioned for awarding medals to two police officers involved in the shooting of a Mexican.

Third, the local mayor must take an active role in the implementation of community policing in his own city by making it a high priority for the city government. As stated, sustaining community policing is the most difficult part because this requires organization support, budgetary allocations and leadership on the part of the mayor. The mayor plays a crucial role in the success of the community policing in his own city primarily because he is the chief executive in the city. He ensures that all laws are faithfully executed. Also, the mayor is the person primarily liable for appointing the chief of police who will be lead the police force. Also, the mayor plays a crucial role in determining the budgets of the police force. In addition to these roles, the mayor also takes the lead in developing an appraisal program that can be used for evaluating the performance of the police officers. This is important not only for rewards and incentives purposes but for disciplinary actions as well.

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