Community policing refers to a program that encourages theparticipation of local populations towards law enforcement. Civilleaders and police officers developed the concept to enhance thequality of life and promote public safety in their neighborhoods(Weisburd, Hinkle, Braga, & Wooditch, 2015). Granted, thestrategies used in community policing vary greatly depending on theresponses and characteristics of the local population. Nevertheless,particular principles are common to all efforts expended to protectcivilians. Policing officials such as sheriffs and chiefs have themandate to determine the changes in operations, organization, andorientation (Somerville, 2016). Community policing aims to benefitlocal populations through increased cooperation and collaboration.
Community policing emerged as a necessary initiative due to severalfactors. Firstly, the changing nature of neighborhoods across thecountry made it impossible to rely solely on police work (Somerville,2016). The increase in population could not be matched with thenumber of law enforcement agents. In many instances, police officerswere forced to respond to multiple emergency calls within a shortperiod of time. Hence, it was necessary to develop a system wherecivilians can notify law enforcement agents about probableoccurrences of crime (Somerville, 2016). Limiting the spread ofconflict within the community contributes to better outcomes.Secondly, the shifting characteristics of violence and crime alsocontributed to the emergence of community policing. In particular,many offenders had learned to use disguises and other tacticsdesigned to hide their identity. Other criminals also used meticulousprocedures to reduce the amount of evidence that could be used duringpolice investigations (Somerville, 2016). In addition, violentoffenders learned how to blend in with the local population.Therefore, it was necessary to involve members of the community whenattempting to solve crimes.
In some neighborhoods, disclosing information to law enforcementagents is viewed as treacherous (Somerville, 2016). Therefore, peoplewould never speak to police officers. Such attitudes are developeddue to the stigma associated with law enforcement personnel.Accusations of police brutality seem to enhance the public’snegative perception. Drug cartels and other violent criminalorganizations usually control local populations through fear.Witnesses and criminal informants may be discouraged from providinginformation due to the threat of death (Somerville, 2016). Suchintimidation tactics make it impossible for police officers toprevent crimes. Conducting investigations and making arrests alsobecome harder for law enforcement personnel.
The government also has limited funds to fulfill the stated agenda.Hence, police departments have been forced to allot their resourcesto pertinent problems. Some of the most common issues include gangactivity, burglaries, muggings, murders, and illegal drugs(Somerville, 2016). The breakdown of the family unit has also led toan increase in disorder and crime. Communities would be more likelyto eradicate crime if they learned to view police officers asfriendly and approachable. Therefore, law enforcement personnel sawthe need to establish and nurture links with their neighborhoods(Weisburd et al., 2015). Such relationships play a fundamental rolein empowering the police to prevent crime rather than respond toanarchy.
Sir Robert Peel is credited with creating the original principles ofcommunity policing in 1829 (Cordner, 2014). Robert established hisideals after he instituted the London Metropolitan Police. Hisprinciples required law enforcement agents to focus their efforts oncrime prevention. Robert also stated the need for police to maintainrespectful relationships with members of the public. In this regard,willing cooperation was directly proportional to the amount of forceused during confrontations. Notwithstanding, the reform era of the1900s caused a gradual separation of the community from the police.Officers were assigned to rotating shifts and moved frequently toeliminate corruption. Technological developments such as theemergence of automobiles also decreased the number of foot patrolofficers. In the 1970s, the implementation of rapid contact throughthe 911 system allowed police to respond quickly to emergency calls(Cordner, 2014). Consequently, law enforcement agents had limitedtime to focus on crime prevention.
Nevertheless, Herman Goldstein developed the concept ofproblem-oriented policing in 1979 to combat the increase in crime(Cordner, 2014). Hence, law enforcement agents were encouraged toaddress the root causes of repeated emergency calls. In addition, theNewark Foot Patrol Experiment motivated police officers to spend moretime patrolling their neighborhoods to promote safety. Experimentalwalks through local communities led to positive outcomes. Forexample, police officers acquired a more positive image, communityconditions improved, and fear reduced among local populations.
The Richmond Police Department in Virginia has implemented effectivecommunity policing programs to protect their neighborhoods. Thepolice chief conducts weekly visits to the local populations toestablish links and nurture trust. The staff patrol the streetsaccompanied by sector lieutenants and precinct commanders (Norwood,2013). Designated officers visit specific neighborhoods and performdoor-to-door discussions. Residents relish the opportunity to providesuggestions on how public safety can be improved. Notably, the lawenforcement agency works along with representatives from entitiessuch as Public Utilities, Social Services, and Public Works (Norwood,2013). Members of the local clergy also contribute to thedepartment’s problem solving matrix. Other police departments inDayton and Canton have adopted “Boots on the Ground” and “Coffeewith a Cop” initiatives, respectively (Norwood, 2013).Consequently, the positive effects have spread in other areas.
The community policing program in Richmond has had incredible successin protecting the local populations. The department has utilized theavenue to weigh the relative success of different policing services.Law enforcement agents have also gained insight into the challengesthat need to be addressed in each neighborhood. Furthermore, policeofficers develop a deeper understanding of the most importantconcerns. The community walks typically feature over 25 officers andcommanders (Norwood, 2013). The resultant interest helps to createconversations where credible information is shared. Cultivatingrelationships also serves to demystify the police and eliminateexisting stereotypes. In particular, residents in higher crimeneighborhoods are accustomed to negative interactions with lawenforcement agents (Norwood, 2013). Police officers would usuallyperform arrests or implement diverse measures. Therefore, publicwalks act as an opportunity for positive contact between residentsand law enforcement.
The Richmond Police Department has developed several programs basedon the ideas shared among government representatives, leadershipstaff, and residents. The walks have instilled a deeper sense ofaccountability on the part of the police officers. Hence, they haveled to greater care in how law enforcement agents respond toemergency situations. Police officers have also experienced greateroutcomes in investigating and solving crimes (Norwood, 2013).Information has been shared more expediently in cases where peoplewould ordinarily feel reluctant. The department has received plentyof positive comments from the local community. Engaging thepopulations in Richmond has also empowered people to state individualconcerns (Norwood, 2013). Children have been noted to respondenthusiastically to the presence of police officers. Suchinteractions manifest the excellent understanding that exists betweenthe 750 law enforcement personnel and the over 200,000 localresidents (Norwood, 2013). Consequently, the Richmond PoliceDepartment has created a safe neighborhood through communitypolicing.
Indeed, community policing efforts to promote public safety throughenhanced collaboration. Law enforcement agents interact with localcommunities to gain a deeper understanding into certain issues. Theinformation that is shared through such platforms leads to thedevelopment of reliable relationships. Consequently, law enforcementagents can protect local communities by preventing crime.
Cordner, G. (2014). Community policing. The Oxford handbook ofpolice and policing, 148-171.
Norwood, B. (2013). Taking It to the Streets — Engaging theCommunity from the Top-Down. Retrieved fromhttp://www.calea.org/calea-update-magazine/issue-104/taking-it-streets-engaging-community-top-down
Somerville, P. (2016). Understanding community: Politics, policyand practice. Policy Press.
Weisburd, D., Hinkle, J. C., Braga, A. A., & Wooditch, A. (2015).Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Broken Windows Policing: TheNeed for Evaluation Evidence. Journal of Research in Crime andDelinquency, 52(4), 589-608.