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The Facts and History Of Community Policing

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes of crime to reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and community police partnerships. The history of policing started it all. There was an old saying that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (Jeffrey Patterson). There are many officers who believe that the history of police work began the day they first put on their badge and their gun belt. With this thought in mind, each movement in law enforcement seems to be something new, without historical context. To better understand how community policing work today law enforcement administrators should study their history very closely. Our problems today are very serious, but it’s nothing new. Throughout my paper will be a lot of info on this.

History of Community Policing

The history of modern law enforcement began 166 years ago with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police District in 1829. By creating this new police force, the British Parliament hoped to decrease the soaring crime rate in and around the nation's capital. The principles adopted by Sir Robert Peel, the first chief of the London Metropolitan Police served as the traditional model for all British and American police forces ever since. These principles include the use of crime rates to determine the effectiveness of the police; the importance of a centrally located, publicly accessible police headquarters; and the value of proper recruitment, selection, and training.

The best innovation introduced was the establishment of regular patrol areas, known as "beats." Before 1829, the police only responded after a crime had been reported. Patrols occurred on occasions, and any crime deterrence or apprehension of criminals in the act of committing crimes happened almost by accident this how bad police response was. However Peel assigned his Bobbies to specific geographic zones and he held them responsible for preventing and suppressing crime within the boundaries of their zones. He based this strategy on his belief that the constables would: Become known to the public, and citizens with information about criminal activity and would be more likely to tell a familiar figure than a stranger, that they would become familiar with people and places and would be able to recognize suspicious persons or criminal activity, and they would be highly visible on their posts, tending to stop criminals from committing crimes in their neighborhood.

To fully implement his beat concept, Sir Robert Peel instituted his second innovation: The Paramilitary Command Structure. Peel believed that overall civilian control was essential, he also believed that only military discipline would ensure that constables actually walked their beats and enforced the law on London's high crime rate streets, something their watchmen, had failed to do. Things were different in early American Policing. American policing developed along the same lines of the London police. Most major U.S. cities had established municipal police departments by the time of the Civil War. Like the London police force, these departments adopted a paramilitary structure; officers wore blue uniforms and walked assigned beats.

However, unlike the Bobbies, American officers carried guns and were under control of the command of politically appointed local precinct captains. The British quickly embraced the Bobbies as one of their most beloved national symbols; however Americans looked at their police in much lower esteem. By the turn of the century, the progressive movement began to promote professionalism in law enforcement as one of the basic components of rehabilitating municipal politics. Concern about corruption and brutality in local police forces caused the State to takeover some city departments and this led to the creation of new State police organizations removed from the corrupting influences of local ward politics.

Reformers try to stop the police from political interference while retaining local government control. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), which was founded in 1893, immediately called for the adoption of a civil service personnel system and the centralization of authority in strong executive positions, which could control the precinct captains. Building codes, secured housing for the homeless, built and supervised playgrounds for children, and they also found jobs for ex-convicts. Reformers believed that these duties provided too many opportunities for political favoritism and used too many resources that could be better spent fighting crime. They requested the police to give up social work and concentrate on law enforcement more. I personally think these things were good ideas and that it gave so many people the opportunity to better themselves after their mistakes.

The real driving force was technology including the forensic sciences of ballistics, chemistry, and fingerprinting, but mostly the automobile, the telephone, and the radio. The radio equipped patrol car allowed officers to respond to calls for service received by the police switchboard. At the same time, it took officers off the sidewalk and put them on the street, racing from incident to incident observing the crowd only from a distance.

There were some unintended consequences because agencies became divided between the old-timers and college-educated officers. Demands for efficiency, objectivity, and autonomy led to detached, impersonal attitudes toward the community and resistance to any direction from elected political leaders. Critics questioned whether professionalism really was being practiced at the local level. Police departments installed civil service merit systems for hiring and promotion. They adopted a general code of ethics and formed a professional association. They supported their practices through knowledge based on experience. But these local law enforcement agencies did not conduct a true scientific research, nor did they require a college degree to work in the field.

In 1962, the San Francisco Police Department established a specialized unit based on the concept that “police” would help reduce crime by reducing despair and by acting as a social service agency to change some of the difficulties encountered by minorities. Members were not sure what methods they should apply to serving the minority population. The unit also faced the dilemma of "how to maintain its identity as a police organization and at the same time win the confidence of the minority group population...who were usually considered a police problem. Eventually, the relationship of trust between the police unit and the community led to many formal complaints of misconduct against some police officers, sealing the unit's alienation from the mainstream of the department. The program soon perished and it changed the environment they helped to create.

In the 1970s, a new strategy came up-team policing. The advocates of team policing recognized that in the past years, due to changes in the social climate and to changes in police patrol techniques (more patrol cars, less foot patrol), many police agencies isolated themselves from the community. This isolation makes crime control more difficult. The team policing concept assigned responsibility for a certain geographic area to a team of police officers who would learn the neighborhood, its people, and its problems sort of like the old cop on the beat. But because authority would not be concentrating on one person, the team policing model posed less danger of corruption. Different American cities tried different forms of team policing, but none of them ever got beyond the limited “pilot-project” stage, and all eventually fell by the wayside.

The main reason for team policing failure rested with its contradiction of the basic tenets of professionalism. It placed more emphasis on long-term problem solving than on rapid response to incidents, making performance measurements difficult, it also crossed functional lines of authority, violating the chain of command and trespassing on the turf of detectives and other specialized units.

Like team policing, community policing is rooted in the belief that the traditional officer on the beat will bring the police and the public closer together. It also maintains the professional model's support for education and research. Instead of responding to emergency calls and arresting criminals, community policing officers devote their time doing social work, working independently and creating solutions to the problems on their beats. They make extensive personal contacts, both inside and outside their agencies. All of ties into the police culture that values crime fighting, standard operating procedures, and a paramilitary chain of command. There were many mistakes of the past: lack of planning, mission ambiguity, and limited implementation, and personal evaluation, lack of efficiency, potential corruption, and problems of evaluation.

In my conclusion the history of community policing should be studied by our officers today, because it can help and change a few things that are going on, better yet diffuse some problems, because the history of police work does not began the day an officer first puts on his/her gun belt.

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