Exploring the importance of policing and the community

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Community Policing can be understood to be a policy and a strategy aimed at achieving more effective and efficient crime control and improved police legitimacy, through a proactive reliance on community resources that seeks to change crime causing conditions. This assumes a need for 'greater accountability of police, greater public share in decision-making, and greater concern for civil rights and liberties' (Friedman, 1992). Community policing has therefore become a highly debated issue within police research, policy and practice. To effectively understand the importance of community policing its historical context and development must be understood.

Policing and the Community: A Short History.

The idea of a community led police was developed at the end of the twentieth century as a method of bringing police and communities closer together. An awareness of local communities, and an understanding of their concerns and expectations of policing are not new but can be seen to be 'a product of context and contingency' (Emsley, 2007) brought about by historical change in the social and political landscape.

After the Second World War both society and policing underwent fundamental change. One of these changes was the introduction of the motorcar to most families. With more and more people being able to travel, the job of the police officer became increasingly difficult, as crime and control were not limited to particular areas. This was also combined with the introduction of traffic laws, which increased police/public interaction in an adversarial way (Weinberg, 1995). This strain on the police force was enhanced by the lack of money for further recruitment or training meaning the police were over stretched. At this time the police 'panda car' and police radios were also introduced meaning officers were taken off the street and therefore out of contact with the public. This meant that the 'bobby on the beat' became a nostalgic view as police used cars and radio's to deal with crime in a variety of locals instead of interacting and dealing with the public in specific communities. This helped to alienate the police officer from communities who had previously seen them as 'citizens-in-uniform' (Reiner, 1992) to reiterate this, Reith explains the bobby was 'seen as 'kin', in contrast to the members of continental police institutions who were imposed on people by governments from above '(Reith, 1952). Significantly this view began to change at the end of the 1960's.

The end of the 1960's saw widespread organisational change with a reduction in police forces along with new legislation introduced in the name of modernization and improved efficiency. This brought remaining forces much closer to central government at the expense of the old links to local government and communities (Lustgarten, 1986, Reiner, 2000) the reactive Unit Beat Policing system that was adopted, took officers away from foot patrols and placed them into new 'panda cars' so that they could be directed to incidents by radio, making response quicker. In the process they became a 'fire brigade' service, responding to calls for assistance that were then dealt with in isolation (GLC, 1982; Lea & Young, 1993; Reiner 1994). The loss of contact with the community alienated the police and reduced the flow of information that was necessary to develop appropriate crime reduction strategies that focused on community concerns. This made it seem as if the police officer were no longer 'kin' as they had previously been conceived, as they did not have direct contact with the public they served. The move by central government to consolidate police forces as well as bringing them under stricter control meant that police forces were ultimately disengaged from the public.

At the beginning of the 1970's community policing became a debated issue in the UK as a result of the work of John Alderson, who was then the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. Alderson wanted to move from the traditional authoritarian model of policing which he considered inappropriate for a plural libertarian society to a more democratic community led approach (Alderson, 1977, 1979). Alderson was, privately, widely ridiculed by senior police managers at the time but the urban riots in Britain during the 1980s brought calls for a policing style that was more engaged with the communities it was supposed to be serving.

The start of the 1980's brought about widespread civil unrest with the 1984 miners strike, which saw violent clashes between police and picketers. This led to the delegitimisation of the police and the breakdown of community trust in the force. The methods used to deal with the unrest were seen to be 'police-state' tactics (Reiner 1984, Fine and Millar, 1985). The policing style in question was far removed from the original concept of a 'modern' police force (Critchley, 1967), which had maintained the 'Queens Peace' by highly visible foot patrols and close cooperation with the community. Instead policing had evolved into a system of law enforcement and prosecution that sought to impose control on communities. This unrest played against a conservative government who supported militarization of policing (Joshua, Wallace, and Booth, 1983) and thus bolstered the idea that the police were disengaged from the public and were not working 'for the people' but with the government.

The 1980's also saw civil unrest among minority communities during the Brixton and Toxteth riots in 1981 the riots saw clashes between black communities and police over alleged victimization and unfair treatment. This was an important turning point in police community engagement as it highlighted the perceived failings in the police's ability to interact with different communities effectively. The civil unrest seen in Brixton led to the commission of a large scale policing review headed by Lord Scarmann (Scarmann, 1982) the report stated that there was a fundamental lack of 'community relations', which caused tension among those living in the Brixton area, this was also seen to be caused by mistrust in policing. The Brixton riots and the Scarmann report highlighted the lack of community engagement and the need for community relations between police and minority groups. It helped to highlight the shift from the ideal of the community 'bobby' to the harsh reality of the authoritarian officer. By the end of the 1980's The introduction of cars, intelligence-led policing, increasing amounts of paperwork, and numerous other factors effectively removed the operations of police from local streets, and out of the direct experience of many citizens. This coupled with the growing tension caused by the civil unrest of the 1980's meant that the police were both disengaged and distrusted by the public. In the aftermath of the riots there were calls from all sections of society for the police to return to its original concept of 'community-focused' policing, where a constable acted on behalf of the community through participative consensual action (Morgan & Newburn, 1997).

The 1990's saw community policing become a political issue with the Labour government directing much of its attention towards police community engagement. The setting up of neighborhood policing teams as well as the creation of the Police Community Support Officer (Police Reform Act, 2002) were all done to combat the growing opinion that the police were not trusted by the communities they served and confidence in police ability was at an all time low. This was due to the crisis in legitimacy caused by the civil unrest of the 1980's and the disengagement of community relations. In recent years community policing has been adopted as the 'new orthodoxy' (Eck and Rosenbaum, 1994) and hailed as the future of British policing attracting vast research and the implementation of new policies, which aim to create and maintain a close relationship amongst the police and the wider community.

Now the historical context of community policing has been established it is clear that the concept of community/police interaction has always been an important issue within society despite pressures preventing its application. The importance of community policing highlights the need for continued research into community policing to better understand how it works and what benefits it can provide. This importance will be further assessed by looking at the concept of community policing along with theories and research related to its application.

Community Policing: Concept and Research.

Defining community policing is not a straightforward task, consulting multiple sources of information one comes away with a diverse and contradictory understandings about what community oriented policing is supposed to be and a lack of a coherent definition (Johnston, 2005). This is normal in a still-emerging concept, especially one that attempts to understand and ultimately alter the day-to-day activities in the complex world of policing. However looking at the array of definitions and explanations available a clear idea of its concept can be established.

Community policing can be seen to consist of three key components. The first of which is organisational transformation. This refers to the alignment of police organizational management practices, structure, and information systems to support community partnerships (Wood, Fleming and Marks, 2008). Police departments who engaged in effective community policing seek to transform their organizational culture, leadership and management structure and training practices. The objective of these changes is to create an organizational infrastructure that can best support proactive operations intended to prevent crime. Traditional law enforcement practices are reactive and emphasize measures such as response times, arrest rates, and other rote responses to crime (Reiner, 1992). Community policing encourages police to proactively solve community problems and address the factors that contribute to crime rather than simply react to it.

The second key component of community policing is the establishment of community partnerships (Crawford, 1999), which are collaborative partnerships between police, individuals and organizations, to develop solutions to local problems. This helps in preventing crime and also increases the communities trust in police. These partnerships are forged in conjunction with other government agencies, community members and groups, private businesses and the media.

The final component of community policing is problem solving. This involves engaging in the proactive and systematic examination of identified problems to develop and rigorously evaluate effective responses (Peak and Glensor, 2002). Community policing requires police to become proficient at identifying, analyzing and responding to community problems and developing effective solutions for them. This three-stage concept of community policing is important to keep in mind when looking at the research conducted into police/community engagement.

The first piece of research to consider is the 'broken windows' theory (Wilson and Kellig, 1982) this theory became prominent on publication in the 1980's due to its emphasis on the signaling effects of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments may prevent further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime. The 'broken windows' theory has important implications for community policing as it highlights the need for constant monitoring and maintenance of areas to prevent urban decay and crime. Although the broken windows theory is important it has been criticized for being reductionist in its approach as it neglects other wider social and community issues. Broken Windows theory does however highlight an important point about how areas that lack 'monitoring' may create an environment in which signals of crime can develop, as one study stated, "One example of disorder, like graffiti or littering, can indeed encourage another, like stealing." (Keizer, Lindenberg and Steg, 2008). This is where community policing is important and applicable as it provides a means of constant monitoring and thus reduces the amount of signal crimes and the ability for these to turn into more serious crimes.

The idea of signal crimes was further developed and expanded by Surrey University. They aimed to show how particular crimes and social control have a disproportionate impact on how individuals and communities experience and construct their beliefs about crime, disorder and control (Innes and Fielding, 2002). Their research refers to 'signal crimes' or 'signal events' which are incidents, and physical or social disorders that are interpreted by individuals as warning signals, people read these signals and infer perception of risk. In contrast 'control signals' refer to the ways in which the action performed by police and local authorities may be interpreted by individuals and communities in order to inform their judgments about risks to which they believe themselves to be exposed to. The research further found that not all events are assumed to have the same 'signal value' and differentiated between 'situated' and 'disembedded' signals (Innes and Fielding, 2002). The former refers to those incidents in which knowledge is gained solely through media representation. The latter refers to incidents, which people experience directly or become aware of through co-presence. A further distinction was made by Innes and Fielding between weak and strong signals. Unlike strong signals, which have a direct effect, weak signals work in a cumulative way impacting over time and help to reconfigure beliefs and actions. The concept of signal crimes does not assume that everyone will react the same way to signals but that their reaction will be shaped by the context and characteristic of those interpreting them. In trying to further the theory Innes et al (2002) suggested certain community problems might produce particularly strong signals including drug-related problems, vandalism and graffiti. Although some of these acts are not themselves crimes they may be perceived as potentially causing more crime problems. This has implication for community policing as it shows certain responses and interventions officers can use to communicate signals which counteract the crime signals so that they provide reassurance and security to the community.

Community policing is beneficial as it allows police officers to embed themselves within communities and thus reduce crime. Placing officers within communities also has operational advantages as compared to other organizational settings; the environment in police community patrol work is 'particularly salient because officers are boundary personnel who are utterly immersed in the environment of the districts they patrol' (Reiss and Bordua, 1967). This total immersion is critical because work group decisions and police workload both flow primarily from a single aspect of the patrol district's environment such as the level of crime and other forms of social deviance, which vary substantially across districts but typically remain quite stable over time within them. This means that by being involved in the community, policing teams are able to successfully identify problems and understand residents concerns first hand.

Not only is it important for community police teams to be present to allow them to fully understand an area and its problems, their presence is also important in its ability to increase public confidence in their work. Community policing is vital in legitimizing the police and their relationship with the public. The historical changes and public unrest at the end of the twentieth century left the public thinking the police were 'less responsive, less visible, less accessible and less engaged with community' than the public would like (Fitzgerald et al, 2002) and this meant that the public lost confidence in the capacity of the professional police, to deliver locally based visible patrols. (Mirrlees-Black, 2001) therefore community policing is important for public confidence as well as fighting crime. Community policing provides a visible, accessible and engaging team which interact with the public as a way of increasing their confidence and increasing the legitimacy of the police force overall. Innes (2004) suggests that reassurance is a mechanism and not an outcome and as such it is not merely about providing visible, accessible and familiar patrol personnel but is also about ensuring that policing is responsive to the needs of the public and targeted at 'the problems that matter most to them' (Innes, 2004) This 'reassurance perspective' suggests that both visible, engaged patrols as well as a problem solving approach are best for reassuring the public and therefore reducing fear of crime.

This realisation that public needed a visible response together with the growing need to have dedicated community policing teams who could solve local problems and be visible within the community led to the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood policing teams. Neighbourhood policing was initially piloted in London at a ward level as part of the National Reassurance Policing Programme (NRPP) between October 2003 and March 2005. Following the small-scale pilot, the three-year Neighbourhood Policing Programme (NPP) was officially launched in April 2005. In both the NRPP and NPP, the purpose of Neighbourhood policing activity had been to provide police visibility; community involvement in identifying local priorities; and collaborative problem-solving with partners and the public to tackle those priorities. (Home Office, 2008).

Safer Neighbourhoods is an approach that seeks to increase contact between the police and the public in defined local geographic areas in order to make the work of the police more responsive to the needs of local people. It gives prominence to the collective security and shared interests of residents living in the same local area (Innes, 2005). Neighbourhood policing, by tackling local priorities in partnership with public and partner agencies, is expected to lead to increased public confidence in the police, and reductions in those types of crime and anti-social behavior prioritized by the public. Its primary aims are, therefore, to improve the publics perception of crime and feelings of safety. The Safer Neighborhoods scheme uses a clear three-point delivery strategy to distribute effective patrols. The first is Visibility, which gives consistent presence of dedicated Neighbourhood policing teams capable of working with the community to establish and maintain control. The second is Community engagement, which provided Intelligence-led identification of community concerns, and effective action against those concerns. The final delivery strategy is Problem-solving which involves joint action problem solving between the police, community and local partners to improve the local environment and quality of life within the community. This Neighbourhood policing model clearly mirrors the concept of community policing (mentioned earlier). The three delivery mechanisms are expected to support each other. In some cases, police presence was expected to foster engagement between the police and local residents, which in turn was expected to help the police, working in partnership, to target their problem-solving activities against the problems that mattered the most to people locally (Home Office, ref).

Neighbourhood policing shares much with other community-oriented models of policing and has been referred to as the 'new' community policing (Innes, 2006). Policy-makers, however, deliberately adopted the term 'Neighbourhood' to reflect growing awareness amongst police officers about the complexity of the policing environment. They also adopted the term Neighbourhood to distance the Programme from earlier community policing efforts that were not sustained over time. The rebranding of community policing was also done to bring together a range of national and force initiatives under a single banner (e.g. quality of life policing, micro-beats, and Policing Priority Areas) (Tuffin, 2007). Although Safer Neighbourhood policing is still a new concept systematic reviews of the international research indicate that the prospects for Neighbourhood policing are promising (Sherman and Eck, 2002; Weisburd and Eck, 2004).

The MPS Strategy, Research and Analysis Unit (SRAU) began a programme of action research on the SN programme from 2004 using a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods to help understand what SN teams can do to impact and drive forward SN objectives (See Rehman, 2008). An example of research conducted by the SRAU is a tracking study interviewing 400 residents in seven wards over the past five years, the role of PCSO's in their first year they were introduced, fieldwork observations with SN teams, and focus groups with members of the public. Five years of research on what factors are associated with satisfaction and confidence in policing, and what works to enable these to increase show a robust stability in the strategies imposed (See Stanko & Bradford, 2009). The confidence model introduced by the MPS to maintain stability in public confidence shows three key drivers of public confidence in policing: the public's perception on how effective the police are at dealing with crime and disorder, how fair the police are when dealing with the public (see Mastrofski, 1999), and how they engage with the public correlate with confidence in the police, with engagement being the most important aspect (Jackson and Bradford, 2008).

Confidence is crucial in community policing both in police public interaction as well as the way the public view police. Since the 1980s, surveys such as the British Crime Survey (BCS) have continually reported a decline in public satisfaction towards the police (Hough, 2007). One aspect of this dissatisfaction was attributed to people believing the police were not able to tackle and reduce the rising levels of crime. As crime rose from the 1980s onwards, surveys reported a rise in people's fear of crime (BCS, Hough, 2007). If trust and confidence is high then fear of crime is reduced as well as legitimacy of the police force. To measure public confidence the public attitudes survey (PAS) is used to gage public support and confidence in all areas covered by public sector workers including police officers. This measure gives an indication of how confident the public is with police ability. Although the P.A.S does give a good indication of public confidence in the police a new set of questions was included in the British Crime Survey (Home Office, 2007) from October 2007 and related to levels of confidence in the police working with local agencies to tackle the antisocial behavior and crime issues that matter in the local area. This was included to measure confidence and help to set confidence targets. In 2008 the Government published the Green Paper 'From the Neighbourhood to the national: policing our communities together' (Home Office, 2008) which proposed a single top-down target to replace the multiple targets previously used to monitor police performance. The single target was introduced to improve levels of public confidence that the police and local councils are dealing with the crime and anti-social behavior issues that matter locally, as measured by the British Crime Survey. Individual targets were set for each police force and published in March 2009. Leading the then Home Secretary Jackie Smith to call for a significant increase of 12% by 2012. This showed confidence was a high priority and reiterated its importance in community engagement and public opinion of the police. The green paper also suggested using key community policing techniques such as embedded Neighbourhood policing (Skogan and Steiner, 2004), high quality community engagement (Myhill and Beak, 2008), Local level communication (Singer and Cooper, 2008) and targeting confidence activity (West Yorkshire Police, 2008). All of these measures were imposed to raise the confidence level of the public view of police while enhancing community relations. The implementation of the confidence model showed community policing and high level community engagement to be the most successful at demonstrating improvements in confidence (Home Office, 2009), highlighting the link between community policing measures and public confidence.

From reviewing the research and developments of community policing and confidence measures it is clear that the two are inextricably linked together with community policing being key to public confidence and vice versa.

The Pressure of Effective Policing.

Although community policing is an effective approach for policing effectively and increasing confidence, it relies on the ability for police officers to interact with the public on a regular basis. This juxtaposes the constant burden placed on police officers to effectively and efficiently deal with crime.very little police work involves dealing directly with crime. Yet both police work itself and the public, political, and police perceptions of police work are very much organized around crime control and direct their targets towards effective and efficient crime control functions. In recent years police have been criticised for 'fire brigade' or 'reactive methods' of policing (Tilley, 2003) in which they rush from one incident to another due to the heavy workload placed on them.

Patrol workload is an important element of police work and can have an effect on officer's engagement even though managers in some boroughs work to even-out workload, higher crime wards tend to have higher call-to-officer ratios and, therefore, less officer time is available to handle citizens' complaints. As levels of ward/borough deviance increase, in other words, capacity to manage work is reduced. Consequently, with higher call averages comes a greater likelihood that wards will have more calls for service than patrol units available. Backlogged work is contradictory in organizations because it runs counter to the bureaucratic ideal of efficiency (Weber, 1946). Skolnick (1966) notes that in police departments the organizational imperative for proficiency is expressed by administrative demands that officers "be efficient" and somehow handles whatever work comes their way. This demand is something that administrators can enforce. While they cannot monitor what officers do in every encounter, administrators can, by simply reading reports of patrol activities, know how well patrol officers are handling their workloads. A backlog of citizen requests for service is evidence that officers are not being efficient, so officers will seek to avoid such backlogs. Thus, with increasing call loads, officers will feel increasing pressure to manage their work in a timely fashion. Therefore reducing their interaction with communities due to the need to be efficient.

Research by Scott (1998) considered the effect of 'performance culture'. Scott found that this culture may shift objectives away from community policing activities to easily quantifiable, predominantly law enforcing ones. She also found that managerial accountability may have increased to the detriment of accountability to the community. The findings suggested that the pressure to achieve performance levels in certain tasks was steering objectives towards reactive, law enforcing policing. This research highlights the impact efficiency has on community policing practice as it takes officers away from engagement with the public due to their perceived need to meet targets and do an effective job. What is clear is that new winds are blowing through police management as a consequence of the service increasingly being required to specify objectives and devise criteria for measuring their achievement such as the recently scrapped 'policing pledge' (Home Office, 2009) which gave strict operational guidelines and public promises. These stringent steps aimed at increasing efficiency mean that officers face responsibility to interact with the community but face opposing responsibility to efficiently deal with crime.

Another area which impacts police effectiveness is deprivation. Those policing teams in deprived areas may face higher demands to carry out crime control functions and thus may not be able to carry out community engagement effectively. The Community Safety Audit conducted by the London Borough of Southwark (1999) states that crime is concentrated in deprived parts of the borough, and identifies six wards, which have the highest levels of deprivation and high crime rates showing a clear correlation between deprivation and crime.

A review of deprivation research carried out by Stockdale et al (2002) on crime and deprivation shows that there is more crime and probably proportionately more crime in deprived than non-deprived areas and that much of this higher incidence is related to concentrations of types of people however area deprivation itself may impact on the incidence of particular types of crime. Reviews of survey results also suggest that people who live in deprived areas express more negative views about the police than those in more affluent areas. (Stockdale, Whitehead and Rennie, 2002). This highlights how deprivation effects police responses and effectiveness as well as public confidence. Deprivation effectively takes officers away from community engagement and creates high operational pressures while at the same time reducing confidence.

In view of the previous research reviewed above it is clear that although there is substantial literature on community policing and its implications there is limited literature on how organisational pressures may effect the amount police can interact with the public and thus increase confidence. This pressure may be a result of increased need for effectiveness, targets or as a consequence of deprivation, nevertheless its implications on community policing and police engagement with the public is an interesting aspect to consider in the current research project. To do this Safer Neighbourhood policing teams across two London wards will be compared. One ward will have high operational pressures and the other will have low operational pressure. The impact of this pressure on police engagement with the public will be analyzed. It is hypothesized that: Safer Neighborhood teams in the busy ward will have less community engagement due to operational pressures compared to Safer Neighborhood teams in the quieter ward. A difference in priorities will also be observed between the two wards.

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