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Community policing has been used for over 3 decades. However, it was not until the 1970’s that the term community policing was given to the action. Community policing is a strategy of policing that combines the overall efforts of the citizens of a community or town, and the local police department. By combining both the forces has shown to help decrease criminal activities in the area where the two forces are combining their efforts. There is not one set way to implement community policing, however one can gather the positive effects of community policing can benefit both the community, police department, and the safety of the town they are serving and protecting.
Community policing can be traced back to its origins of the works of Sir Robert Peel, dated back to the 19th century, due to the rising crime level in London in 1829. Sir Robert Peel created multiple police duties based on the military, that are still used in today’s police departments, and most importantly making the use of community policing popular. Peel created his new police force in a military style, assigning officers with foot patrols to certain geographic regions. By using this tactic it made sure the officers had more initiative by becoming familiar to the citizens living in the area and helping the citizens see that the police were there to help control the criminal activity. Officers became responsible for the areas they were assigned, this helps promote responsibility in the officers and security in the communities the officer was assigned.
After the end of the Civil War the United States had set up a similar system, where police patrols were assigned to their own geographical areas. However, the only difference was that in America the officers carried guns with them instead of batons like their english counterparts. The police officers in America’s duties were not just for policing they also provided community services, like maintaining health and sanitation, regulating commerce, and controlling vices. When the American police officers started using guns during their community policing, this resulted in police officers having a clear power over the average american citizens. Problems similar to these eventually led to the Political Era of policing which began around the 1830’s and lasted to the 1930’s. The political era was known for by the use of police brutality, and as a result created a wave of national distrust in the police during this era. From the 1930’s to late 1960’s is where the modernization era of policing forces began. Before during the Political era the police were known for as being brutal and often using guns and violence to control crowds and other situations, rather than another more peaceful options. This all resulted in distance between the citizens and the police departments. Actions then began to close the distance and provide citizens with a sense of security when the police responded to a call instead of fear. During this time before the 1970’s multiple tactics were adopted in order to help close this gap, civil service merit systems began to be used instead for hiring police officers rather than local spoil system. Also during this time multiple police departments began to change the order of their departments to hierarchy management style, in order to keep responsibility and accountability. Phones, radios, and automobiles became common uses during this era, which led to officers losing the value, connection, and familiarity of face to face recognition. This distance again created civil unrest. The civil unrest then led to an increase of more riots, gang violence, assassinations, and the relationships between the public and police departments was distanced again. After the civil unrest of the 1960’s the public’s view of the police departments was one of unjust brutality and discriminatory behavior. In the article Community Policing in Small Town and Rural America, explains how the need for community policing was not strictly from police brutality, it resulted from “various social trends and movements, each of which has organized citizens to demand tat police be more accountable.” (Weisheit, Wells, & Falcone, 1994). The result from all of the police brutality and the culture and race disrimination resulted in the need for community policing more than ever. This was the cause for change, in the 1970’s the police departments changed their way of action towards more based on a community friendly approach, to help the public view of the police officers. Which resulted in the community policing that is used now in police departments.
Community policing has many aspects a jurisdiction must make in order to make their environment and community a successful one for community policing. For community policing to work certain aspects need to be met by both the police department and the community such as, building strong connections and relationships, both parties being open to share and collaborate on situations, and a strong factor of accountability on both parties of the officers and the community. Citizens in a community policing environment need to feel that they have a voice and an opinion and a certain amount of power in their community to make sure changes get made and also they can control somewhat of what happens in their communities. Building relationships with local businesses and neighbors around the community promote trust building face to face recognition that is needed in these types of community policing. This not only builds trust, but also allows for the average amerian citizen to feel their own responsibility and accountability towards the common goal of keeping their community and environment safe and clean. By holding meetings with the communities, citizens, and businesses help everyone understand the needs that all parties feel need to be met. If the community does not feel that the safety and well being of the community is not top priority, the community policing will surely fail. There are multiple reasons as to why a jurisdiction and community would want to implement community policing. Reasons could vary to aggressive police behavior, bad public image of the police, community violence, gangs, drugs, the reasons could go on for miles. However, each jurisdiction is different as for the need for each community. What works for one community may not be the case or help with the problems of another community. Whatever the reason, the need for meetings to be held in order for the public and the jurisdiction to come to a common belief and agreement of what needs to be done for the community. The need for patience, and the willingness to experiment is a huge stepping stone in community policing. Citizens need to understand that in the beginning process of implementing community policing may take patience and a little give and take on the jurisdiction and the community. Experimenting and creative problem solving will definitely help to make sure this process runs smooth. Since there are no set answers how to solve each communities problems, there is no set answer for how to run and operate community policing program. Regular nightly police patrols may help one town, however another town may require another more intensive work. Similarly mentioned above this all depends on the characteristics of the town, the town size, geographic area, criminal activity, population, race, the list can be limitless. This is why it is hard to define community policing, each case and jurisdiction is different.
Each jurisdiction is ran and supervised differently, similar to how each community is complex. Most police departments run more towards a military style of hierarchy. This may prove to become a problem, when deciding to implement a community policing program. Officers may be hesitant to implement community policing in their community, based on traditionalist views of policing. Each supervisor’s management style is different, however if it is more towards a traditionalist style this too may be difficult to implement community policing in the community. Officers who view policing as more the jurisdictions job instead of the communities may have trouble switching to the community style of policing. The need for clarity arises over what is the community police officers duty consist of, and that also is a major problem that frequently arises in community policing. Similar to the findings in by Pelfrey, officers find it hard after being used to traditionalist style policing to simply switch over to community policing (Pelfrey, 2004). These problems can be caused from the great diversity of community policing and the definition set for each community and jurisdiction. Since community policing is not controlled national control, rather the local control, it is easy for the definition to become complex. Because it is not national controlled it is easy for cities and communities to experiment, similar to communities in San Diego and Chicago that have adopted a comprehensive approach to community policing (Davis, Henderson, & Merrick, 2003). For community policing to work there needs to be room to grow and experiment, from both the community and the police department. Problems regarding community policing may come from a lack of funds or a lack of recreational opportunities, to help the community solve the problems they need resolved. However there is some cases where the community does not want to switch to community policing and “act in a politically robust manner”, would rather have the police stay with the traditionalist type of police work and not have the communities act in any police manner (Delgado, 2008, 1197). From this one can see that there are more than organizational problems that can arise from implementing community policing.
There are multiple ways to help include local government in ways to benefit community policing. For example if the problem in one community is underage drinking and the usage of drugs, the local police department can speak at the local school of the dangers of underage drinking and the usage of drugs, and the effects drugs can have on their lives. Community policing is not just about reducing criminal activity, it is maintaining a healthy and conductive community environment. A major part of community oriented policing is to make sure to use the problem solving acronym, “SARA”. The acronym stands for scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. This system when put in place helps include the community when problems arise in a community. When using “SARA” it includes the community and citizens on every aspect of the level. An instance when it would benefit from using “SARA” could be if the town had a problem of increased muggings in a certain neighborhood. In that instance scanning can be used to to review the crimes and the details about the crime and the details of the scene of the crime. Next is analysis, the officers could discuss with citizens what they believe the cause of the crimes are and discuss different ways to fix the increased rate of muggings in the neighborhood. Response is when the police officers and community would implement a solution to the muggings that was found and chose collaboratively. The last step in “SARA” is assessment, this is when the community and officers would check the response and solution to the crimes effectiveness, and change the solution if there calls any need. By using this process it helps include citizens each step of the assessment. Another instance could be to collaborate with citizens in their community about the importance of recycling and help distribute recycling bins throughout their town, to insure their community remains clean and safe. For community policing to work it is important that the local jurisdiction and citizens of the community to remain motivated towards the goal of providing a better community and environment for their children and others after them. This is an important aspect, all involved in this process need to remember the reason why community policing works, and how to make it a successful process. Community policing is needed in todays democracy now more than ever, with the political divide and a reoccuring division between the police and the citizens.
Community policing has multiple reasons why it is effective, it helps connect the local police department and the community, it helps decrease crime in a community, it shows citizens that they have a responsibility to their community. More importantly it provides a voice for both the police department, the community, and the citizens living in the community. Each program implemented per community will be different than the other, that is one of the benefits of community policing. It allows the community and police department, to make of it the way they need it to it to fit in their communities and lives.
- Davis, R. C., Henderson, N. J., & Merrick, C. (2003). Community Policing: Variations on the Western Model in the Developing World. Police Practice & Research, 4(3), 285. https://doi-org.zeus.tarleton.edu/10.1080/1561426032000113870
- Davis, R. W. (1977). Sir Robert Peel’s Administration, 1841-1846 (Book Review). American Historical Review, 82(2), 357. https://doi-org.zeus.tarleton.edu/10.2307/1849994
- Delgado, R. (2008). Law Enforcement in Subordinated Communities: Innovation and Response. Michigan Law Review, 106(6), 1193–1212. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.zeus.tarleton.edu:82/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=31806118&site=ehost-live
- Pelfrey Jr., W. V. (2004). The Inchoate Nature of Community Policing: Differences between Community Policing and Traditional Police Officers. JQ: Justice Quarterly, 21(3), 579–601. https://doi-org.zeus.tarleton.edu/10.1080/07418820400095911
- Weisheit, R. A., & Wells, L. E. (1994). Community policing in small town and rural America. Crime & Delinquency, 40(4), 549. https://doi-org.zeus.tarleton.edu/10.1177/0011128794040004005
- MILLER, LARRY S. EFFECTIVE POLICE SUPERVISION. ROUTLEDGE, 2017.
- S.A.R.A. Model. ncjtc-static.fvtc.edu/Resources/RS00002738.pdf.
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