Traditionally, law enforcement is called after a crime has already occurred. Law enforcement is designed to respond to emergency calls requiring a quick response, place criminals under arrest, conduct and follow-up on investigations, as well as routine neighborhood checks.
When discussing community-oriented policing (COP), there is a broader police focus which is the prevention of crime and disorder. COP requires a more strategic approach to working in the community as the community and the Police are encouraged to come together and form a partnership in which both (community members and police) share a common goal of making the community safer.
This paper is going to discuss the role of the police in community policing such as how and why community policing was developed, the role of the COP officer and how the COP officer and community can work together to make COP effective.
The Role of the Police in Community Policing
The concept of policing has been in existence for many years. The police are expected to perform many community duties that in the past were the responsibility of the local citizen such as: keeping the peace, handling emergency services, dealing with family problems, and helping during civil emergencies. But now police officers are called in to solve these social problems that citizens create. Due to this role conflict, more departments are adopting new models of policing that reflect this changing role.
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What is community policing? Community policing is a working relationship, between the police and local residents, with the mission to make the neighborhood a safer and better environment to live in and increase trust in the police (http://www.cops.usdoj.gov). By forming this relationship, the community and police work together on goals such as reducing crime in the neighborhood, reducing fear of crime and improving the quality of life in the community. With the cooperation of both the police and the community, community policing identifies problems of crime and chaos and then involve the community in finding solutions to reduce such and make the community and a better, safer neighborhood to live.
Community policing goes beyond traditional policing as the police are no longer the sole protectors of the law and social order as all members of the community take an active part in the effort to enhance the safety and quality of neighborhoods. Community policing can be defined as the collaboration between the police and the community (residents) in which together they can identify and solve community issues. Together the residents and the police can encourage active citizen involvement in policing efforts, focus on issues of ongoing public concern, provide continuity of service to the community, develop, strengthen and/or build groups and organizations so residents can advocate for their own interests (www.cops.usdoj.gov).
Although, community oriented policing is a partnership between the police and the community members, the police play a major role as the police officer is the foundation of community-oriented policing (Oliver, 2008). The officer’s goal/purpose is to educate the public about its local police department, maintain or increase public confidence and trust in law enforcement, decrease fear of crime, listening to and addressing citizen concerns, and implementing community programs together with community members in an effort to solve problems.
Community oriented policing is also intended to encourage community participation and involvement. The values of community policing include developing lasting community partnerships and problem solving in collaboration with the community along with organizational change within the police department. Instead of only riding through the community responding to calls, some police departments have implemented community policing as a more collaborative approach with the community members in an effort to have better problem solving for the police and teach the citizens ways to better prepare, identify and prevent crime and fear of crime in the community.
The police can play an active role in the COP by taking the lead in making sure the community safe. It is believed that if the police demonstrate an interest in the community, they will generate a better response from the community response as the citizens will look at the police more as allies rather than enemies. Below are ways that the police can demonstrate their concern for the community while building trust from the community members. In order for COP to be effective the following partnership tactics must work efficiently:
Routine patrol, whether on foot, car, or horseback, should be part of community outreach strategies to increase police visibility in an effort to reduce fear of crime or as a prevention measure for crime-reduction in a particular hot-spot neighborhood. This will also give the opportunity for the community members and officers to become more familiar with each other and also allow the police to have better insight of the community needs regarding crime deterrence.
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Information Sharing/Ongoing Communication p94
Community policing advocates for a consistent flow of information between law enforcement and the community, regarding potentially effective solutions to crime and disorder problems and various crime trends and patterns. As a result of sharing information, the police can be more proactive and focused on developing long term solutions to the citizen’s concerns rather than be reactive and wait until they are called to determine how to rectify a known problem
Crime Prevention Programs
The main objective of community crime prevention is to be proactive and bring awareness to community members/groups that may be a potential target for crime as well as open the lines of communication between the police and the community (Oliver, 2008). In most of the community crime prevention programs, the police facilitate the program, however needs the support of the community to support and participate in the programs in order for the program to be effective and successful.
The goal of social control is for the police and community to collaborate and work toward maintaining, enhancing, and restoring social control over the entire community. It is thought that if community members have an attachment or are dedicated to making the community a better and safer place, people would less likely commit a crime than those individuals who are lacking in one or more areas.
The above programs should be utilized based on the community members’ needs and their perceptions of the local problems (Oliver, 2008). Whether implemented on their own or with the assistance of the police, the above mentioned programs must be created, implemented, and maintained with the assistance and cooperation of the community in order to remain relevant.
In conclusion, Community oriented policing is both a philosophy and an organizational strategy that allows police and community residents to work closely together in new ways to solve the problems of crime, fear of crime, physical and social disorders, and neighborhood deterioration. Community-oriented policing is beneficial not only to the community and the police department but also the police officer (Oliver, 2008).
COPS: Community Oriented Policing Services (nd). Community Policing Defined. Retrieved on February 2, 2014 from http:// www.cops.usdoj.gov
Oliver, W. (2008). Community-Oriented Policing. A Systemic Approach to Policing (4th Ed). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
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