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Encyclopedia of Community Policing and Problem Solving
- Edited by: Kenneth J. Peak
- Publisher: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
- Publication year: 2013
- Online pub date: August 05, 2013
- Discipline: Criminology & Criminal Justice
- Subject: Community Policing
- DOI: https:// doi. org/10.4135/9781452276113
- Print ISBN: 9781452235295
- Online ISBN: 9781452276113
- Buy the book icon link
Entries a-z, subject index.
Community policing, as a philosophy, supports the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues, including crime, social disorder, and fear of crime-as opposed to responding to crime after it occurs. Community policing expands the traditional police mandate. It broadens the focus of fighting crime to include solving community problems and forming partnerships with people in the community so average citizens can contribute to the policing process. Originating during police reform efforts of the 1970s, the philosophy of community policing is currently widespread and embraced by many citizens, police administrators, scholars, and local and federal politicians. What sorts of collaborative partnerships have evolved between policing agencies and the individuals and communities they serve? How do police departments engage in systematic examination of identified problems to develop effective responses? How have police departments aligned their organizational structures to best support community partnerships and proactive problem solving? Just how effective have efforts at community policing been? These questions and more are explored within the pages of this new reference work.
- Editorial Board
- List of Entries
- Reader’s Guide
- About the Editor
- Appendix: Community-Oriented Policing and Problem-Solving Case Studies
- Agency Mission and Values, Changes in
- Community Policing, Discretionary Authority Under
- Community Policing: Resources, Time, and Finances in Support of
- Customer-Based Policing
- Decentralizing the Organization/Organizational Change
- Implementation of Community Policing
- Involving Local Businesses
- Learning Organization
- Measuring Officer Performance
- Officers’ Job Satisfaction
- Publicity Campaigns
- Recruiting for Quality and Diversity
- Roles, Chief Executives’
- Roles, First-Line Supervisors’
- Roles, Middle Managers’
- Roles, Officers’
- Strategic Planning
- Computer-Aided Dispatch
- Counterterrorism and Community Policing
- Crime Analysis
- Crime Analysts, Roles of
- Crime Displacement
- Crime Mapping
- Global Positioning Systems/Geographic Information Systems
- Problem Analysis Triangle
- Tipping Points of Neighborhoods
- Website Uses by Local Agencies
- Citizen Surveys
- Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool (CP-SAT)
- Problem-Solving Initiatives, Assessment and Evaluation
- Problem-Solving Initiatives, Examples of Assessment and Evaluation of
- Broken Windows Theory
- Building Partnerships and Stakeholders
- Citizen Patrols
- Collaboration With Outside Agencies
- Community Cohesion and Empowerment
- Community Justice
- Community Policing and Problem Solving, Definition of
- Community Policing, Evolution of
- Community Policing: What It Is Not
- Community Prosecution
- Community, Definition of
- Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
- Directed Patrol, Studies of
- Evidence-Based Policing
- Fear of Crime
- Flint, Michigan, Experiment
- Foot Patrols
- Generations (Three) of Community Policing
- Intelligence-Led Policing
- International Community Policing
- Investigations, Community Policing Strategies for
- Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment
- Metropolitan Police Act of 1829
- Place-Based Policing
- Police Mission
- Police-Community Relations
- Policing, Three Eras of
- Predictive Policing
- Problem, Definition of
- Problem-Oriented Policing, Goldstein’s Development of
- Problem-Oriented Policing: Elements, Processes, Implications
- Problem-Solving Courts
- Problem-Solving Process (SARA)
- Restorative Justice
- Situational Crime Prevention
- Social Capital
- Team Policing
- Volunteers, Police Use of
- Wickersham Commission
- Cybercrime and Community Policing
- Demographics, Future Impact on Community Policing
- Succession Planning
- Terrorism, Future Impact of Community Policing on
- Domestic Violence, Characteristics of
- Drug Crimes, Characteristics of
- Elderly Victimization, Characteristics of
- Gangs and Their Crimes, Characteristics of
- School Violence and Safety, Characteristics of
- Traffic Problems, Characteristics of
- Youthful Offenders, Characteristics of
- Center for Problem-Oriented Policing
- Community Oriented Policing Services, Office of
- Community Policing Consortium
- Executive Sessions on Policing
- Homeland Security
- National Center for Community Policing
- National Crime Prevention Council
- Neighborhood Associations
- Operation Weed and Seed
- Police Foundation
- Regional Community Policing Institutes
- Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994
- Citizen Police Academies
- Ethical Considerations
- In-Service Training
- Model Curriculum
- Non-sworn Personnel and Volunteers, Use and Training of
- Police Training Officer (PTO) Program
- Recruit Academy Training
- Colleges and Universities, Community Policing Strategies for
- Domestic Violence, Community Policing Strategies for
- Drug Crimes, Community Policing Strategies for
- Elderly Victimization, Community Policing Strategies for
- Gang Crimes, Community Policing Strategies for
- Immigrant Populations, Community Policing Strategies for
- Immigration: Issues, Law, and Police Training
- Public Housing, Community Policing Strategies for
- Repeat Victimization, Community Policing Strategies for
- Rural Areas, Community Policing in
- School Violence and Safety, Community Policing Strategies for
- State Police/Patrol, Community Policing Strategies for
- Traffic Problems, Community Policing Strategies for
- Youthful Offenders, Community Policing Strategies for
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6.3. Policing Eras
Researchers Kelling and Moore (1991) evaluated the first three eras of policing. These eras are discussed below, and are often referred to as the Political Era , the Reform Era , and the Community Era. Through the microscope of seven topical areas, listed below, an understanding of how policing evolved begins.
These seven characteristics have been used to evaluate how policing operated throughout history, most notably through its organizational structure, tactics, and primary focus. 
Political Era: The political era is often referred to as the first era of policing in the United States and it began around the 1840s with the creation of the first bona fide police agencies in America 
This era of policing is marked by the industrial revolution, the abolishment of slavery, and the formation of large cities. One way to confirm the start of this era is to look at the creation of police departments in larger cities:
- New York Police Founded 1845
- Chicago Police Founded 1855
- Philadelphia Police Founded 1751
- Jacksonville Police Founded 1822
- Indianapolis Police Founded 1850’s
- Detroit Police Founded 1865
- Portland Police Founded 1870
- Eugene Police Founded 1863
- Jackson County, Oregon Police Founded 1852
With the advent of the industrial revolution, came goods and services. Along with new job opportunities, came a myriad of conflict as well. The fast-growing cities had to answer these problems with solutions in the form of policing. The abolishment of slavery and the new free black population created many unforeseen issues too with The Klu Klux Klan. The Klan began to make terrifying appearances and their reign of terror left many in fear. Policing had not yet formally entered the scene; therefore, The Klan operated virtually unencumbered.
The United States saw tremendous growth in major cities, had the industrial revolution, and the abolished slavery, which is when the Political Era of policing was set into motion. As its name suggests, it was an era of politics, mainly because of how policing was limited as a result of new laws, made clear by the Constitution. America answered the call by following the English and Sir Robert Peel’s principles. Not unlike today, policing during this era was under the control of politicians. Politicians, like the mayor, had no problem controlling everything a policeman did during his call of duty ( NOTE: the word policeman/men is utilized in this era/context, because during this time period, women were not allowed in the profession, and if they were accepted it was under a microscopic view of certain stereotypical matronly duties to be performed). In fact, Black policemen were rarely hired. Black policemen made their way into policing in the late 1800s, but when the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was ruled unconstitutional, Black officers all but disappeared from policing until the 1950s.
Reform Era : Because the Political Era of policing ended up being laced with corruption and brutality, the panacea for the negativity became the Reform Era. One police chief was largely at the forefront of this new era, Chief August Vollmer . He is considered the pioneer for police professionalism. August Vollmer was the Chief of Police in Berkeley, California (1905-1932). He had many new beliefs about policing that would forever change the world of policing:
- Candidates who were testing to be in policing had to undergo psychological and intelligence tests
- Detectives would utilize scientific methods in their investigations, through forensic laboratories
- Recruits, for the first time, would attend a training academy (police did not receive any formal training prior to August Vollmer’s arrival)
- Assisted with the development of the School of Criminology at the University of California at Berkeley
Chief August Vollmer saw policing and officers as social workers that needed to delve into the causes behind the acts in order to solve the issue, instead of just arrest it.  He knew in order to rehabilitate offenders, police officers needed to look behind the handcuffs and start looking into the person and reason behind the behavior. 
Diversity in policing started to make a mark during this era, but it would fall irrevocably far from meeting any type of quota. It was a better era for diversity than the Political Era, but the numbers don’t lie in that it fell dismally short.
The Community Era- 1980s to 2000: In the 1960s and 1970s the crime rate double and it was a time of unrest and eye-opening policing issues. Civil rights movements spread across America and the police were on the front lines. Media coverage showed controversial contacts between white male officers and African American citizens, which further irritated race relations in policing. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark Miranda v. Arizona and Mapp v. Ohio decisions. The writing was on the wall that the policing environment had to change. The days of answering everything with bullying or police professionalism were no more. The Community Era of policing began and those in police administration hoped this new era held the answers to fixing decades-old issues. The police needed help and they would turn towards the community and its citizens for assistance.
This new era of community policing held that police couldn’t act alone; the community must pitch in as well. Whether the problems were a dispute between neighbors or high crime area drugs and shootings, these issues did not develop overnight and could not be solved by a response of police alone. Instead, these community problems needed a pronged approach where the police worked together with the community and over time the issues could be systematically solved. Out of the box thinking was common in community policing and often community leaders were identified in order to make the impact. During this time police candidates started showing up to the application process with Associates and Bachelors degrees. The ‘old school officers’ mocked these degree-holding candidates. But the landscape was changing and officers needed more thorough training than ever to answer the call.
Problem-oriented policing was an after effect of community policing, in that it utilized community policing, but focused on the problems first. The biggest difference was problem-oriented policing used a defined process for working towards the solution. The problem was torn apart layer by layer and rebuilt according to set parameters that have a proven record of working.
The Community Era was also a time for research. Prior to this era, research on crime, police, or criminal justice topics were few and far between. With new federal government funding options available, this era missions could be accomplished through grants and the needed research began. Proof of what worked, what didn’t, and suggestions on how to improve policing were abundant. Without research or studies, policing can become stagnant. But with funding available, the answers were a questionnaire or interview away and solutions came rolling in.
Community Era Example
“I remember the Community Era very well. I was a new police officer during this time and actually at the forefront of Community Policing and Problem-Oriented Policing. I was the first woman officer at my police department that was pregnant and the administration was open to suggestions when asked what to do with me when my belly expanded. I politely suggested that once I was five to six months pregnant and began to show (and not fit in my uniform or patrol belt anymore), I will be voluntarily transferred to the Crime Prevention Division. With my doctor approving this decision, my belly grew, and I transferred to this new division. I remember hitting the streets and knocking on doors, spewing how great of a panacea Community Policing was. It took some buy-in and with the citizens who ‘bought-it,’ the concept actually became a reality and worked! Months later we had a string of burglaries occurring in a high-crime neighborhood. The detectives, patrol, everyone hit the streets, knocking on doors, questioning everyone, in an attempt to find the criminals responsible. With no avail, I turned to Community Policing. I brought in a mounted police officer and horse. My colleagues chucked and shook their heads in response! What was I thinking?!?! “It was a waste of resources,” they balked! How could a cop on a horse solve this crime? I was glad; I ‘wasted my time,’ because it worked! The officer on the horse brought citizens out of their houses that normally would never have spoken to a police officer normally. The horse was such a spectacle in the neighborhood, that it was the catalyst that caused citizens to not only come out of their houses but to start talking about what and who they had been seeing in and around their neighborhood that did not belong. One such sighting was a vehicle description, which led to criminals responsible for the burglaries. ”
The Homeland Security Era- 2001 to Present: On September 11 th , 2001, when terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center buildings and Pentagon in the United States, a fourth era of policing, the era of Homeland Security, was said to emerge.  The long-lasting repercussions of this terrorist act would forever change life for Americans, but the daily activities of all policing departments. There is some debate in the field as to the order of policing eras and what they should be called. Some scholars list the policing eras as:
- Pre-Policing Era
- Political Era
- Community Era
While others believe the policing eras are:
- Homeland Security Era
The realities of the tragedy of 9/11 were that it did start a new era of policing. In fact, a case could be made for the large dark line that became metaphorically visible on 9/11/01, when the Community Era shifted to the Homeland Security Era as airplanes destroyed America’s feelings of safety. Policing will probably always involve some sort of Community Era policing in order to make a difference.
Policing under Homeland Security is marked by a more focused concentration of its resources into crime control, enforcement of the criminal law, traffic law, etc., in order to expose potential threats and gather intelligence. 
Scholars have examined the pros and cons of a national police department in the United States. For example, Canada has a Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Whereas, depending on location, one could go through several different cities and counties while driving to the store, all of which have their own respective police departments. With the advent of the Homeland Security Era, a new model of centralized organizational control began due to the need for information dissemination. One of the biggest flaws of 9/11 was the lack of communication between law enforcement agencies. The Department of Homeland Security was developed and one of its first major missions became the dissemination of information and communication. So, while a national police department does not exist in the United States, communication and information are now a common thread that binds all of the different types of law enforcement agencies.
Homeland Security Era Examples
I remember I awoke to live video showing one of the World Trade Center buildings with smoke billowing from the windows. I wondered hesitantly how the fire started? Then, as one video camera rolled, by happenstance, it caught an airplane flying directly into the second World Trade Center building and my worst fears came true. I think I stumbled to the edge of my couch and steadied myself, although I really don’t remember, as I watched what happened next, slowly unfold. The effects of that day will never be forgotten.
During a trip to New York, last summer, I visited the World Trade Center museum. As I walked through the halls, a pin drop could have been heard. The respect, sadness, and overwhelming feelings that filled me made it difficult to breathe. Not only did the terrorists kill and destroy many things that day with their hate but they forever changed policing. I was a patrol officer at the time when the devastation ravaged America. Sadness filled our department for our brothers and sisters that lost their lives. We didn’t realize at the time, but our departments and thousands of others in policing across America were in for major changes, because of the heinous acts of a few. The first changes I remember taking place were: Active shooter updates and training; Incident Command System (ICS) updates and training; NEMA emergency management training; Gas masks were distributed for each individual officer, to be carried full-time, along with 3 month re-check and applicable training; Policy and procedure updates and additional response training depending on the call type; Reconfiguration of call type and responses to each; COMMUNICATION became the center of everything.
It became essential to hire a person to go through all the communication and alerts we received daily and alert those the information effected Unless those in the policing field had blinders on, the era of Homeland Security, was probably at the time, and will probably always be, one of the most substantial in policing history.
- Greene, J. R., & Mastrofsky, S. D. (Eds.) (1991). Kelling, G.L., & Moore, M. H. (1991). From political to reform to community: The evolving strategy of the police. In Community Policing: Rhetoric or Reality. New York: Paeger. ↵
- Oliver, W. M. (2006). The fourth era of policing: Homeland security. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology ↵
- Reppetto, T.A. (1978). The Blue Parade. New York: Free Press. ↵
- Oliver, W. M. (2006). The fourth era of policing: Homeland security. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology. ↵
- Oliver, W. M. (2006). The fourth era of policing: Homeland security. International Review of Law, Computers & Technology . ↵
6.3. Policing Eras Copyright © 2019 by Tiffany Morey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Dissecting Community Policing: The Contemporary American Perspective
Patryk F. Jaroszkiewicz, University of New Haven
Although the development of American policing is deeply rooted in the first modern police force in England, created by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, the United States initially did not adhere to the innovative Peelian virtues. In particular, the notion that “the police are the public, and the public are the police,” which stressed the importance of continuous partnership between the community and law enforcement, did not fit the controversial reality during the early creation stages of modern police organizations in America (Williams, 2003). Given that all citizens are a vital part of the community-oriented policing (COP) model, it was not until late 1980s when the paradigm of police work shifted towards the police-citizen partnership approach. Williams and Murphy (1990) noted that minority communities across the nation, previously omitted by the benefits of policing, played a critical role in triggering the era of community policing (p. 2). However, not only does the existing community-oriented approach emphasize the crucial aspect of collective efficacy within the public safety arena, but it also stresses the need for progressive transformation of law enforcement agencies and the implementation of problem-solving strategies (COPS, 2016).
Despite some scholars challenging its effectiveness, the community policing model has become a particularly accepted strategy across the nation, in which 98% of police cadets receive various training courses in this approach (Reaves, 2016, p.7). However, the subsequent mechanics of how police officers implement community policing strategies to address community problems are often omitted in today’s research, as most studies focus on the quantitative results pertaining to crime reduction. Therefore, it is important to continue the evaluation process of this strategy from various perspectives, as community collaboration is a complexly structured phenomenon. While COP has various interpretations, Thomas (2019) highlights the fact that its true definition must not be adulterated by subjective oversimplifications.
In a context of recent nationwide civil unrest, protests against police brutality, and calls for defunding police organizations, this paper explores public perceptions and attitudes toward community policing, with an eye toward healing the currently heavily bruised relationship between minority communities and the police. Constructive dialogue and genuine partnership between law enforcement and their constituents need to be reinvigorated. Given the nationwide heightened tensions, it is important to remind both sides that police do not have enemies – police have communities.
While some scholars have challenged community-oriented policing, with common skepticisms such as “old wine in new bottles” (Thurman, 2002) and “a failed attempt at change” (Thomas, 2019, p. 51), COP continues to evolve and adapt to the rapidly changing dynamics of society. Additionally, critics point to the ambiguity of interpretation when it comes to implementation of COP tactics, in which various jurisdictions can disguise other aggressive policing strategies under the same definition (Fielding, 2005; Thomas, 2019). Many scholars, especially those involved in the initial creation of COP strategies, argue that the flexible definition of COP intentionally acknowledges that policing is composed of several different internal dimensions, simultaneously affected by various external factors (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1994). However, the general framework of COP philosophy, which is meant as a guiding principle, consists of three pivotal elements: citizen involvement, organizational transformation, and a problem-solving approach (COPS, 2016). The strong emphasis on police-citizen partnerships is what distinguishes COP from the traditional policing approaches seen in the previous eras.
In 2015, the President’s Task Force Report on 21st-Century Policing once again recalibrated community-oriented policing, and in the era of police militarization (triggered by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001), stressed the importance of guardianship. The President’s Task force attempted to address the contemporary “us-versus-them, black-and-white, and drug-war mentality” (Balko, 2014, p. 321), while aiming to extend original ideas and promote collective efficacy in crime reduction. This approach is the ultimate reflection of the “Peelian Principles,” in which citizens are viewed as vital allies of the police.
Given the proactive nature of COP strategies, in 2018 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) examined proactive interventions and programs of multiple police agencies across the nation (NAS, 2018). The results indicated that proactive policing efforts, particularly focused on high-crime areas, not only exhibit consistently effective outcomes on crime reduction, but also improve police-citizen relations. Moreover, Weisburd and Majmundar (2018) added that such strategies reduce fear of crime, increase police legitimacy, and promote problem-solving tactics. Therefore, positive police-citizen relations are essential to prevent disharmony and assure effective partnerships throughout communities.
The various dimensions of COP strategies and their impact on communities have been explored in countless studies since the origin of this approach. However, it is crucial to continuously evaluate whether the field of policing is adapting to various dynamic changes within society. That is why the current literature presents and discusses modern findings, while concurrently exhibiting the areas that need further attention. Rather than operating with unsubstantiated assumptions, the contemporary research not only informs policy makers, but also provides current data and a more evidence-based perspective of the situation.
Given that trust in police and police legitimacy are necessary factors for effective community policing, Kahn et al. (2019) examined residents’ attitudes about the police in Portland, Oregon, in a study of community engagement patrols (CEPs) across 60 crime-dense areas. In this experiment, Portland’s CEP’s aimed to secure positive police-community partnerships and prioritized non-investigative contacts with the citizens in high-crime areas, rather than engaging in traditional enforcement strategies. It was an innovative approach, as hot spot policing is often synonymous with the “crime control model” (Packer, 1968), and aggressive tactics such as drug raids, “stop and frisk,” and zero tolerance policing may increase police-citizen contact but simultaneously yield fear of police.
Based on the city’s crime reports and previous calls for service, Kahn et al. (2019) identified 90 “neighborhood involvement locations” (NI-Locs) and randomized CEPs into three groups: 30 scheduled to include two CEPs per day, 30 assigned four CEPs per day, and the remaining 30 locations as the control group with no special treatment applied (p. 919). The intervention was active for over 6 months, whereby each target location received treatment for 90 consecutive days, involving 16,213 households within the 90 NI-Locs. Considering the non-investigative nature of police-citizen interactions and increased police visibility, the authors hypothesized that areas with CEP treatment would reflect a positive image of police and enhanced interactions.
Kahn et al. (2019) used a survey instrument to collect data and mailed questionnaires to 11,760 household immediately after each intervention sequence was completed (p. 921). However, despite the initial large sample, only 1,537 surveys were returned, of which 1,423 were used as the final sample (constituting a roughly 13% response rate). The survey instrument focused on residents’ perceptions of the CEPs and asked the respondents to assess the quality of police performance, based on exposure to officers, perceptions of police duties, visibility of officers throughout NI-Locs, and perceived police legitimacy. While the results indicated that community members from CEP districts reported a higher number of positive police-citizen contacts, residents’ attitudes towards police were not affected. Interestingly, all of the findings regarding attitudes toward police were insignificant within the three groups, indicating that police-community relations were not improved as a result of the intervention. The authors noted that these findings could be due to all-too-brief interactions with community members, yet they stressed that the reported increase in positive contacts can be perceived as an important building block for future community policing models.
Some scholars argue that community policing strategies are “soft on crime” and fail to present empirical data on successful crime reduction and clearance rates (Frydl & Skogan, 2004; Reisig & Kane, 2014). With this in mind, Tillyer (2018) examined the impact of community-oriented policing (COP) on violent crime arrest rates. In this comprehensive study, the author collected and linked data from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), which included 402,786 reports of violent incidents across 603 jurisdictions (p. 533). The sample was composed of municipal police departments, sheriff departments, and state police agencies, which policed “cities of approx. 79,000 residents… with an average of 859 violent crime incidents per 100,000 population” (p. 534). Based on each agency’s involvement in various COP strategies, Tillyer conducted a multilevel analysis of various factors that may affect the likelihood of arrest. Offender characteristics and crime types, such as murder, kidnapping, and robbery, were exported from the NIBRS data and coded as dichotomous dependent variables, distinguishing whether an arrest was made for each individual crime. In addition, organizational variables, including the education requirements of each agency, technological advancements, and various COP strategies pursued, were extracted from the LEMAS survey.
To generate his findings, Tillyer (2018) created a series of multilevel models that examined potential relationships between COP strategies and arrests. The results indicated that arrests occurred in nearly 45% of all violent crimes, where simple assault accounted for the majority of incidents (71%). Moreover, 85% percent of the agencies reported engagement in at least one of the COP activities, and the average department engaged in between two and three of these tactics (p. 540-543). Based on the analysis, the author found that departments that implemented multiple COP models had slightly higher, statistically significant arrest rates for all violent crimes, compared to the agencies that were marginally engaged in COP. Interestingly, agencies that used the Scanning-Analysis-Response-Assessment (SARA) model did not display significantly better arrest rates. Overall, while the findings suggested a positive relationship between arrest rates and COP tactics, Tillyer (2018) concluded that engagement in a single COP activity will not have any meaningful impact on arrests. Therefore, departments must implement a diverse and comprehensive approach, which ensures a combination of various crime-specific and targeted tactics.
Given that community policing philosophy emphasizes the partnership between the communities and the police, stressing the civic engagement as a crucial element of public safety (Skogan, 2006), it is also imperative to examine police officers’ perspectives toward such strategy. This is particularly significant, as some scholars commented on “the paradox of the simultaneous emergence of community policing and militarism” (Koslicki & Willits, 2018; Balko, 2014), which suggests that it is challenging to implement community policing strategies when law enforcement officers view themselves as warriors, rather than guardians. With this in mind, Gau and Paul (2019) surveyed 203 officers in a mid-sized police department in Florida, to analyze officers’ “attitudinal adaptation” (p. 947) towards three dependent variables: community-policing orientation, order-maintenance orientation, and law-enforcement orientation. Central independent variables consisted of community and organizational elements that influence officers’ job-related attitudes, such as stress, job satisfaction, and danger.
Most importantly, the authors found that officers were inclined toward community policing, but did not fully endorse order-maintenance and traditional law-enforcement strategies. Interestingly, Gau and Paul (2019) noted that few independent variables were found to relate to the dependent variables, which suggests that specific role orientations are not associated with officers’ job-related viewpoints. Moreover, statistically significant results were observed among Black officers, who favored a community policing approach more than white officers, and in general, officers with a college education exhibited modestly more positive attitudes toward community policing compared to those without higher education (p. 952). While the obtained results cannot be generalized to the entire law enforcement population, the data imply that despite the visible militarization of police forces across the nation, the controversial warrior-mentality is not ubiquitously embedded within the police culture.
Based on the findings, Gal and Paul (2019) also offer a few important implications for future police policies. First, police leaders should further encourage and promote officers’ involvement in community policing by implementing various activities and programs, which would allow for more opportunities to enhance the police-citizen partnership. Second, additional efforts must be introduced to encourage officers to address disorder, so that initially minor incidents will not escalate to major issues that negatively affect peoples’ fear or crime. The authors note that order-maintenance can be achieved through problem-oriented policing, which is one of them main pillars of COP. Third, the findings indicate that cynicism and job stress discourage police officers from carrying out their duties effectively. For instance, those working in high-crime areas and those displaying early warning signs of emotional exhaustion should be transferred to lower-crime districts to prevent potentially disastrous consequences. Such an empathetic approach promotes a healthy environment and assures supportive organizational atmosphere.
Conclusions and Implications
The existing empirical literature shows that harmonious police-community relationships and mutual trust are vital elements of COP. However, a collaborative partnership style requires genuine and considerably comprehensive efforts to yield the anticipated results. Given today’s anti-police sentiment and distrust of police across the nation, especially within minority communities, regaining the public’s trust is an extraordinarily challenging task. Some activists openly lament, “The only way to diminish police violence is to reduce contact between the public and the police” (Kaba, 2020), which suggests difficulty in continued implementation of COP strategies that rely primarily on close civic engagements. Alienation from the police will encourage the “us-vs-them” mentality, thus damaging much-needed bonds with the public. Therefore, while various voices of stakeholders are important in criminal justice policies, policymakers should be guided primarily by empirical findings, rather than anecdotal evidence. For instance, the public should be informed that unlike other policing styles, the partnership element of COP also aims to enhance police legitimacy (Skogan, 2006).
There are certainly several nuances within COP philosophy that require further empirical research, but the current findings indicate that when implemented correctly, COP strategies are mutually beneficial. Given the large array of definitions of COP, agencies must be specific when implementing these measures, as organizational changes from the top down require endorsement by all police personnel to be effective (White, 2007). Similar to the findings above, other scholars also emphasize that “community policing without a clear focus on crime risk factors generally shows no effect on crime” (Sherman & Eck, 2006, p. 295), which is why specific problem-oriented approaches should be encouraged.
One aspect that consistently stands out from the existing research is education among police officers and its promising potential for adequate implementation of COP tactics. While the training and education of law enforcement officers is a highly debated subject, Gau and Paul (2019) found officers with college education displayed more positive attitudes toward COP efforts. Therefore, raising the minimum education requirements for police officers holds promise for creating more erudite guardians. A more comprehensive analysis would enrich these findings and allow for greater generalizability of the results.
Overall, policing is facing yet another challenging evolution, since escalating racial tensions and incidents of police brutality have negatively affected COP. However, rather than promoting further isolation from the police, policy makers should seek solutions that enhance integration between police and their constituents. Populist slogans such as abolish or defund the police are not an effective recipe for pragmatic and realistic reform, as they provide an incomplete assessment and solution to the problem. Effective reforms should be rooted in scientific research and empirical evidence. Some important scientific evidence already has been generated, but more is needed to guide and evaluate future efforts in this area.
Balko, R. (2013). Rise of the warrior cop: the militarization of America's police forces . Public Affairs.
Community Oriented Policing Services, Office of (COPS). (2016) Community policing defined. https://cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/vets-to-cops/e030917193-CP-Defined.pdf
Fielding, N. G. (2005). Concepts and theory in community policing. The Howard Journal, 44 (5), 460-472.
Frydl, K., Skogan, W. G., & National Research Council (U.S.). (2004). Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence . National Academies Press.
Gau, J.M., & Paul, N.D. (2019). Police officers’ role orientations: Endorsement of community policing, order maintenance, and traditional law enforcement. Policing: An International Journal , 42 (5), 944–959. https://doi-org.unh-proxy01.newhaven.edu/10.1108/PIJPSM-04-2019-0044
Kaba, M. (2020) Yes, We mean literally abolish the police. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opinion/sunday/floyd-abolish-defund-police.html.
Kahn, K.B., Henning K., Stewart, G., Renauer, B.C., Peterson, C., Mitchell, R.J., Labissiere, Y., & Sothern, S. (2019). Public response to community engagement patrols in high crime areas. Policing: An International Journal , 42 (5), 917–930. https://doi-org.unh-proxy01.newhaven.edu/10.1108/PIJPSM-04-2019-0051
Koslicki, W. M., & Willits, D. (2018). The iron fist in the velvet glove? Testing the militarization/community policing paradox. International Journal of Police Science & Management , 20 (2), 143–154. https://doi.org/ 10.1177/1461355718774581
National Academy of Sciences (2018 ), Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. The National Academies Press.
Packer, H. (1968). The limits of the criminal sanction. Stanford University Press.
President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (“Task Force”). (2015). Final Report of the president’s task force on 21st century policing. http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/Implementation_Guide.pdf
Reaves, B. A. (2016) State and local law enforcement training academies, 2013. Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/slleta13.pdf
Reisig, M.D., & Kane, R.J (Eds). (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Police and Policing . Oxford University Press.
Sherman, D. & Eck, J. E. (2006). Policing for crime prevention. In L. W. Sherman, D. P. Farrington, B. C. Welsch & D. L. Mac Kenzie (Eds.), Evidence-based crime prevention (pp. 331-403). Routledge.
Skogan, W. G. (2006). Community Policing. In D. Weisburd, & A. Braga (Eds.), Prospects and Problems in an Era of Police Innovation (pp. 27-44). Cambridge University Press.
Thomas, D. (2019). The state of American policing: psychology, behavior, problems, and solutions . Praeger.
Thurman, Q. C. (2002). Community policing. In D. Levinson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of crime and punishment (p. 270-275). Sage.
Tillyer, R. (2018). Assessing the impact of community-oriented policing on arrest. JQ: Justice Quarterly , 35 (3), 526–555. https://doi-org.unh-proxy01.newhaven.edu/10.1080/07418825.2017.1327609
Trojanowicz, R., & Bucqueroux, B. (1994). Community policing: How to get started . Anderson.
Weisburd, D., & Eck, J.E (2004). What Can Police Do to Reduce Crime, Disorder, and Fear? The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , 593 , 42–65.
White, M. D. (2007). Current issues and controversies in policing . Pearson Education.
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Williams, H., & Murphy, P. V., National Institute of Justice (U.S.). (1990). The evolving strategy of police: a minority view. U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/121019.pdf
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Police: Community Policing
Origins and evolution of community policing.
Community policing has been evolving slowly since the civil rights movement in the 1960s exposed the weaknesses of the traditional policing model. Even though its origin can be traced to this crisis in police-community relations, its development has been influenced by a wide variety of factors over the course of the past forty years.
The Civil Rights Movement (1960s). Individual elements of community policing, such as improvements in police-community relations, emerged slowly from the political and social upheavals surrounding the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Widespread riots and protests against racial injustices brought government attention to sources of racial discrimination and tension, including the police. As visible symbols of political authority, the police were exposed to a great deal of public criticism. Not only were minorities underrepresented in police departments, but studies suggested that the police treated minorities more harshly than white citizens (Walker). In response to this civil unrest, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice (1967) recommended that the police become more responsive to the challenges of a rapidly changing society.
One of the areas that needed the most improvement was the hostile relationship separating the police from minorities, and in particular the police from African Americans. Team policing, tried in the late 1960s and early 1970s, developed from this concern, and was the earliest manifestation of community policing (Rosenbaum). In an attempt to facilitate a closer police community relationship, police operations were restructured according to geographical boundaries (community beats). In addition, line officers were granted greater decision-making authority to help them be more responsive to neighborhood problems. Innovative though it was, staunch opposition from police managers to decentralization severely hampered successful team implementation, and team policing was soon abandoned.
Academic interest (1970s). All the attention surrounding the police and the increased availability of government funds for police research spawned a great deal of academic interest. Researchers began to examine the role of the police and the effectiveness of traditional police strategies much more closely. In 1974 the Kansas City Patrol Experiment demonstrated that increasing routine preventive patrol and police response time had a very limited impact on reducing crime levels, allaying citizens' fear of crime, and increasing community satisfaction with police service. Similarly, a study on the criminal investigation process revealed the limitations of routine investigative actions and suggested that the crime-solving ability of the police could be enhanced through programs that fostered greater cooperation between the police and the community (Chaiken, Greenwood, and Petersilia).
The idea that a closer partnership between the police and local residents could help reduce crime and disorder began to emerge throughout the 1970s. One of the reasons why this consideration was appealing to police departments was because the recognition that the police and the community were co-producers of police services spread the blame for increasing crime rates (Skogan and Hartnett). An innovative project in San Diego specifically recognized this developing theme by encouraging line officers to identify and solve community problems on their beats (Boydstun and Sherry).
The importance of foot patrol. It is clear that challenges to the traditional policing model and the assumption that the police could reduce crime on their own, helped generate interest in policing alternatives. However, it was not until the late 1970s that both researchers and police practitioners began to focus more intently on the specific elements associated with communityoriented policing. The major catalyst for this change was the reimplementation of foot patrol in U.S. cities. In 1978, Flint, Michigan, became the first city in a generation to create a city-wide program that took officers out of their patrol cars and assigned them to walking beats (Kelling and Moore). Meanwhile, a similar foot patrol program was launched in Newark, New Jersey.
The difference between these two lay primarily in their implementation. In Flint, foot patrol was part of a much broader program designed to involve officers in community problem-solving (Trojanowicz). In contrast, the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment , which was modeled on the study of preventive patrol in Kansas City, focused specifically on whether the increased visibility of officers patrolling on foot helped deter crime. Results from these innovative programs were encouraging. It appeared that foot patrol in Flint significantly reduced citizens' fear of crime, increased officer morale, and reduced crime. In Newark, citizens were actually able to recognize whether they were receiving higher or lower levels of foot patrol in their neighborhoods. In areas where foot patrol was increased, citizens believed that their crime problems had diminished in relation to other neighborhoods. In addition, they reported more positive attitudes toward the police. Similarly, those officers in Newark who were assigned to foot patrol experienced a more positive relationship with community members, but, in contrast to Flint, foot patrol did not appear to reduce crime. The finding that foot patrol reduced citizen fear of crime demonstrated the importance of a policing tactic that fostered a closer relationship between the police and the community.
As foot patrol was capturing national attention, Herman Goldstein proposed a new approach to policing that helped synthesize some of the key elements of community policing into a broader and more innovative framework. Foot patrol and police-community cooperation were integral parts of Goldstein's approach, but what distinguished problem-oriented policing (POP) was its focus on how these factors could contribute to a police officer's capacity to identify and solve neighborhood problems. By delineating a clear series of steps, from identifying community problems to choosing among a broad array of alternative solutions to law enforcement, Goldstein showed how increased cooperation between the police and community could do more than reduce fear of crime. An intimate familiarity with local residents could also provide the police with an invaluable resource for identifying and solving the underlying causes of seemingly unrelated and intractable community problems. With its common emphasis on police-community partnerships, parts of the philosophy of problem-oriented policing were readily incorporated into ideas about community policing.
The beginnings of a coherent community policing approach (1980s). Interest in the development of community policing accelerated with the 1982 publication of an article entitled "Broken Windows." Published in a national magazine, The Atlantic Monthly , the article received a great deal of public exposure. Drawing upon the findings of the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment , James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling constructed a compelling and highly readable argument challenging the traditional crime-fighting role of the police, and exploring the relationship between social disorder, neighborhood decline, and crime.
According to Wilson and Kelling, officers on foot patrol should focus on problems such as aggressive panhandling or teenagers loitering on street corners that reduce the quality of neighborhood life. Similar to a broken window, the aggressive panhandler, or the rowdy group of teenagers, represent the initial signs of social disorder. Left unchecked they can make citizens fearful for their personal safety and create the impression that nobody cares about the neighborhood. Over time, this untended behavior increases the level of fear experienced by lawabiding citizens, who begin to withdraw from neighborhood life. As residents retreat inside their homes, or even choose to leave the area altogether, local community controls enervate and disorderly elements take over the neighborhood. Eventually, this process of neighborhood deterioration can lead to an increase in predatory crime. Wilson and Kelling argue that by patrolling beats on foot and focusing on initial problems of social disorder, the police can reduce fear of crime and stop the process of neighborhood decay.
Goldstein's work and Wilson and Kelling's article sparked widespread interest in problem solving, foot patrol, and the relationship between the police and the community, all of which were becoming broadly associated with community policing. Police departments were quick to seize upon the ideas and publicity generated by these scholars, and in the 1980s they experimented with numerous problem-and communityoriented initiatives. In 1986 problem-oriented policing programs were implemented in Baltimore County, Maryland, and Newport News, Virginia (Taft; Eck and Spelman). In Baltimore County, small units composed of fifteen police officers were assigned to specific problems and responsible for their successful resolution. In Newport News, the police worked with the community to identify burglaries as a serious problem in the area. The solution involved the police acting as community organizers and brokering between citizens and other agencies to address the poor physical condition of the buildings. Ultimately the buildings were demolished and residents relocated, but more importantly problem-oriented policing demonstrated that the police were capable of adopting a new role, and it did appear to reduce crime (Eck and Spelman).
An initiative to reduce the fear of crime in Newark and Houston through different police strategies, such as storefront community police stations and a community-organizing police response team, was successful in reducing citizens' fear of crime (Pate et al.). Interestingly, the results in Houston suggested that generally the program was more successful in the areas that needed it least. Whites, middle-class residents, and homeowners in low-crime neighborhoods were more likely to visit or call community substations than minorities, those with low incomes, and renters (Brown and Wycoff).
These studies further catalyzed interest in community policing and problem solving, and from 1988 to 1990 the National Institute of Justice sponsored the Perspectives on Policing Seminars at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Not only did this help popularize these innovations in policing, but it helped scholars and practitioners refine and synthesize the mixture of ideas and approaches labeled community-and problem-oriented policing. One policing seminar paper in particular received a great deal of scholarly attention. The Evolving Strategy of Policing , by George Kelling and Mark Moore, summarized the history of policing and identified what was unique about recent developments in the field. In contrasting three different policing approaches and finishing with the advent of the "community problem-solving era," Kelling and Moore appeared to be sounding a clarion call, announcing the arrival of a complete paradigm shift in law enforcement.
In the face of such bold proclamations, it is unsurprising that scholars began to examine community policing more critically, and queried whether it could fulfill its advocates' many promises. Contributors to an edited volume on community policing entitled Community Policing: Rhetoric or Reality? noted that without a workable definition of community policing, its successful implementation was difficult. They also suggested that community policing might just be "old wine in new bottles," or even a communityrelations exercise employed by police departments to boost their legitimacy in the eyes of the public (Greene and Mastrofski). The outgrowth of these thoughtful criticisms was to encourage researchers to design more rigorous methodological studies that could evaluate the effects of community policing more clearly.
Community policing as a national reform movement (1990s and beyond). By the 1990s, community policing had become a powerful national movement and part of everyday policing parlance. Encouraged by the federal funds made available through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), police departments across the country shifted their attention toward implementing community policing reforms. Annual conferences on community policing became commonplace, and researchers began to study community-policing programs in cities all over America. Besides the availability of funds and promising research findings, the political appeal of community policing and its close affinity to long-term trends in societal organization contributed to the widespread acceptance of community policing (Skogan and Hartnett).
Given the large concentration of African Americans and Hispanics in American cities, groups who have historically been engaged in a hostile relationship with the police, an approach to law enforcement that promised to improve police-community relations by working with, rather than targeting, racial and ethnic minorities held great appeal for local politicians concerned with pleasing their constituents. In addition, community policing reflected a more general underlying trend in the structure, management, and marketing practices of large organizations. In contrast to rigid bureaucracies and their dependence on standard rules and policies, decentralization created smaller, more flexible units to facilitate a speedier and more specialized response to the unique conditions of different organizational environments. Rather than emphasizing control through a strict organizational hierarchy, management layers were reduced, organizational resources were made more accessible, and both supervisors and their subordinates were encouraged to exercise autonomy and independence in the decision-making process. Finally, the extent to which consumers were satisfied with the market produce, in this case police services, became an important criteria for measuring police performance (Skogan and Hartnett).
At the outset of the twenty-first century, the momentum behind community policing shows no signs of slowing down. Even though police departments may have been slow to adopt all the philosophical precepts, tactical elements, and organizational changes commensurate with the entire community-policing model, its slow and steady evolution suggests that it is a permanent fixture on the landscape of American policing (Zhao and Thurman).
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The Problem With Community Policing
We are pleased to publish this critical overview of community policing from the Abolition Research Group, a project launched by students and activists at the City University of New York in 2015. AWWP has also created a pamphlet version of the article for easy distribution, which you can download here in printable PDF format.
By the Abolition Research Group
For a brief moment, it appeared that state and federal officials were ready to reform the U.S. policing system. In March 2015, President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued its recommendations to police departments nationally, to address the police murders that had sparked Black Lives Matter protests. A key component was “community policing”: this strategy, the report claimed, would “help community members see police as allies rather than as an occupying force,” and would help police “work in concert with other community stakeholders to create more economically and socially stable neighborhoods.”¹ For some activists, community policing promised to ameliorate police harassment and brutality.
The election of Donald Trump, however, has frozen police reform in its tracks. Almost immediately upon taking office, Trump dismantled the Obama administration’s reform efforts, and issued a series of executive orders to support crackdowns by police and immigration agents. Anti-police brutality activists in many parts of the country now find themselves fighting to win back the very “community policing” reforms the previous administration had advocated. But what is community policing, beyond the buzzword? Does it really offer a solution to police violence and community problems?
This pamphlet provides an overview of the community policing paradigm, a history of past and present community policing programs in New York City, and some recommendations for activists aiming at police abolition. Far from an alternative to Trumpism, we argue that community policing is itself a problem that must be counteracted by transformative social movements.
Why is community policing a problem, not a solution?
- Community policing is used to bolster the legitimacy of the police when they are undermined by protest and crisis;
- Community policing cannot solve the problems that cause crime, but can only displace them temporarily;
- Community policing is used as an excuse to expand police funding and hiring;
- Community policing extends police presence and surveillance into everyday life, and turns social problems into police problems;
To demonstrate these points, we have to begin at the birth of the community policing paradigm, in the rebellions of the 1960s.
1. Born in flames
In the mid-1960s, the black movement against racism and poverty moved from the deep south to the urban north. Riots swept nearly every major American city, sparked by incidents of police brutality and the assassination of black leaders. The uprisings caught police forces by surprise. As one LAPD officer described the 1965 Watts rebellion: “Everything we believed would be effective didn’t work. We withdrew officers; that didn’t work. We put more officers in; that didn’t work. We used our black and liaison officers; that didn’t work.”² The unrest proved to state officials that the relationship between police and black communities was indeed broken, and prompted a reconsideration of policing strategy at all levels of government.
At the federal level, the 1968 Kerner Commission on Civil Disorder and the 1967 Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement investigated the causes of the rebellions, and drafted recommendations for how to avoid them in the future. Both called for stricter controls on police use of force, and closer relationships with community members. On the local level, police departments across the country began experimenting with new tactics. Los Angeles instituted a “team policing” model, in which pairs of officers covered small beats on foot, rather than cruising large areas in squad cars. Seattle and Hartford started crime prevention programs, to help residents upgrade home security. Throughout the 1970s, departments across the country established community relations units, deployed community affairs officers, and trained neighborhood watch groups.
In the same period, a series of think tanks arose to improve policing techniques, including the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the Police Foundation, and the Police Executive Research Forum. These institutions provided technical and research assistance to local departments, and built collaborative ties between local police bureaucracies, federal agencies, and criminologists. The Police Foundation in particular produced new research on police strategy and tactics, which overturned many established ideas about law enforcement, and ultimately cleared the way for community policing to emerge.
Before the 1970s, relatively few studies had been conducted into how cops did their jobs. Most departments improvised based on “common sense” notions about the nature of crime, and copied whatever methods seemed to be working in other cities. By the 1960s, a modern policing strategy based on car patrols, radio communications, and centrally-controlled dispatch systems had evolved. But now the cars-and-911 paradigm was overturned. In Kansas City, researchers found that increasing car patrols in a given area had almost no effect on crime rates, and that response times to 911 calls had no effect on the outcomes of incidents. In Newark, researchers found that fear of crime was just as important to residents as actual crime rates, and foot patrols helped with the former, but not the latter.
The policing paradigm of the early 20th century, already de-legitimated in the streets by black protest, was further invalidated by the findings of professional researchers. It was clear to public officials and the police brass that a new approach was needed. But what would it be?
2. The Paradigm shift
In the 1980s, think tanks and criminologists proposed a range of new approaches to policing. Two of the most influential were “broken windows” and “problem-solving” policing, which eventually fused together within the modern community policing paradigm. Broken windows theory was developed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, and popularized by the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. It assumes that small incidents of social disorder (like littering, drinking in public, or literally broken windows) signal to people in a given area that social controls are weak, and thereby encourage them to commit further crimes. Rather than chasing violent crimes, the theory goes, departments should focus on low-level offenses. This will strengthen the sense of order in a given neighborhood, and ultimately prevent bigger crimes from occurring.
Broken windows theory has been widely criticized since its inception.³ Researchers denounced the theory on empirical grounds, repeatedly showing there is no correlation between broken windows policing and reduced crime rates, and highlighting how it unfairly targets the leisure habits of working class communities and communities of color, while leaving untouched the activities of the wealthy in private or indoor settings. Others critiqued the theory on conceptual grounds, noting that “broken windows” problems such as graffiti do not inevitably symbolize the same thing to everyone, and therefore do not necessarily have the negative effect imagined by Wilson and Kelling. Nonetheless, a focus on small-scale offenses as a means of crime control is now common sense in many U.S. police departments.
A second theory developed in the 1980s was “problem-oriented policing,” put forward by criminologist Herman Goldstein. In Goldstein’s view, the shortcomings of modern policing could not be overcome with a simple change of tactics. Instead departments needed to change their entire strategy to crime fighting: rather than acting as an emergency response service, the police should work to address underlying causes generating such incidents in the first place. This should be accomplished by collaborating with local communities, to identify problems that matter to residents, examine their causes, and craft solutions. For example, if cops were regularly called to deal with fights after school, departments should work with school administrators to stagger dismissal times and establish after-school activities, rather than simply making arrests.
These ideas were discussed throughout the 1980s by police bureaucrats and researchers, and were eventually synthesized under the “community policing” buzzword. Gradually the term “community policing” came to refer to strategies in which the cops collaborate with communities to solve local problems, often taking low-level crimes as their starting point for intervention and enforcement. Some departments implemented it by establishing standalone community policing programs, while others (notably San Diego) adopted the paradigm as the overarching strategy of their entire police force. Different departments struck different balances between problem solving and “broken windows” approaches.
The community policing paradigm was institutionalized at the federal level in 1994, with President Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Among other things, the act established the office of Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) under the Department of Justice, to help departments across the country implement community policing. Since its founding, C.O.P.S. has provided over $14 billion in grants to local police departments, to hire community policing officers and undertake department-wide reforms. It has established regional training centers in collaboration with nonprofit organizations, to help train officers in community relations. And it has distributed a range of “how-to” guides to local departments, helping officers learn how to analyze and solve problems they might encounter, from dogfighting to big parties.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, liberal public officials are arguing that the same policing model of the past 20 years can be improved to solve the problems of police brutality. To them, more community policing–more local problem solving plus broken windows enforcement–is the answer. Unfortunately, this strategy is doomed to failure.
3. A House of Cards
While it seems unassailable, the community policing paradigm actually rests on shaky ground. On the most basic level, cops often dislike it: many reform efforts meet resistance from entrenched institutional interests, used to other forms of policing. Rank-and-file cops resent having to act like “social workers,” and give up the “hard charger” emergency response roles that bring prestige among their peers. Mid-level police administrators resent their authority being shifted toward local problem-solving units. And with few clear ways to measure community policing outcomes, it often proves difficult to assess community policing officers’ performance and guarantee them promotions and advancement.
But on a deeper level, the community policing paradigm is beset by major internal contradictions, which create problems whenever it is implemented. The first of these is the problem of “communities,” and how they are understood in community policing efforts. The second is the problem of “problems,” and how they are defined and solved.
First, while community policing aims to foster dialogue between cops and communities, “communities” themselves are not unified entities with shared values, interests, and needs. On the contrary, most communities are internally fractured by race, gender, and class inequalities because we live in an oppressive and exploitative society. When cops partner with “the” community, they inevitably find different sections of the community already pitted against each other–and they pick whichever side stands to stabilize the social order and re-legitimate the police force. Local homeowners get cops to take their side against neighborhood kids, who are then cast as delinquents. Local businesses get the cops to chase away the homeless people begging outside their stores. In effect, police-community partnerships unify “respectable” parts of communities behind the police, and legitimate crackdowns on whoever lacks wealth, status or power. Far from improving our lives, this tends to reinforce and deepen the already-existing divisions and inequalities within communities, neighborhoods, and the larger society.
Second, community policing cannot solve social problems. As members of an armed bureaucracy, the police are empowered to do certain things–notably, detain and arrest people, and sometimes kill them. But there are many things they cannot do. Cops cannot raise wages, lower the cost of living, or make education free. They cannot change prison policy, or grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants. In short, they can’t address the conditions that enable community violence and exploitation to occur. But instead of quitting their jobs and addressing these issues directly, officers often simply re-define “problems” to fit what they are already equipped to handle. They tend to view complex social problems as simply a bad combination of perpetrators, victims, and “criminogenic” environments, and tweak each to make the symptom–crime incident reports–go away. For example, precincts might start a program to give delinquent youth job skills, even though no good jobs exist in the service economy. Or they might install street lamps and cameras on a corner where muggings occur, without changing the neighborhood inequalities that incentivize theft. In reality, the problems are never solved: they are just temporarily displaced, in a way that makes cops look good and increases public support for them.
The community policing paradigm will inevitably hit these contradictions wherever it is implemented, because police departments are called upon to maintain order in a social and economic system built on exploitation and oppression. When this happens, the soft elements of community policing tend to fall away, leaving only the hard core of police repression. “Problem-solving” comes to mean addressing the problems bothering the white, wealthy and powerful. “Broken windows” enforcement comes to mean targeting poor people of color, and the police authority to exercise state violence comes to the fore. New York City provides an excellent example of this dynamic in action.
4. Carrot and Stick in the Big Apple
New York City has a tortured history with community policing programs. Like many departments across the country, the NYPD experimented with new methods in the rebellious 1970s, including team policing under Commissioner Patrick Murphy. In 1984, Commissioner Benjamin Ward established the Community Patrol Officer Program (CPOP), the city’s first community policing effort, after the police murder of Eleanor Bumpurs and a wave of protests. Under CPOP, “problem-solving” was delegated to a specialized group of officers, who liaised with local businesses and community leaders. Many rank-and-file officers mocked CPOP officers as feminine “CMOMs”, and viewed the units as career dead-ends. Nevertheless CPOP was expanded from a pilot program to a citywide initiative. There were over 4,000 dedicated community policing officers in NYC by the early 1990s.
Community policing was soon used as an excuse to grow the NYPD. Liberal mayor David Dinkins expanded community policing efforts in the early 1990s with his “Safe Streets, Safe City” initiative, which proposed to add 6,000 more police to the force for neighborhood foot patrols, paid for through increased city property and income taxes. Community policing required more cops, it was argued, because officers had to spend time building relationships in small foot-patrol territories, and so more cops were needed to cover the same area. Liberals rushed to embrace the plan: the New York Times editorial board cited Dinkins’ initiative when it endorsed him in the 1993 mayoral race against Rudy Giuliani.
It was Giuliani, however, who won the election. He was helped along by police discontent, after several thousand officers rioted outside City Hall to protest Dinkins’ embrace of community policing and civilian oversight. 4 Once in office, Giuliani took the 6,000 cops but abandoned the rhetoric of community policing, putting the manpower to work in other ways: his new police commissioner, William Bratton, channeled the officers towards stop-and-frisk and other harsh “broken windows” tactics. Liberal community policing had paved the way for conservative repression.
The story repeated in 1996, when the city faced an especially drastic budget shortfall. To make up the difference, Giuliani uncharacteristically proposed cutting 1,500 police officers to save funds. Whether this was a ploy to cement his image as a fiscal conservative, or to distance himself from Dinkins’ reliance on high staffing numbers, Giuliani did not have to follow through. Instead Charles Schumer, then a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Brooklyn, negotiated for federal C.O.P.S. funds to pay for the officers. Once again community policing was used to expand the carceral state.
In the 1990s, community policing reforms paved the way for their own abandonment and reversal. They sparked bureaucratic resentment and encountered implementation problems, all while expanding the police resources that would later be directed toward more repressive tactics. Employed and repealed at the whim of mayors and police officials, community policing was first used as a means to rebuild the legitimacy of a discredited police force. Once that task was accomplished, it was easily transformed into arrest-based, iron-fisted policing, all while allowing the NYPD budget years of steady growth. Today, after the police murder of Eric Garner, NYC is poised to repeat the same cycle.
5. 2015: Year of the Boomerang
In the wake of the Bloomberg era stop-and-frisk controversy, newly reappointed Police Commissioner William Bratton re-established the Bureau of Collaborative Policing within the NYPD in 2014 under the new, liberal mayor, Bill de Blasio. The bureau has since been at the center of the department’s response to anti-police brutality protests. While the “community policing” label has a bad reputation in the police bureaucracy, the new bureau essentially implements the same philosophy under different names, most notably with its new Neighborhood Policing initiative. Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman described the bureau as “a gateway for other city agencies to join with the Police Department.” For Commissioner Bratton, “collaboration is just a more intimate form of community policing.”
The bureau incubates community policing programs at all levels of the department, and builds relationships between the NYPD and other state and non-governmental organizations. At its top levels, it tweaks NYPD policy and establishes new programs in collaboration with other institutions. At a March 2015 city council hearing, Deputy Commissioner Herman claimed the bureau had worked to date with 43 government agencies and 87 nonprofit organizations (though she didn’t name them). Many of these efforts were geared toward “problem-solving” solutions to recurrent crimes.
For example, Herman claimed the bureau had partnered with the MTA, the Department of Homeless Services, and the Bowery Residents Committee to channel homeless people into the shelter and social service system in place of arrest. It joined with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to open a “health diversion center” in East Harlem, to provide mental health and substance abuse services in lieu of arrest for low-level offenses. Very often, diversion programs like these follow a zero tolerance model. This means a person gets a single chance to go through the diversion program. If they are picked up for future offenses, access to the diversion program is denied, and the person enters the system again. In this way diversion programs reduce social services to a tool in the police’s armament, alongside guns and tasers.
Since the 1970s, neoliberal politicians have gutted the welfare state at local, state and federal levels. Now in place of a robust social safety net, many cities get by on underfunded, overburdened public works and programs administered by NGOs. These systems are totally inadequate to meet social needs: in New York City, for example, diversion programs have proven incapable of slowing the ballooning homelessness crisis. But these programs can be made politically useful through community policing. By diverting their targets to ineffective social services before arresting them, police can rebuild their legitimacy in communities, shift blame onto individuals for failing to overcome their own issues, and justify their eventual resort to repression and arrest.
We see the same dynamic at work in the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety , which brings NYPD officials together with city agencies, tenants councils, churches and businesses to address crime in public housing facilities. The plan include a $139 million investment in security systems such as lights, cameras, and door locks. Its NYC Ceasefire program addresses gun violence through collaboration with social service agencies such as New York Foundling, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, and Community Solutions. Under Ceasefire, cops approach young people at meetings with NGOs and community representatives, threatening them with arrests while also directing them to social services.
These programs are widely supported by liberal politicians and community groups, yet they do nothing to improve the low-wage labor market in which many public housing residents are trapped, nor the budget crisis that is plunging public housing itself into disrepair. And when the programs don’t work, the NYPD has more repressive methods: militarized gang raids targeting youth of color, dozens of which have been executed in New York City public housing in recent years.
But by far, the bureau’s flagship effort is its Neighborhood Policing initiative. This project began with a pilot program in the summer of 2015, and has since expanded citywide. Under this strategy, a cadre of “neighborhood coordination officers” (NCOs) are devoted to specific sectors in each precinct. For part of their workday, these officers set aside responding to 911 calls, and instead develop relationships with local community leaders and organizations, and identify ongoing problems. Their efforts are overseen by specific community policing officers, who have access to CompStat data on the local level through smartphones and iPads. NCOs host periodic “safety summits” throughout the year at community centers or churches in the area. These meetings draw attendees from the relationships officers have established, and provide a forum to them to air grievances to the police. In turn, the police use the meetings to gather information about areas or people in the neighborhood they should target, and craft interventions that will meet with the support of the stakeholders they have selected.
In practice, neighborhood policing works to extend NYPD surveillance deeper into poor and working class communities. It broadens NYPD contact with neighborhood social networks, beyond the few homeowners, small businessmen, church officials and senior citizens who already attend community meetings at the precinct houses themselves. It encourages neighbors to inform on each other, and expands data collection about local residents. And as with all community policing programs, it does not solve the problems of capitalist inequality. Instead, it expands police presence in daily life, and turns social problems into police problems–which may then be met with state violence.
Behind the new names, the NYPD’s most recent turn to community policing still rests on the power to detain, arrest, harm and kill. When right wing critics claimed the new program would reduce police officers to social workers, then-Commissioner Bratton assured them this was not the case. The pilot program, he pointed out, had already led to a successful case of snitching and arrest in the 34th precinct: “learning who are the right informants, getting people to give you leads on where criminals may be, where weapons may be. Doesn’t sound like social work to me,” he said, “sounds like policing.” 5 He was absolutely right.
6. Toward Abolition
By now the problems with the community policing paradigm should be clear. The paradigm aims to shore up the legitimacy of police department in periods of crisis. It displaces social problems without solving them. It grows the carceral state, and extends police powers more intimately into everyday life. Activists today face a big challenge: we not only have to beat back the “law and order” reaction of the Trump regime, but we also have to discredit police reform efforts that offer false alternatives. We must continue to build a struggle that aims beyond community policing, and works instead to solve the social problems created by capitalism, and ultimately to abolish police and prisons. The authors of this pamphlet foresee two sets of strategies that could help achieve these goals.
One set of strategies could aim to undermine the formation of a new popular consensus around the police. Community policing efforts draw together specific sections of society–business owners, homeowners, landlords, religious organizations, and nonprofit and city staff–to legitimate the harassment and repression of the poor and people of color. Activists can prevent these blocs from cohering by injecting resistance and controversy into the process. This could happen through speakouts at police-community forums, copwatch patrols focused on community policing officers, and public critiques of nonprofit organizations that partner with the police. It could also entail critiquing the contribution of criminologists and other academics to pro-policing initiatives.
Another set of strategies could work to redefine community problems and their possible solutions. This could happen both inside and outside the existing political structure. On the one hand, activists could push city governments to cut police budgets, and put the money into housing and schools instead. On the other hand, they could develop institutions to address community issues autonomously from the police. This could involve holding public forums and tribunals on police violence, or community assemblies on the root causes of neighborhood violence. It could involve establishing standing neighborhood-based groups to address problems without calling 911, and developing copwatch networks to confront egregious cases of police abuse. Activists can pursue whichever strategies work best from their given social position, and follow the lead of radical organizations led by people of color.
These strategies are merely suggestions, building from the research presented in this pamphlet. It’s up to activists to further develop and test them in practice. All struggles are difficult, and their outcomes are never assured. But by preventing the legitimization of the police force, re-framing the issues faced by our communities, and developing the seeds of popular counter-power, we can move closer to a world beyond police and prisons.
- President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. 2015. Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Pg. 42.
- Quoted in Moore, M.H. (1992). Problem-solving and community policing. In Tonry, M. & Morris, N., Eds., Modern policing (Vol. 15) . Chicago and London: The University of Chicago.
- For an overview of these critiques, see Harcourt, Bernard E. 2001. Illusion of order: the false promise of broken windows policing. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
- See McKinley Jr., James C. Sept 17, 1992. Officers Rally And Dinkins Is Their Target. The New York Times.
- Prendergast, Gartland & Fredericks. June 26, 2015. NYPD Hopes Making Cops Your Friend Will Fix Community Relations. The New York Post.
Camp, Jordan and Heatherton, Christina. 2016. Policing the Planet: Why the policing crisis led to Black Lives Matter . New York: Verso.
Center for Research on Criminal Justice. 1982. The Iron fist and the velvet glove: an analysis of the U.S. police . San Francisco.
Hall, Stuart et al. 1978. Policing the Crisis: mugging, the state, and law and order . London: MacMillan.
Herbert, Steven Kelly. 2006. Citizens, cops, and power: recognizing the limits of community . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Harcourt, Bernard E. 2001. Illusion of order: the false promise of broken windows policing . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Muhammad, Khalil Gibran. 2011. The condemnation of blackness: race, crime, and the making of modern urban America . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Murakawa, Naomi. 2014. First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America . Oxford University Press.
Williams, Kristian. 2015. Our Enemies in Blue Police and Power in America . Oakland: AK Press.
Williams, Kristian. 2015. “The other side of the COIN: counterinsurgency and community policing”. In Fire the cops!: essays, lectures, and journalism . Oakland: AK Press.
Pro-Policing Research Institutions
Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) Federal agency, established in 1968 under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Provided grants to local police departments to upgrade equipment and conduct research on effective policing strategies. Abolished 1982.
Police Foundation Nonprofit think tank, founded by the Ford Foundation in 1970. Works to enhance police efficiency and effectiveness through independent research on police strategies, technologies, and performance.
Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Membership organization of police executives from large jurisdictions, founded in 1976. Promotes police professionalism by conducting research, and developing policy recommendations and best practices. Coordinated nationwide conference calls of city police chiefs to repress the Occupy movement, fall 2011.
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office within the U.S. Department of Justice. Established in 1994 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Has provided over $14 billion in grants to local departments to hire community policing officers and institute reforms. Suffered cutbacks under Trump administration.
In addition, municipal police departments often enjoy the support of local police foundations, which support nearby jurisdictions through grants for equipment, personnel and programs. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_foundation
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- Frontline Struggles: The Social Justice Education Movement →
Community-Oriented Policing and Problem-Solving
- application/pdf Trainer guide (English, 203.41 KB)
Material for a 6-hour lesson, part of the Mid-Level Management Course, developed by the Kosovo Police Service School
The history of modern policing can be traced to two distinct changes in the thought process of how the law enforcement community functions. It is safe to assume that prior to the 19th century; police work consisted primarily of directives that were based on the theory of maintaining peace and public order within a specific area.
This began to change, when in 1829 in England, British Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel “created” what has since become known as the Nine Principles of Policing. These principles constituted the first major change in the way the police viewed themselves and their role in serving a changing, modern society.
Then, in 1979, Herman Goldstein developed the concept of “Problem Oriented Policing” (POP), which encouraged police to begin thinking differently about their purpose. POP required a move from re-active, incident-driven policing to one that actively addresses the problems that continually drain police resources. His work has been enormously influential, particularly throughout North America.
The purpose of this block of instruction is to instruct future managers in the areas of Community-Oriented Policing and Problem-Solving. This course is designed to assist them in recognizing the opportunities this style of policing offers their police officers to improve their effectiveness in working together with their communities to address issues of crime, safety and liveability.
After this block of instruction the participants will be able to:
- Define Community Policing as discussed in the classroom.
- List the ten principles of Community Policing as discussed in the class.
- Describe the difference between traditional and contemporary policing.
- State the four steps of the SARA Problem-Solving Model for Community Policing and apply the SARA Model to simulated community problems as taught in the class.
- Describe the benefits of Problem Oriented Policing.
- List the key documents addressing Community Safety and Community Policing in Kosovo.
CJA628 Critical Issues in CJ
- Library Portal
- Beyond Community Policing: From Early American Beginnings to the 21st Century Chriss, James J. Beyond Community Policing: From Early American Beginnings to the 21st Century, Taylor & Francis Group, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central,. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nu/detail.action?docID=4186375&pq-origsite=primo (Read Ch 1 pp. 1 – 24 and Ch 3 pp. 49 – 68) (CLO 3) The chapter in this book discusses the three eras of policing: 1. Political spoils era, 2. Reform and early professionalization, and 3. Community-oriented policing or problem-oriented policing. In the political spoils era of policing the police were controlled by the city government as well as politicians who wielded considerable influence, not only on how police were to be used, but who would be chosen as police officers. The reform and early professionalization era was dedicated to correcting some of the problems associated with the political spoils era of policing such as graft, corruption, and brutality. Community-oriented policing emerged out of the social transitions of the 1960s.
- Problem-Oriented policing in depth Problem-Oriented policing in depth [PDF]. (n.d.). https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL261/better-policing-toolkit/all-strategies/problem-oriented-policing/in-depth.html#established-methods-for-proble- This article discusses the established methods for Problem Oriented Policing (POP), improving the process for carrying out POP, building skills within the agency, improving analysis, improving implementation support, and analyzing the evidence for POP in hot spots.
- Understanding community policing: A framework for action Understanding community policing: A framework for action [PDF]. (n.d.). Office of Justice Program. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/understanding-community-policing-framework-action This publication from the U.S. Department of Justice discusses community policing and the collaboration between the police and the community that identifies and solves community problems. The article discusses the importance of all members of the community becoming involved and being active allies with the police in an effort to enhance the safety and quality of neighborhoods.
- Community-oriented policing and technological innovations Leventakis, G., & Haberfeld, M. R. (2018). Community-oriented policing and technological innovations. Springer. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-89294-8
- 9 Societal implications of community-oriented policing and technology 9 Societal implications of community-oriented policing and technology [PDF]. (2018). Springer Cham. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-89297-9
- Community policing defined Community policing defined [PDF]. (2009). Office of Justice Programs. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/community-policing-defined-0
- The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. (2021). What is community policing [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCMgXMc-So8
- This is what community-oriented policing looks like NationSwell. (2014). This is what community-oriented policing looks like [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqWdlDABmvo
- LAPD explains the key principles of community policing to counter violent extremism TheIACP. (2014). LAPD explains the key principles of community policing to counter violent extremism [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCVlGQ_I28o
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- URL: https://resources.nu.edu/c.php?g=1363419
- Published: 03 July 2015
Police Support for Community Problem-Solving and Broken Windows Policing
- Michael J. Jenkins 1
American Journal of Criminal Justice volume 41 , pages 220–235 ( 2016 ) Cite this article
This paper explores overall police officer acceptance of tactics and tenets of broken windows and community problem-solving policing. It assesses differential support for each by police officer characteristics (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender, rank, education level, years of service, and assignment). This study presents the findings of a survey of 227 sworn police personnel from two urban police departments. Univariate analyses reveal the levels of support that police have for certain police tactics and tenets of broken windows and community problem-solving policing. Regression analyses examine the relationship between key officer characteristics and support for these tactics and tenets as measured by respondents’ agreement with various items and indices. Findings include support for community problem-solving (and also a reliance on traditional policing methods); a lag in investigators’ acceptance of community problem-solving; and differences by officer race/ethnicity, education, rank, and assignment in indices related to broken windows and rapid response policing. The differential acceptance of broken windows and rapid response tactics by race/ethnicity suggests interesting implications for future studies of race/ethnicity and broken windows policing. The greater acceptance of certain tactics by patrol officers supports current moves toward innovating in police investigations’ bureaus.
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The author thanks Drs. Maria Tcherni, Bryn Herrschaft, and the reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.
This research was funded in part by grant number 420276 from the Bodman Foundation.
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Jenkins, M.J. Police Support for Community Problem-Solving and Broken Windows Policing. Am J Crim Just 41 , 220–235 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9302-x
Received : 12 March 2015
Accepted : 18 June 2015
Published : 03 July 2015
Issue Date : June 2016
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9302-x
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