Community policing has been one of the most popular programs in police departments not only all over the United States, but also throughout the world. More and more departments are implementing community policing, team policing, problem-oriented policing, neighborhood- oriented policing, or other similar programs as we speak. Yes, the term “community policing” does sound very attractive to most citizens and many officers, but the important question is whether the programs are effective or not in the communities in which these departments have implemented community policing.
Before trying to answer the question if community policing is effective or not, we must further understand what community policing is, and try to figure out why it has grown in popularity over the past three decades. “In 1967, the police task force of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice advocated the widespread adoption of the type of policing…that would bring together police officers and the community”(Lewis, 567-568). This gives us the reason why there was great controversy over the new type of policing.
It has been realized that the title of this report is “Management in Community Policing,” but it is much more important to learn more about the concept of community policing before the management roles and aspects in a department can be explained. To fully understand what community policing is, we first must define it. One definition of community policing is “community policing is most broadly regarded as a philosophy requiring significant and fundamental organizational change and defined as a recognition and acceptance of the community in influencing the philosophy, management, and delivery of police services”(Seagrave, 5).
Since most everybody has a different idea or perspective on what community policing is, let us have a look at an additional definition. Another definition of community policing is “community policing is a belief or intention held by the police that they should take account of the wishes of the public in determining and evaluation operational policing and that they should collaborate with the public in identifying and solving local problems”(Lewis, 568).
Community policing is very complex and must be broken down into smaller parts when trying to be explained. It is sometimes difficult to try explaining community policing, because different areas of community policing tend to be connected with one another, making it not only hard for the teacher to break down when explaining, but also tough for the students to understand. Community policing is a philosophy that is constantly being altered and changed in every shape and form when being implemented.
Since every town consists of varying populations with people of different ages, genders, races, and incomes, it is nearly impossible to try recommending a “winning” or “cherished” police department that has instituted community policing which has been deemed a success. It is a possibility that a community policing program may be a complete success in one town, while the town nearby has had many troubles in instituting their program, even the two programs are almost identical. How could this happen? It often happens because towns have different problems of different magnitudes on a daily basis.
When talking about police work, citizens are mostly curious about recent arrests, and what crimes have occurred in the recent past. It is often forgotten that much of a police officer’s day consists of patrol and paperwork. It would almost take a miracle for a patrol officer to make an average of one arrest a day, let alone a week. A patrol officer is usually writing tickets, patrolling the neighborhood for anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. The officer is looking out for the public, the people he or she serves in the town. Community policing is about meeting with the public and creating a sense of security for these people.
When the term “community policing” comes to people’s minds, they often either love it or hate it. This is especially true for officers. Many officers, if not most, join police departments for the power and prestige that comes along with badge or shield the officers are wearing. But as departments continue to delve into community policing programs, officers will find out if a department does utilize a community in their town. Individuals will find out in the very beginning, most likely from a newspaper or the orientation sessions that have people attend who are interested in law enforcement careers.
It is inevitable to avoid community policing altogether, because all officers in the beginning receive training in the academy, then will most likely be on routine patrol during their probationary periods. Since serving and protecting the public are two of the most important things an officer must do, there must be some contact with the public daily. If it is difficult for a person to deal with the term “community policing,” it will be difficult on an officer throughout his entire career.
Call the term “community policing,” call it “patrolling the streets,” or call it whatever you want, officers must have the skills to communicate with the public. Dealing with the public is something officers must do. If a person has difficulty dealing with the public, then police work is probably not the job for him or her. Officers often will shy away from the whole perspective of community policing, because they want to fight crime instead of creating nonsense talk with citizens of the community, but they must remember that a very small portion of their time will be fighting crime.
Community policing seeks to expand the reach of traditional law enforcement and is not a replacement, but an enhancement of the system in place”(Kuechler, 2). Enhancement is the key word in the previous statement because the community policing program was not developed to remove traditional law enforcement and its techniques, but to place emphasis on the communication aspect of an officer’s career. It is unfortunate that all officers do not buy into community policing as a step in the right direction, but there always will be cynicism throughout the ranks no matter what action was taken.
Unfortunately for police managers, community policing may be viewed by officers in the field as social work and not crime fighting”(Winfree Jr. , 593). Cynicism may sound like a very negative thing to have in a department, but it will continue to exist no matter what. “There is little room for cynicism. Critics who say the philosophy of community policing takes away from the enforcement role of the police officer and makes him ore her a ‘social worker’ fail to perceive its underlying effectiveness. The true practice of community policing may well save a cop’s life”(Community, 2).
With the cynicism and pessimism that lurk in a department, officers can actually be helpful by honestly contributing to why they do not believe into the community policing concept, plus what is wrong with the current concept, and possibly what can be done to improve the concept, even though they do not want to be a part of it. There are times when a department is not ready to make the jump into community policing. “Police chiefs are pressured by citizens and local government officials to start ‘doing’ community policing”(Maguire, 369).
When money and politics play a role in decision-making, the results and consequences are often disastrous. If townspeople keep hearing success stories about this town and that town nearby, the residents will most likely want to “jump on the bandwagon” and try it out for themselves. It is often heard that if you don’t try it yourself, you’ll never know if it would’ve worked or not, but sometimes it can only make the situation worse. Like said before in this article, every town is different, and so are the problems.
Politicians often want results, especially when it comes to police business. But community policing is not a quick fix to a town’s problems. “Community policing provides law enforcement an opportunity to form new partnerships and carries with it the potential for long-term solutions to persistent problems”(Glensor, 2). A town and its problems can take a long look at community policing and see if it is right for them, but implementation, training, and spreading the word about community policing to citizens takes time.
Community policing views the neighborhoods focus as a means of responding to the long-term causes of neighborhood deterioration”(Walker, 37). This statement makes it sound like community policing is a last choice option for a town, but it is the contrary. Community policing is often one of the first things that comes to people’s minds. Because of the increasing popularity community policing is receiving, it should be no surprise that more communities are continuing to look at community policing as an answer to their problems, even though it will take time for changes to be seen.
Even though popularity for community policing has risen over the years, “community policing has become the new rhetoric of policing, and many people, including the police, do not understand what the term really means”(Maguire, 369). Because many people really do not understand what the term “community policing” really means, it can actually be a blessing in disguise. This makes community policing have no clear-cut definition, plus there is no correct way to implement and keep a town’s community policing program alive and well. From the first page, it is known that there are many definitions of community policing.
This does not complicate matters, but instead makes things more interesting because a department does not know the difference between right and wrong until implementation and training have begun. If a department finally does decide to officially start a community in a town, what is the right way to begin? From an interview with the Spokane, WA chief, Chief Terry Mangan believes “that in order to be successful, community policing has to happen slowly, from the bottom up, and it has to allow for adjustments depending on the particular needs of the community and neighborhoods”(Painter, 3).
Chief Mangan believes that training should first start with the patrol officers, because this is where the bulk of officers will be in any police department. On the flipside of Spokane, WA, the department of Staten Island, NY has a totally opposite view of how to integrate community policing into their department. “It is a pervasive tone within a department, beginning with the chief executive and going down to the lowest ranks, both uniformed and plainclothes. In order for the philosophy to work, there must be total immersion of management and rank-and-files; there must be total commitment”(Community, 1).
As we can see, there are two departments, and two totally different views on how to integrate community policing into their departments. Since both departments feel their plan is best, who’s right? It’s hard to say who is right and who is wrong, but the answer is that they both could be right! For example, the Spokane Chief makes a valid point in saying that from the bottom up, the department starts training with the patrol officers, because patrol officers are the people who will be making the most contact with the public. But the Staten Island P. D. so makes a good point because the chief and the upper management can begin training to see if the training was what the department wanted for the type of community policing that was involved. An officer attitude is one important step that cannot be forgotten when deciding on creating a community program or not in a town. “Officers must both support and work with the community for community policing programs to succeed. Police officers themselves must have a positive and optimistic attitude about community members in order for these programs to make any kind of true impact”(Brooks, 115).
This author’s statement is vital to community policing because half-hearted attempts to make the program work in a town seems almost like a waste of time and money. As said previously in the article, cynicism will continue to exist in policing no matter what is done, but it must be kept to a minimal, or the program could turn into a catastrophe. We must also realize that many studies have focused on citizen’s perceptions of community policing, and not the officer’s. “The current research on community policing has several drawbacks.
Perhaps the most important is the limited number of research studies focusing on police officers. Past research has largely studied citizen perceptions of community policing rather than assessed attitudes of police officers on this subject”(Yates, 194). The author makes an excellent point in describing the minimal number of studies completed on police attitudes, compared to the rather large number of studies completed on citizens, and their views of the police department. It is important to gather information on both sides.
If the community residents are for community policing, plus the politicians, and the chief think it’s a great idea, then what’s stopping the program from being successful? The officers! If the officers, especially patrol officers disapprove of the idea, then the program is most likely going to stay dormant until there are changes made. Attitudes also affect more things than people think, according to another author. “If police socialization on the job occurs, then the number of years of service as well as officer rank, among other factors, might be related to the attitudes that police officers hold”(Brooks, 117).
It is important to see that attitudes play an important role, not only for the image of the officer, but also the image of the department. Job satisfaction among officers is another often forgotten about topic involving police officers. “Police officer job satisfaction has been approached as a way of diminishing police officer job stress, increasing organizational commitment, and reducing the negative consequences of stress”(Greene, 169). If an officer is dissatisfied with an aspect of their job, it is important to find out what it is, and try to come up with a solution for his or her problem.
If the problem consists of a problem that is outside of his job, it is also important to try to uncover what the problem is so he can be helped and progress can be made. “Current studies on community policing often ignore the role of frustration and strain on community policing”(Yates, 205). Community policing does not consist of all positive outcomes. Officers often become frustrated and upset with the community policing model because it may not worked as well as planned, or that walking the beat may even change the way an officer thinks while on a beat.
As a manager, it is important to understand and be involved in all areas of an organization. The same holds true in law enforcement. If you’re a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, commander, or any other type of commanding officer, you know that the department is tugging at you from both sides of the chain-of-command. Managers, especially mid-level managers like sergeants and lieutenants are crucial to a department because they are the ones who listen to patrol officers’ complaints, and a commanders’ instructions.
But before a community policing model can be presented, it must be understand that the department can and will change several times before the right choices are made. “It is apparent…that, in general, major structural, managerial, and personnel changes are required in police organizations before community policing can be implemented”(Riechers, 112). Departments have to be ready to make several changes, because it involves bringing in a program that is complex and very time consuming.
Departments, especially authoritative figures, must realize that much of their powers get taken away from them. “Problem oriented policing and community policing seek to broaden the police role to one of a municipal agency responsible for many public services. This is expected to help decentralize police bureaucracies, making them more accountable to the public, often through community and police power sharing”(Greene, 169). As a philosophy, community policing has two major components, increased community involvement and organizational change in the structure of policing.
The author makes a good point in saying that “while all the police leaders in this study stressed increased community involvement, none mentioned changing the structure of their organizations”(Seagrave, 15). It is good to see that the leaders are very optimistic in creating and gaining active community members, but it also shows that they are overlooking organizational change. By overlooking this, it can create chaos throughout the department, and put a halt to community policing until the departments own structure can be figured out.
Police departments must remember not to keep all their attention towards the problem solving methods because something may have been forgotten in the process. “Administrators uncovered a problem, namely, that insufficient attention has been given to the organizational, administrative, and personnel changes needed to create, expand, and institutionalize these new forms of policing”(Rosenbaum, 331). Another responsibility of management officers is to keep other authority figures and patrol officers in line.
Unless community policing officers have a clear sense of what they are supposed to do and receive the necessary support from their supervisors, the tendency to drift back into a traditional role will be very great”(Walker, 45). By keeping officers in line, they remain focused and determined to do a good job. Management must also be sure to involve all members of the department. By leaving various officers out, no matter what their rank or status is, is the wrong way to implement the program.
Officers often then develop a negative attitude toward community policing, which only makes the situation worse. It doesn’t matter if the officers were left out on purpose or accidentally. What matters is that each member of the department has something to contribute, to make the community and better and safer place to live. Supervisors must also keep a cool head while community policing is in process. “Supervisors and mid-managers are finding themselves in the role of being facilitators and coaches, rather than in the traditional role of being in charge”(Supervisory, 2).
Sometimes the patrol officers just need a little guidance and a sense of direction to steer them in the right direction. This may not seem important to mid-managers, but little things like this can go a long way. With the power often being released to lower level officers in community policing, administrators must show that they have the courage to show the patrol officers that the trust is in their hands. Patrol officers are the largest group of a police department. With an enormous amount of decentralized power, patrol officers have to prove they will do the best jobs possible.
Mistakes will be made on the way, but it’s a part of the learning process that just makes the officer stronger and wiser in the future. Because the changing process does not happen overnight, “it is firmly believed that the philosophy of community policing cannot be realized until significant changes are made in the areas or organizational structure, management style, and personnel. Assuming such changes do occur, community policing still has a long way to go”(Riechers, 113). This in-depth statement shows us that the community policing journey is long and hard, but can be very rewarding at the end.
Last, but not least, it is important for supervisors to make sure that other officers are on the right track to the commitment of community policing. Management need to be working on an organizational structure and problem solving, while patrol officers need to focus on problem solving and police interaction with citizens of the community. “According to community policing theory, an enduring, committed, and involved police presence not only boosts feelings of security and reduces the fear of crime among citizens, but actually leads to reductions and solutions to crime”(Officers, 1).
As we can see, it takes not just one patrol officer or one supervisor to start community policing in motion, it takes the whole department. Yes, it does take time to develop and execute a plan that is right for your department, but when the plan comes together, hopefully it will become a success. Mistakes will still happen, but as good teams do, they’ll bounce back with a greater determination for success.