Effectiveness of Community Oriented Policing vs. Problem Term Paper

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¶ … Community Oriented Policing vs. Problem Oriented Policing

Effectiveness of Community Oriented Policing vs. Problem Oriented

There are a number of fundamental concepts that are important in understanding the role and responsibility of modern policing in contemporary industrialized societies. These include the idea that "... The police institution originates with the people, depends on them for support, and, in effect, the people are the police and the police are the people." (Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 127)

Secondly, that the primary focus of the police is to protect the majority of law - abiding people from the minority of criminal and law- breakers. (Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 127) The modern police, as an institution, have its origins "in the need to do something about a real rise in crime and/or disorder..." (Emsley, 1999, p. 8)

Therefore, in conventional terms, the responsibly of the police is to maintain law and order and to protect the innocent against the criminal elements. However, the nature of modern society and the complexity of many forms of criminal behavior have created debate, and changes, with regard to the extent and range of modern policing responsibility. This debate centers on new views of policing responsibility and can be summarized by the following question. Should the police be mainly responsible for only the effects and results of crime or should police be more involved with the underlying and root causes of crime?

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The first view sees the responsibility of the police as operating on the surface of social life. "They must handle incidents, situations, and people as they are now -- not societies or people as they might have been. For these reasons, the immediately precipitating causes of serious crime are far more important to the police than are broader questions about the root causes of crime."(Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 138)

Term Paper on Effectiveness of Community Oriented Policing vs. Problem Oriented Policing Assignment

The above quotation relates to the problem solving or reactive role of the police in society. However the second point-of-view - that police responsibility extends to the fundamental causes of crime - is seen as essential to modern policing and to certain types of crime which are socially complex. This view, which is becoming increasingly dominant with regard to crimes, such as hate crimes and others, suggests that, "... recent research has shown that reactive policing cannot control these types of crime." (Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 138) An example given in one study states that "...the probability of making an arrest for serious crimes was most affected by the "quality of the information" supplied by victims and witnesses, not by follow-up police investigation." (Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 138)

The above view suggests that a more integrative and community based approach to policing is more effective with certain crimes; and this in turn suggests an extension of the basic responsibilities and duties of the police.."..the concept and practice of community policing, its advocates argue, is in the process of replacing reform policing. Harking back to the... earlier concept of... community policing (which) can create a new form of community out of the ravages of the old. (Robinson, Scaglion & Olivero, 1994, p. 138)

This debate in reality revolves around two apparently different viewpoints about the role of the police and policing responsibly. Firstly, there is the problem solving or reactive point-of-view and approach, where the emphasis is on the understanding of the word 'problem' from a policing perspective only.

The other point-of-view and one which has assumed a more popular and dominant role in contemporary policing, is that of community orientated policing. Put somewhat simplistically, this view posits that any policing activity to be effective must take account of and work within and in conjunction with the community. The following quotation provides a more comprehensive definition.

Community policing can be defined as a philosophy that focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services that includes aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem-solving tactics and partnerships. A fundamental shift from traditional, reactive policing, community policing stresses the prevention of crime before it occurs and requires police and citizens to join together as partners in the course of both identifying and effectively addressing the underlying conditions that give rise to crime and disorder.


It should also be noted at the outset that these two points-of-view and praxis have areas of similarity and are not absolutely diametrically opposed.

However, the central focus of this paper will be on the effectiveness of each approach and the reasons given for the one process being better to worse than the other. The aims of this study will therefore be twofold. Firstly to ascertain the general tendencies, advantages and disadvantages of the two policing methods. Secondly, to apply these research findings to actual situations on the ground.

2. Literature Review

Much of the literature on modern policing makes the following important points. This sophistication and types of modern organized crime have had a wide-ranging impact on the conventional and older notions of police responsibility. A realization has also emerged in many studies that a narrow view of police responsibilities is not conducive to combating the range and extent of various types of organized crime, including terrorism, and that the old policing methods "cannot do it all." This has resulted in a more cooperative and wider view of policing responsibilities; which is often undertaken in conjunction with other institutions and organizations. This has also meant the involvement of local and regional governments in the process of policing.

Leighton (1991) provides a good overview of the differences in policing policies and procedures. This study entitled Visions of Community Policing: Rhetoric and Reality in Canada clearly shows the difference between the problem and community orientation in policing. The author states that,

Community policing, sometimes referred to as community-oriented policing, community-based policing, or problem oriented policing, is currently presented by academic observers of policing as characterizing "modern," "progressive," or "contemporary" policing... While many of these commentators have also actively influenced the direction of community policing, it has been the prevailing wind of change among North American police leaders for the past few decades (Leighton, 1991, p. 485)

On the other hand Leighton also points out that there are certain questions with regard to the general acceptance of community policing. He notes that there is little real empirical evidence to suggest its superiority over the problem solving or 'reactive' policing orientation. (Leighton, 1991, p. 486) Furthermore, he inserts a question mark behind the unquestioning acceptance of this form of policing. He states that there are "... police executives claiming success for their own community-based policing project without a rigorous evaluation..." (Leighton, 1991, p. 486) This is an aspect that will have to be carefully considered in this study,

The study by Leighton is also of importance to the general debate in that it questions the actual meaning of community policing. In a similar vein to many other studies, Leighton notes that, "...community policing might be more correctly referred to as a re-emergence, renewal, or revitalization of a former philosophical, organizational, and operational approach to urban policing developed last century in Metropolitan London by Peel and his associates." (Leighton, 1991, p. 487)

This study is useful in that it provide a good foundation for many aspects of the debate between problem and community orientated policing. The author states, for example, that community policing is best understood as a partnership in its fullest sense between the police and law enforcement authorities and the community in identifying and dealing with crime and disorder. Central to the idea of community policing is the philosophy that "... crime and disorder problems are the joint property of the community as "client" as well as of the police as the local agency delivering public security services. Accordingly, the police and the community are co-producers of order and civility." (Leighton, 1991, p. 487)

This symbiotic relationship and the type of perception and praxis that it engenders, is at the heart of what community policing is all about. (Leighton, 1991, p. 487)

One of the most important insights of this comprehensive study is that community policing can also be extremely problematic. One of the reasons is that this form of policing often necessitates extensive and sometimes intrusive changes in the structure and organization of the police force and its functioning.

While there are a variety of components to various visions of community policing, most of them proceed from the partnership principle which has far-reaching implications for the organization and operations of police forces. "(Leighton, 1991, p. 487) This is an aspect that is often used in arguments against community orientated policing in much of the literature and will be expanded on further in the discussion section of this study. Leighton also notes that community policing can be divided into four elements in terms of the relationship between the police and community. These are reciprocity, decentralization of command, reorientation of patrol and civilianization. (Leighton, 1991, p. 488)

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