Establishing a Community Policing Program Term Paper

Pages: 20 (5970 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 21  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … Establishing a Community Policing Program in an American Municipality Today

From a law enforcement and community relations perspective, it would just seem to make good sense to place as many police officers "on the beat" in any given community and this, in fact, has proven to be the case in cities across the country. Police officers on bicycles, all-terrain vehicles and horseback are becoming an increasingly common sight in the nation's park, beaches and public areas as well as homeland security has assumed an increasingly important role in law enforcement in post-September 11, 2001 America. Unfortunately, in some cases, community policing initiatives have met with a wide range of obstacles and constraints to their implementation from both external and internal sources. To this end, this paper provides an overview of community policing programs in American municipalities in general, with an emphasis on the best approach to implementation of such programs in particular, for communities that currently do not have such programs in place. Relevant recommendations in this regard will be followed by a detailed rationale for the selection of these as being the superior approach; a summary of the research will be provided in the conclusion.

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Term Paper on Establishing a Community Policing Program in an Assignment

Based on media accounts, it would seem that the law enforcement community across the country has recognized the need for a more effective approach to policing a wide range of urban spaces, and community policing initiatives have been identified as such an approach. According to one set of observers, "A revolution is taking place in policing that has important implications for planners. This revolution is called community policing, and it brings police work into a domain traditionally inhabited by community planners. Police departments across the United States are creating community policing units and charging them with improving the quality of life in low -- and moderate-income neighborhoods" (Rohe, Adams & Arcury, 2001, p. 78). In fact, by the year 2000, over 90% of American police departments had received some type of federal resources to implement community policing programs. There remains much to be discovered though about the types and kinds of policing being practiced in the urban United States today, though (Manning, 1992). For example, a wide range of collective policing techniques can be found in American cities today, ranging from informal neighborhood watches and street patrols to official, state-sponsored programs that are intended to improve relations and unite citizens and the police (Rohe et al., 2001).

At its most basic level, this would appear to represent a sound way of approaching any law enforcement initiative. For example, in his essay, "Bowling Alone, Policing Together," Klineberg suggests that, "Collective policing programs appeal to Americans because they are perfect mechanisms for reconciling the apparently contradictory desires for private security and collective belonging that lie at the heart of American political culture" (p. 78). Unfortunately, in many such cases, these initiatives were either intentionally designed to - or were at least perceived to be - exclude the very members of the community being protected by turning the program into a fearsome Big Brother" version of an otherwise-benign law enforcement technique: "Once thought to stifle collective action, concern with crime is proving to be a principle of social integration and civic renewal -- albeit one that, as the current frenzy of arrests and incarceration suggests, achieves community by monitoring and excluding those deemed unfit to belong" (Klineberg, 2001, p. 75). In his book, Disorder and Decline, Skogan (1990) suggests that many urban areas in the United States are already characterized by high levels of disorder. This level of social disorder, according to Skogan, "is a matter of behavior that can be influenced," while physical disorder "involves visual signs of negligence and unchecked decay" (Skogan, 1990, p. 4); however, Van Brunschot (2003) emphasizes that "social and physical disorder does not exclusively consist of behaviors or signs considered criminal. Community policing addresses the broader problem of 'disorder' by expanding the policing mandate to include non-criminal behaviors and by involving the community in the resolution of disorder" (p. 216). Likwise, Skogan points out that when community policing programs are successful, "they open informal channels for the flow of information and demands for action from the people to police, and they facilitate police action on that basis" (p. 15).

Community Policing Programs - What Are They?

There is no universally accepted definition of a community policing program (Rohe et al., 2001); however, Skogan and Hartnett (1997) suggest that community policing.".. involves reforming decision-making processes and creating new cultures within police departments: it is not a packet of specific tactical plans....It assumes a commitment to broadly focused, problem-oriented policing and requires that police be responsive to citizens' demands when they decide what local problems are and set their priorities" (p. 5). Community policing, also known as community-oriented policing, community-based policing, or problem oriented policing, is being promoted by academic observers of police science as being "modern," "progressive," or "contemporary" policing (Leighton, 1991; Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990; Sparrow, Moore, & Kennedy, 1990). Although a number of these academic observers have also actively influenced the direction of community policing, Leighton reports that "It has been the prevailing wind of change among North American police leaders for the past few decades and a key ingredient of the public and professional discourse on policing reform" (p. 486). Today, more than a decade after the concept was first introduced, community policing remains the most important innovation in American policing today (Forman, 2004).

Termed "the most significant era in police organizational change since the introduction of the telephone, automobile, and two way radio" by Maguire & Wells (2002), Forman reports that today, community policing has been supported by the past three U.S. presidents, Congress, every major police organization, and a majority of the American public; in addition, a broad cross-section of the legal academy also endorses community policing. "Those who seek new ways for inner-city communities to mobilize against disorder and crime support it, as do others whose principal concern is reducing police abuse of minorities (Forman, 2004, p. 3).

According to Rohe et al., community policing programs are being embraced by police departments across the country, and this has important implications for planners. "Community police officers are being asked to engage in broad-based community problem solving and are adopting many of the goals and methods of community development planning" (p. 78). Davis and Gianakise (1998) point out that the community policing officer is responsible for negotiating and designing appropriate policing techniques for particular areas, and these policing strategies are directed to proactive prevention rather than reactive detection.

In a recent survey of the heads of law enforcement agencies across the country, a full 46% reported that they had implemented a community policing program (Wycoff, 1994). The police officers involved in these programs are being asked to become community problem solvers whose activities included:

identifying the full range of problems experienced by community residents;

working with community residents to develop strategies for addressing those problems; and bringing in the appropriate public and nonprofit agencies to implement those strategies (Adams et al., 2001).

The goals and methods of community policing are comparable to those of community development planning; for example, both activities are designed to foster stable, healthy neighborhoods, and both attempt to involve community residents in these improvement efforts (Adams et al., 2001). As a result, urban planners and community police officers are increasingly being required to work together in order to maximize their impacts and to take advantage of the perspectives and skills that each profession brings to the task of improving living conditions in a community's neighborhoods (Adams et al., 2001).

At the program level, there is no single model for how community policing programs are run. A police department that adopts community policing typically designs a program that suits its unique local circumstances; however, the majority of police departments start the process by creating separate community policing units that target one or more high-crime housing developments or neighborhoods. In many cases, these are the very same communities that housing and community development planners have already targeted for revitalization. The number of areas targeted in any community will depend on a number of factors, such as the degree of local commitment to community policing and the financial support available to the program (Rohe et al., 1996).

Specially trained community police officers are assigned to these units and are expected to get to know the community and its problems, to help develop strategies for addressing those problems, and, with the assistance of both community residents and other government agencies, to implement those solutions (Rohe et al., 1996). Community police officers are typically "off radio," which means they are not expected to respond to routine calls for service. This approach allows these officers with the time they require in order to become intimately familiar with the community and to become engaged in problem-solving activities; in fact, in a number of cases, these community police officers work out of police… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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