The Philosophy and Role of Community Policing
Robert C. Trojanowicz
National Center for Community Policing
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
MSU is an affirmative-action, equal opportunity institution.
This publication was made possible by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to the School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University. The information contained herein represents the views and conclusions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Mott Foundation, its trustees, or officers.
Copyright © 1988
The National Neighborhood Foot Patrol Center
While it can be argued that each of these ideas failed to flourish purely because of inherent faults in the concepts themselves, the fact also remains that only by defining and communicating the precise philosophy, role, and goals of these concepts could their merits and drawbacks be accurately debated.
Community policing now also stands at an important juncture in its relatively brief, but promising, evolution. While community policing appears today as the potentially brightest option to provide policing a new focus to meet the pressing needs of the eighties, it also suffers guilt by association with those failed concepts of the recent past. In addition, much confusion remains concerning what the term community policing actually means, whether and how it may differ from other terms (such as foot patrol and problem-oriented or problem-solving policing), and how it fits into the existing police hierarchy.
Perhaps much of the misunderstanding about community policing stems from the misguided view that it is yet another community relations or "PR" effort, without real substance. The fact is that community policing does promote excellent police/community relations, but only a by-product of this new philosophy of policing that stresses community involvement in combating crime and disorder. What has happened is that community policing has been confused with previous efforts that failed at their intrinsic goals. As noted in "From Political to Reform to Community: The Evolving Strategy of Police" by George L. Kelling and Mark H. Moore, the history of policing in the United States began with what was called the political era, when beat officers performed a wide variety of duties in the community. However, foot officers of that era were tainted because they served at the behest and direction of local politicians. The fact that community policing is also often called foot patrol evokes images of that era, when direct police involvement in the community all too often also meant political corruption. The excesses of the political era led to the reform era, when police were brought under centralized and less politicized control, with departments organized using the scientific or classical management model. That model provided many needed improvements in policing, but at the same time it narrowed the police mandate almost solely to controlling crime, thereby limiting many previous police services that citizens had learned to expect and appreciate. While reform was a worthwhile and logical goal, in conjunction with increased dependence on the automobile and its technology, it also led to increased reliance on measuring police performance almost exclusively on three parameters--response time, visibility (pass-bys by motor patrol), and a reduction in the crime rates as reflected in the Uniform Crime Reporting statistics. Furthermore, the detective was the primary crime solver.
While such measurements provided easy accountability, they also narrowed the focus of police accountability. In reality, the vast majority of calls police receive do not involve a crime in progress, which makes response time of little value in assessing how police handle most of the calls they receive. Also, disorder is as much, if not more, concern to most residents as crime itself. So, by measuring police performance on these limited parameters, when crime rates began to rise in the sixties, both citizens and police began to wonder whether the police were losing their overall effectiveness.
In addition, the riots of the sixties brought to light certain problems that resulted from increased police alienation from the community. In an effort to make officers "objective," because it was believed this would make them more "effective," most were isolated in automobiles and told that they should limit discretion and follow prescribed "professional" procedures. In some communities, this isolation was heightened further when officers were cautioned not to live in communities they served. This alienation from their clientele meant that when the civil rights, anti-war, and racial disturbances of the sixties began, the police who were supposed to impose order were often perceived as hostile invaders.
When it became evident that this increasing alienation was the major flaw in the reform era of policing, efforts were made to provide links between police and community. However, at first, all too often the emphasis was on "public relations," not in making a substantive philosophical change in the way police related to their constituents. The initial idea was to institute a program where officers in a "police/community relations" unit would "make friends" with the community. Even though that was a valuable goal, all too often the programs instituted were flawed from the beginning. For one thing, many departments tended to select officers for community relations duty, not because the officers were committed to the program's ideals, but because they had failed to function well in other capacities. This logically had the effect of these units being perceived as ineffective.
In addition, citizens often rightly perceived that the goal of these units was to put a "good face" on whatever the police did, without providing a valid two-way conduit for citizens to have input into police priorities, policies, and procedures. As a result, many citizens viewed these officers with skepticism, correctly perceiving that they had no ability to effect changes within the department or the governmental structure.
Once departments and governments admitted such efforts were failing to make real improvements in police/community relations, attempts were made to provide the officers with a valid, tangible function in the community as well, leading to the birth of so-called crime prevention units. This meant the officers visited schools, businesses, and community groups, giving lectures on anti-crime tactics. Such efforts recognized that "happy talk" alone would not impress the community with the police department's sincerity in wanting community approval and these efforts also suffered problems akin to those evidenced by police/community relations efforts. Again, the officers were often selected for the wrong reasons; and, again, the community often rightly perceived there was too often a major difference between the "nice" officer who visited the seniors club with hints on how to safeguard their homes and the "macho" officer in a patrol car who cruised their neighborhood without having any personal stake in what happened there. Neither the police community relations officer nor the crime prevention officer were the actual deliverers of day to day service. They were isolated specialists who "bounced" from neighborhood to neighborhood reacting to the concerns of special interest groups.
While each of these two kinds of efforts had some impact, if only because they demonstrated that the police were at least somewhat concerned about how the community felt about their departments, public relations and crime prevention both fell short of the goal of persuading citizens that the police were adequately addressing all their needs and concerns. During this transitional era, new research also helped dispel some myths concerning what people wanted from their police. For instance, minorities, often the group most hostile to police, did not, as anticipated, list as their major gripe unfair treatment at the hands of the police. Instead, research confirmed that their main complaint was that police failed to protect them from predators.
In response, the next related concept (although often instituted at the same time as community relations and crime prevention) designed to attack the isolation problem was team policing, which suggested that sending a coordinated team into a neighborhood could have a positive impact on preventing and controlling crime. However, again, that lack of a continuing stake in the neighborhood meant that these officers often found it difficult to enlist more than limited community cooperation. Interorganizational jealousy and bickering contributed to team policing's demise.
Such realizations then helped spawn a new idea, one that attempted to take the effective parts of both the political police era and the reform era. The reform era proved the value in recruiting highly educated and motivated officers who could be forged into a professional unit. Yet part of the failure of the reform era was that it was aloof from the community and it often attempted to take more educated and trained police officers and routinized their jobs, removing part of their incentive to develop and adopt creative solutions. So, borrowing from the benefits of the political era, a decision was made to put these enthusiastic officers back on beats in the community, where they would function as full-fledged law officers, but with the added mandate of working directly with citizens to help them solve the plethora of problems that had eroded the community's overall quality of life.
Initial efforts, such as the foot patrol programs in Newark, New Jersey, and Flint, Michigan, demonstrated that citizens not only fear crime, but also disorder, because they rightly perceive that predators can tell when a neighborhood is on its way up, or down, and that criminals parasitically feed on neighborhoods in obvious trouble. Again, as might be expected, fellow officers at first criticized these new community policing efforts as being no more than "grin and wave" squads--yet another effort designed to pacify the citizenry.
However, as it became apparent that these officers worked as hard at solving crime as motor patrol officers and detectives did, and in fact may well have worked harder because their role required so many additional community-oriented services, community policing began to earn grudging but deserved respect. Conversion to the community policing philosophy was also aided as motor patrol officers were rotated into foot patrol, where they quickly learned the assignment was not a "cush" or dead-end job, but a galvanizing challenge.
As the concept evolved, the term foot patrol began to give way to community policing, reflecting a broad mandate. While many such efforts do employ foot patrol as the primary means of insuring the same officer has daily face-to-face interaction with the community, today's educated and trained officers do not approach the job in the same way the more passive beat officers of the political era did.
Indeed, at least initially, the term foot patrol misled many into thinking this approach was simply a nostalgic desire to recapture the past. However, not only have today's foot officers been de-politicized, their functions extend far beyond what was expected of foot patrol officers in the political era and, at the same time, their excesses have been curbed.
In the past, foot officers often abused minorities and immigrants, because the political leaders in control felt that keeping "upstart" populations in their place would win them votes among mainstream constituents. In contrast, today's foot officer serves both the department and the residents of the neighborhood; as a result, such programs have done much to end conflict between police and residents.
As discussed in the Kelling-Moore paper, community policing reflects a "marketing" approach to serving the community, while those previous efforts constituted "selling." What that means is that community policing attempts to meet the demands made by consumers, in this case the agenda of services dictated by community residents. The previous efforts discussed earlier failed because they were often rightly perceived as efforts to sell the community services without regard for whether the community wanted those services or not.
Indeed, one of the major surprises uncovered by community policing programs was that the police and community leadership often did not have a good idea of what the real community priorities were. Routinely what happened was that police officials would confer with established community leaders to outline an agenda, typically one that would target Part I crimes -- murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary. Then when open community meetings were held, it quickly became apparent that the rank-and -file community residents had an entirely different agenda of concerns, often ranging from petty crimes to uncollected garbage.
What these residents accurately identified was that a deteriorating neighborhood quickly becomes a magnet for serious crime. While few people actually become victims of Part I crimes, a decaying neighborhood diminishes the quality of life for the majority of citizens because of the constant barrage of so-called petty crime and disorder problems. While community policing deals with serious crime, both in solving crimes that do occur and in working to prevent Part I crimes, it also addresses the more immediate and pressing concerns of community decay and disorder that provide the breeding ground for serious crime.(1)
Another Useful Model
Perhaps the best model to explain the evolution to community policing requires examining what happened to the U.S. auto industry at the same time. The analogy makes special sense when you consider that Michigan was the birthplace of the auto industry and also that Flint, Michigan, is often credited as one of the communities that was the cradle of community policing.
Historically, when the reform movement was taking hold in American policing, those same management strategies and reliance on sophisticated technology were shaping the fledgling auto industry, helping it to mature from a part-time garage enterprise into an industrial giant. Henry Ford's assembly line, which took a complex task and broke it down into relatively simple components that all workers could master, mirrored the routinizing of police functions. Ford also adopted a classical management style, where orders emanated from the top, just as a military hierarchy was established in police departments nationwide.
In retrospect, it may seem that the system's drawbacks are as apparent as its benefits, but in that era both the American auto industry and the newly reorganized police departments seemed to offer the promise of unlimited progress. Until the sixties, it appeared both had found the magic keys that had forever unlocked both systems' full potential.
Then, shockingly, both systems began to fall on hard times. In the case of the auto industry, rumblings began when consumers balked at buying new cars that ignored the consumers' increasing demands for fuel efficiency and safety. At the same time, many American citizens began expressing doubts that the police were taking their needs into account.
In the case of the auto industry, competition from foreign imports soon proved that, in this market-oriented economy, corporations cannot long flourish ignoring consumer demand. In the case of policing, the consumers of policing services increasingly balked by reducing their tax dollars for police, while spending more and more dollars for private security, so that there are now more private security officers in the United States than sworn police.
Faced with these threats to their existence, both systems responded by adapting positively to these changes, restructuring their systems to reflect the changing world. Not only did both shift from a selling-oriented philosophy to a marketing orientation, they also changed in ways that addressed the increasing alienation within their own ranks. Again, it is not surprising that during the era when sabotage at the Lordstown plant in Ohio was making headlines, many highly educated and highly trained officers in police departments began grumbling about the authoritarianism within police departments, ushering in an era of hard-nosed union negotiations. Obviously, what was needed was a new management model and both the auto industry and the police made the philosophical shift from being suspicious of their workers to learning to trust them, decentralizing decision making.
Today, American auto workers are increasingly encouraged to take the initiative to find new solutions to internal problems. Borrowing from the Japanese, U.S. automakers are employing new techniques, such as quality circles, to involve workers in finding ways to produce quality cars in which both the company and its workers can take pride. Concomitantly, community policing officers demonstrate markedly higher degrees of job satisfaction and perceptions of safety than their motorized counterparts, because of their direct involvement in the community, where they can see their actions making a difference.
Perhaps the biggest error that is made when assessing such changes is to believe that these changes denigrate what was done in the past. But just as American automakers reached dominance with the classical or scientific model of management, U.S. police departments made great strides using these same tactics and the "professional" model in upgrading the quality of their police forces. The fact is, both systems have proven remarkably resilient in adjusting to the changing realities of the past two decades, struggling to find innovative ways to maintain the best of past traditions, combined with bold, new solutions.
The strength of the American democratic system is that it is responsive to the needs and concerns of its people. During periods of transition, as existing traditions evolve into new ones, there are inevitably periods of social or economic upheaval, but the ability of this country's institutions, private and public, to respond by creating new models that serve to meet new realities is unparalleled.
A Look at the Literature:
Research Supporting the Community Policing Concept
The community policing concept did not emerge as an independent alternative to policing strategies. Instead, it is based on a solid foundation of research on police service delivery which has been performed over the past two decades. In the best tradition of integrating and applying research knowledge to new programs, community policing has been built on the findings of this research. Some of the more critical research efforts and their role in community policing are worthy of review.
Police staffing commitments--According to the research of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than 10% of a patrol officer's on-duty time is spent on crime related activities.(2) This includes answering crime calls, conducting investigations, writing reports, booking arrestees, and testifying in court. The remainder of the time is spent on handling service calls (although admittedly some of these calls--such as disturbances--can evolve into an arrest situation), traffic enforcement and control, information gathering, and uncommitted patrol time. The implications of these data are that traditional patrol operations are inefficient and perhaps misdirected. That is, there is a significant amount of wasted patrol officer time organized for crime control duties which are not forthcoming. Importantly, even in the nation's largest police departments and in the busiest patrol districts, the uncommitted patrol time is less, but the proportion of time spent on crime-related duties remains about the same.
Preventive patrol--It was noted that much of the officers' uncommitted time was spent on patrol. The amount of time varies significantly depending on the jurisdiction's characteristics, number of patrol personnel, nature of the patrol district, deployment characteristics, and variously assigned duties of the patrol officers. Traditionally, this uncommitted time has been designated as "preventive patrol," wherein the officer in a marked patrol car drives randomly through the patrol district as a crime prevention activity. The Police Foundation's Kansas City Preventive Patrol Study challenged the preventive patrol assumption through a year-long quasi-experimental design study. The findings clearly indicated that preventive patrol had no significant effect on crime rates.(3) Essentially, in the most basic of terms, the study found that preventive patrol was not only uncommitted time, it was also nonproductive time. (It should be noted that there have been some methodological criticisms of this study; however, it appears that there is general acceptance of the research findings.) When viewed in conjunction with the staffing issues described above, one may assume that traditional approaches to police patrol may be flawed. If little time is devoted to crime-related duties and a significant amount of time is devoted to uncommitted patrol which does not prevent crime, how can police resources be better utilized?
Response time--One argument for maintaining traditional patrol is the need to have police officers available for rapid response to calls. Specific emphasis has been focused on the belief that the faster an officer responds to a crime scene, the higher the probability of apprehending the criminal. A Law Enforcement Assistance Administration project called the Kansas City Response Time Study tested this assumption.(4) A later National Institute of Justice replication of the study in Peoria, San Diego, Rochester, and Jacksonville (FL) supported the Kansas City findings.(5) The results indicated that there was no relationship between a rapid crime scene response and the apprehension of criminal perpetrators. (The closest variables showing a correlation was "response time and robbery," but even these were not statistically significant.) In arriving at this conclusion, the studies divided response time into three segments: (1) the amount of time from victim/witness discovery of the incident to the time the police were called; (2) the time from when the police received the call until the time a patrol unit was dispatched to the crime scene; and (3) the time of the patrol unit's receipt of the call until the officer arrived at the incident scene. While the latter two segments are the ones most frequently thought of with respect to response time, the first segment was the most critical. Typically, the perpetrator was gone by the time the victim or witness called the police, hence negating the possibility of apprehending the criminal at the crime scene.
These results seem to indicate that response time is therefore not an important element in patrol management. However, a compounding variable was discovered in the Kansas City Response Time Study. The research indicated that citizens used response time as a measure of satisfaction with the police and, indirectly, a measure of police competence. That is, if response time was slow, citizens were more likely to indicate dissatisfaction with the police and to believe that the police had limited competence. Conversely, with a rapid response, both satisfaction and perception of competence increased. These findings were fairly consistent regardless of the actual actions taken by the officer at the incident scene. To further compound the problem, it appears that the citizen's perception of response time--regardless of actual elapsed time--influenced their rating of the police in a similar manner. This was particularly true in traumatic, high-stress situations. The dilemma is clear: functionally, response time is not an important variable in patrol management; however, its influence on the police constituency is significant and must be addressed. How can these conflicting demands be resolved?
Patrol deployment--The deployment of police officers has been a constant source of indecision for police administrators. Based on population, police employment in the United States ranges from 0 to 44 officers per 1,000 residents. Geographically, the number of officers per square mile ranges from 0 in Angoon Division, Alaska, to 1,278.5 officers in the Manhattan Borough of New York City.(6) In between these extremes are variable distributions about which no meaningful conclusions can be drawn. There is no single factor or ratio which can be used to determine the "ideal" police strength for a given area. While certain quantitative variables can be programmed into a comprehensive model for determination of optimum patrol officer deployment, the most fundamental variable is available resources--how many police officers are available for deployment? A second consideration is the types of activities officers are expected to do--answer crime calls, answer service calls, take accident reports, aggressively initiate "police activity," check buildings, speak to citizens, and so on. Obviously, these duties will vary with the area, shift, nature of the community, and mandate of the community. The types of calls and demands for police service will also influence deployment patterns.(7) The proverbial bottom line to deployment issues is that given the number of personnel available, how can the department most effectively perform those functions the community expects. The answer lies largely in the qualitative variables of service delivery and a change in the traditional concept of patrol deployment. That is, instead of deploying personnel simply based on numerical demands, we should first examine the policy and functional demands of the patrol force and then match officer availability to those demands. Concomitantly, we must develop our directives for officer performance to fulfill the qualitative policy/service demands as well as the raw quantitative demands. It is proposed that if the citizen demands for service can be met through alternate patrol strategies, such as community policing, then the numerical call demands will, over time, conform to officer availability. That is, by placing the qualitative needs and desires of the community as a primary factor in deployment decisions, the administrator is effectively placing the "horse in front of the cart."
Performance measures--An ongoing problem in police personnel management has been how to measure police performance. Traditional quantitative measures--number of arrests, number of reports written, number of calls answered, number of miles driven, number of traffic tickets issued--lack substance with respect to the nature of the police function and the delivery of police services. The notable advantage to such measures is that they are relatively easy to collect, document, and compare. Ideally, qualitative measures of individual police performance should be collected. Factors such as an officer's communications skills, how the officer relates to the public, how the officer evaluates calls/situations, and the quality of the officer's decisions, all tell us more about the type of work the officer does as well as his/her effectiveness.(8) Unfortunately, this information is very difficult to validly collect and substantiate if an officer's performance evaluation is challenged. The research on the subject, notably that done in a National Institute of Justice study by Whitaker, infers that police agencies should strive for a balance between the qualitative and quantitative measures.(9) In order to do this, police administrators must first clearly establish goals for the organization to accomplish. Next programs must be implemented to achieve those goals with clearly articulated officer responsibilities incorporated into the program. Officers should be evaluated specifically on the criteria delineated in the program. In some cases, the evaluation methods need to be nontraditional such as interviewing or surveying citizens with whom the officer has had contact or reviewing the officer's plans as well as his/her progress in executing those plans. In traditional police patrol there are typically no unique programs or plans on which officers may be individually evaluated. Moreover, as noted previously, to measure variables associated with preventive patrol or response time would be misleading indicators of productivity. Thus, in order to effectively measure both the performance of the individual officer and the police organization, comprehensive and specifically oriented plans for officer performance must be developed.
Job enrichment--Job enrichment refers to the increase of quality of life in the workplace. Included are factors which increase morale and job satisfaction such as increasing individual decision making, urging innovativeness, delegating greater responsibility, and involving subordinates in policy development and organizational plans. While the literature shows that job satisfaction may not increase individual performance per se, the research does indicate that it contributes to a lower turnover rate, less absenteeism, fewer cases of tardiness, and fewer grievances by employees.(10) Further research shows that high job satisfaction is a good predictor of length of life, and low satisfactions in correlated with various mental and physical illnesses. On the matter of productivity, the research indicates that morale and job satisfaction are related to productivity; however, these are mutually reciprocating variables. That is, higher productivity contributes to greater satisfaction and vice versa. Since there are defined organizational and individual benefits to increasing job satisfaction and morale, it behooves the prudent administrator to consider these factors in the development of any program.
Public perceptions of the police--In general, the public is supportive of the police. They feel that the police are fundamentally honest, generally corruption free, do not discriminate, and do not regularly use excessive force. However, when the population is stratified by various demographic variables, the picture begins to change somewhat. Notably, blacks and Hispanics are less supportive of the police in general and are particularly more likely to feel that the police are discriminatory and use excessive force.(11) Furthermore, blacks indicate the belief that they receive poorer service from the police than whites, and Hispanics feel they receive inadequate police protection.(12) It must be recognized that most crime victims are minority group members and that the majority of police calls for service are from lower income minorities. Thus, those citizens who must rely the most on police services also rate the police the lowest. This should send a message to police administrators. More attention must be given to the needs and quality of service afforded to the citizens who are most reliant on public law enforcement agencies.
Citizen demands for police service--Crime analysis has provided--and continues to provide--important information on crime trends and police calls for service needs. However, with sophisticated analytic techniques and computer-driven reporting methods, law enforcement has drifted away from communications with citizens. The emphasis is on the data output based on the sample of calls and reported crimes the police receive. However, these represent the most problematic incidents and skew the perspective of what the public desires from the police. While citizens feel that response to serious crimes is important, they also want the police to attend to the minor, yet annoying, facets of community discomfort such as abandoned cars, barking dogs, and juvenile vandals and trespassers. The police need to listen to the community and establish a dialogue to determine what types of services the citizens want. Then, those needs must be addressed--not ignored or given lip service. The preliminary research indicates that responding to community needs on these minor calls may significantly increase citizen satisfaction of police performance and perception of confidence.(13)
Police community relations--Since the genesis of the community relations movement by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the National Institutes held at Michigan State University, there has been an ongoing search for the best means by which to establish effective police community relations.(14) Philosophies have varied ranging from special programming, police training programs, community education, to special police units with the charge of establishing effective community relations. As the concept evolved, the research directly pointed to the fact that effective community relations must have two major elements. First, the police must recognize that they receive their mandate from the community and are responsible to the community in the performance of their task.(15) Second, community relations must be a product of total police operations involving all personnel--it is the interactive effect of departmental programming and officer behavior.(16) As a result, police community relations should be viewed as a primary and ongoing responsibility of all officers, a responsibility that is constitutionally mandated because the authority the police exercise is granted by the people.
Relating the Research to the
Community Policing Concept
The findings of the research projects in these various areas have had important implications in the development of the community policing concept. Since we know from the Bureau of Justice data that less than 10% of an officer's time is spent on crime and a significant amount of time is spent on service calls, we should recognize this in our patrol force programming. Furthermore, since we also know that a significant amount of a patrol officer's time is uncommitted patrol, yet that patrol does not prevent crime, the inference is that we need to make better use of that time.
Further research showed us that rapid response does not help us apprehend criminals, yet it is an important variable in citizen satisfaction and perception of competence. How can this discrepancy be reconciled? This is aggravated by the question, how does an administrator most effectively deploy personnel to meet new patrol programming needs yet have cars available for responding to calls while not wasting time on uncommitted patrol? We also know that the minority communities are the least satisfied with the police and that there is the feeling that the police are not responding to citizen service demands.
From a management perspective, the prudent administrator wants effective performance measures in order to validly measure personnel performance and have effective milestones by which to gauge organizational success. Similarly, administrators want to enrich the satisfaction and morale of employees in order to achieve the best, hence providing the most effective, organizational environment.
While not a panacea, community policing addresses all of these needs. By reallocating of patrol officer time, neighborhood policing makes better use of personnel. Furthermore, by getting "closer to the community" and establishing a dialogue with citizens, the public has a different--and more accurate--measure by which to assess officer competence and rate satisfaction with the police compared to response time. With these alternate measures, the police can give less attention to the response time issue and have the dilemma it posed largely resolved. Through the community dialogue developed in a neighborhood policing program, law enforcement agencies may more accurately define community concerns and respond to those constituent needs. Similarly, this targeted response will contribute to greater satisfaction from minority groups and help establish overall better community relationships.
By the same token, when a police officer is given the mandate to diagnose community problems, be creative in the development of solutions to those problems as well as to serve the roles of a community organizer, facilitator, educator, and referral resource in addition to law enforcement officer, then the growth potential of the officer is dramatically increased. These variable duties with their inherent responsibilities help change the police officer's role from that of a job to that of a career. With these changes come the job enrichment we desire to see in our personnel.
We do not argue that community policing is the answer to all problems the police face. We do argue that it responds to many of the findings and questions posed by the research as well as serves as a framework for new program development. The research is an important backdrop for understanding the genesis of the community policing model. From this point, a closer examination is warranted on how community policing is applied.
A New Model:
What Community Policing Is Not
Before defining what community policing is not, let us first use a thumbnail sketch to define community policing.
Community policing--A philosophy and not a specific tactic, community policing is a proactive, decentralized approach, designed to reduce crime, disorder, and by extension, fear of crime, by intensely involving the same officer in the same community on a long-term basis, so that residents will develop trust to cooperate with police by providing information and assistance to achieve those three crucial goals. Community policing employs a variety of tactics, ranging from park and walk to foot patrol, to immerse the officer in the community, to encourage a two-way information flow so that the residents become the officer's eyes and ears on the streets helping to set departmental priorities and policies. In addition, the officer then carries this information back to the rest of the department so that problems can be solved and the quality of life improved. Unlike the precursor programs mentioned above, improved police/community relations is a welcomed by-product of this approach, not its primary goal.
Community policing seeks to intervene directly in the twin problems of crime and disorder in communities by direct involvement in the community. The community policing officer acts as a uniformed armed presence to deter crime, but equally as important, he or she also takes action with citizen assistance to resolve problems before they erupt as crime. The officer performs a myriad of services, from educating citizens on preventing crime and organizing neighborhood organizations to gathering information that leads directly to the apprehension of criminals. In addition, the community policing officer also targets specific populations for special attention, typically children, women, and the elderly. The officers' efforts have concrete impact on the day-to-day lives of community residents.
Community policing can also be distinguished from other forms of policing because it derives its priorities in part from community input. In addition, because physical and social disorder cluster closely with crime, the CPO also acts as the community facilitator in dealing with these problems. In the CPO's role as liaison, the officer acts as the community's link to public and private agencies, acting as an ombudsman to deal with neighborhood decay.
However, just as it is important to explain what community policing is, an even clearer picture emerges by looking at what community policing is not. Eleven myths continue to cloud community policing's true role:
Community policing is not a technique--Police terminology abounds in jargon used to define specific strategies or tactics. Community policing instead embraces a philosophy that says it will provide everyone in the community, not just special interest groups, the kind of people-oriented policing everyone would want for him-or herself. At the heart of this effort lies the attitude that people deserve police who not only command, but earn, respect by listening to the community's wants and needs, maintaining daily face-to-face contact and involving the community in efforts to prevent and control crime. David Bayley, in effectively playing the devil's advocate, states that "community policing in 1987 is more rhetoric than reality. It is a trendy phrase spread thinly over customary reality."(17) Furthermore, he comments, "community policing over a period of years may become unevenly distributed socially and hence geographically. It could become the mode for the affluent, educated middle-class, while traditional, reactive policing remained the mode for the poor and undereducated underclass."(18)
The above could not be further from the operational reality of effective community policing programs.
Community policing, if operating properly, distributes police services more evenly and, in fact, targets high crime rate areas. It neutralizes the undue influence of special interest groups that have often been the recipients of preferred services.
Community policing recognizes that the welfare mother has as much right to quality police service as the affluent or the business person. It is broader based protection for all groups. It is an attempt to legitimize the police role, recognizing that crime is only one of the issues the police deal with, not the only issue.
Community policing is a proactive, decentralized approach that depends on community residents for input into police policy making, priority setting and advice on patrol deployment. It is a philosophy that recognizes that the foundation of the department is a strong departmental mission statement incorporating the values necessary to deliver services equitably and of high quality.
Community policing is not "limited" or specialized policing--Community policing is full-service policing. Unlike specialists like police community relations (PCR) officers and crime prevention people, the CPO is the one who gives advice on target hardening and then may be the officer who responds to the complaint of a burglary at the same household. The community policing officer in this expanded and broadened role performs a line function, not a staff function. Bayley feels that, "community policing provides a new and less demanding rationale for the police at the very moment when the traditional justification is failing".(19) Furthermore, he asks if the police should "...mediate quarrels, overcome the isolation of marginal groups, organize social services, and generally assist in developing 'community'".(20) Another of his concerns is that "community policing will increase the power of the police relatively among government agencies."(21)
The trend toward specialized policing in the U.S. over the past few years has often meant fragmented policing, with a loss of a sense of the community's needs. Why is there an increasing legitimization of the community policing officer's expanded role as mediator, organizer and diagnostician? Because private and public 8-5 agencies are not filling the void by providing the necessary services. The police are usually the only 24-hour-a-day agency. If communities are willing to expend additional resources to fill the void, the police will gladly agree to a constriction of their role.
In regard to community policing increasing the power of the police, it is about time that police be the catalyst in helping people get what they deserve from inefficient bureaucracies. When police give people the service they deserve, then the people will begin demanding similar efficiency from other agencies.
What many community residents have so long lacked is a voice that makes an impact on the delivery of governmental services. People are fed up with bureaucracies that they perceive as catering to special interest groups.
An expanded role that gives legitimacy to the police for what they are already doing also has obvious implications for selection and training.
Community policing is not foot patrol of the past--While today's community policing often puts officers on foot in the community as was done in an earlier era, today's officers do much more than patrol a beat. The same officer day after day diagnoses the beat area and then develops problem-solving approaches ranging from organizing neighborhood associations to referring people to appropriate community social agencies. Community policing is not, as Bayley states, "old wine in new bottles" or "neighborhood policing reborn."(22)
The foot patrol officer of the past had a different environmental context and different informal resources like the extended family, churches, and ethnic organizations. Present community policing officers must rely more on formal private and public agencies. Thus, the necessity to be a neighborhood diagnostician and a link to community agencies.
Community policing is not public relations--Bayley has stated that "as a public relations strategy, community policing is exceedingly clever."(23) Improved public relations is a welcomed by-product of community policing's mandate, not its goal. Community policing's goal is to provide effective police service with a proactive focus. The delivery of quality service to all segments of the community will increase rapport. "Happy talk" will be counter productive, and its positive results will be short lived.
Community policing is not antitechnology--CPO's may eschew cars to walk a beat and they may be more likely to spend time visiting homes and businesses than sitting behind a computer, but his should not be misconstrued as a rejection of technology. Instead, if funding permits, many CPOs would welcome the addition of a computer terminal linked to the department. However, the effort recognizes that the goal should be to employ sophisticated and expensive technology where it will provide the greatest payback. The community policing officer is like the base of a funnel, using information filtered down from various "hi-tech" sources and providing information upward generated from his/her neighborhood beat.
A misconception is that community policing is antithetical to hi-tech policing, that the two conflict, like fire and water. Instead, if functioning properly, they should mesh. For example, a technique like criminal profiling obviously falls into the hi-tech approach. Using sophisticated computers, the FBI can profile a likely perpetrator and create a description of what that person is like. Yet, obviously, that information still requires identifying the individual, finding out where he or she lives, and apprehending the suspect. Consider the advantage a community policing officer, so familiar with bad actors in his beat area, has in employing that information to make an arrest. Because of community trust, the officer will have information superior to that of a centralized agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
More broadly, consider the effectiveness of a two-pronged approach toward drugs, employing both hi-tech policing and community policing. The hi-tech aspect must concentrate on efforts such as locating and then eradicating fields of cocaine in Columbia. If successful, those efforts translate into a reduction of the amount of cocaine on the streets, thereby reducing supply.
In tandem, community policing must work on reducing demand. For example, the community policing officer can make daily stops at the local coke house as part of his regular tour of his beat. If successful, the individuals inside dispose of their drugs and users stop frequenting the establishment, which forces the traffickers to go out of business or move elsewhere. The community policing officers' visibility on a drug transaction street corner can also be effective in reducing demand. Innovative methods like taking pictures of the license plates of customers, even if there is no film in the camera, can also be useful. So while hi-tech policing concentrates on the supply side, community policing effectively reduces demand. Also, ideally, wherever their respective efforts intersect, both the hi-tech policing effort and the community policing effort work together to leave drug traffickers nowhere to hide. Users can be encouraged to seek treatment.
Community policing recognizes that crime means people--criminals and victims--and that the most impressive technology you can employ when dealing with people is a fully functioning human being. Hi-tech is not only hardware of contemporary electronic technology, like automated fingerprint systems and chromosomal analysis, it is also contemporary ideas like profiling, patrol enhancement and crime analysis.
Community policing is not soft on crime--Critics attack community policing's focus on physical and social disorder by arguing that this detracts from "real" policing, in other words, coping with serious crime. Many attempt to denigrate community policing by nicknaming CPO's as the "grin and wave squad" or by calling them "lollipop cops." The reality is that these social action duties are performed in addition to traditional law enforcement duties, not as a substitute for them.
One of the writers, on a visit to a police department, was confronted by an obviously macho police officer who asked, "aren't you the professor who's pushing community policing? Why don't you teach real police work, not social work?" I then asked him, "when was the last time you interrupted an armed robbery, caught a person breaking and entering, or had a knock down drag out fight in a bar?" The twelve-year veteran replied, "never, but I am more prepared if one of those events does happen than your soft community policing officer."
Not only don't many officers know what real police work is, they are caught up in the fantasy that muscles and machismo are the key ingredients in the delivery of quality police services in the community.
Community policing is not flamboyant--When a SWAT team swoops in and disarms a sniper, everyone cheers. When a CPO awards a youngster a donated football for bringing in a garbage bag full of litter, the long-term effect may be equally as dramatic, but the effort fails to make headlines.
Community policing is not an independent entity within the department--Community policing is not meant to substitute for other forms of policing, like motor patrol, but to complement all efforts. If the program is functioning properly, the vital information the CPO gathers should be disseminated through the department. Community policing works best when it is not forced to operate in isolation.
Community policing is not a top-down approach--What makes community policing unique is that it relies on input from average citizens--not just community leaders and blue-ribbon panels. Community policing actively solicits input from all constituents, encouraging those whose fear has spawned a paralytic apathy to become involved; at the same time it defuses those so frustrated they risk vigilantism.
Community policing is not paternalistic or elitist--Professionals in any field often feel they know better than others how the job should be done. Just as American businesses, like the auto industry, have learned that you cannot leave the consumer out of the equation, community policing gives the "consumers" of police service a voice. It focuses on values, not artificial "professional" images.
Bayley feels that community policing "may undermine professionalism."(24) He is correct if the definition of professionalism is elitism with an "I know what's best" attitude. Professionalism is not aloofness and spit-shined shoes. Professional makes sense if it means that the person has received certified and proper education and training to do the job. Most importantly, however, are the incalculable values that respect the person and the delivery of quality service.
Bayley also asks, "can police put on a velvet glove and keep their iron hand in shape?"(25) Being a community policing officer does not neutralize the other requirements of a full-service officer. Why does one parent's iron hand work and the other's is child abuse? If a parent demonstrates caring and builds trust, "getting tough" on occasion is respected. Just getting tough encourages rebellion and defiance.
Perhaps Bayley's greatest concern is that community policing: "legitimates the penetration of communities by forceful enforcement agents of government....the bottom line is that police officers are now being assigned and welcomed to watch, probe, and penetrate social processes and institutions that have previously been out of bounds...so the public's fear of crime may impel the police to play an interventionist role in social life."(26)
Community policing is much less intrusive than SWAT. The citizen can refuse a visit by the community policing officer. The reason people let officers into their homes willingly is because of trust and the feeling that the officer has a stake in the community.
There is already extensive intrusion into people's lives with computers. Why shouldn't officers be allowed to collect information that solves problems and improves the quality of life?
The insidious collecting of information by some undercover officers is going on right now. Community policing officers are not visiting homes to take down credit card numbers, review bank balances, or look for political literature.
Community policing is not anti-accountability--Another concern about community policing is its supposed lack of accountability. Indeed, poor supervision and lack of independent oversight of foot patrol officers in the political era demonstrably led to problems and abuses. However, if we return to the model discussed previously, we see that the rise of unionism that threatened to strangle the U.S. auto industry was the direct result of seeing workers as a population to be controlled, instead of as a resource of individuals who derive satisfaction from doing a good job. The change in philosophy that allows workers to take pride in their efforts has resulted in concessions from unionized autoworkers who see they have a vested interest in maintaining their jobs, by insuring the overall health of their industry.
The same holds true for community policing efforts. Instead of relying exclusively on formal evaluations by superiors who may not actually know much about the officer's performance on the job, the community itself acts as an additional check on the officer. As citizens become more involved in the police process, they lose their reluctance to communicate directly with the police department. Control of police behavior from the "grass roots" is much more effective than control by a police supervisor or control by either "Blue Ribbon" committees or civilian review boards.
The criticism has been leveled that "police organizations may be less accountable for the character of operations because the community policing officer will have greater freedom of action."(27) As stated above, not only is the officer monitored by the formal supervisory process, the community residents are involved as both the "eyes and ears" to prevent and solve crime and as eyes and ears to prevent and control deviant behavior by the police.
The context of policing today is much different than in the past "political era." Political "machines" don't control the neighborhoods or the police; many officers are highly educated and/or trained; police officers are protected by collective bargaining agreements; and, in most cases, pay scales are reflective of the community marketplace. Corruption (especially as it relates to drug trafficking) is always a concern, but contemporary communities are much different than in the past.
Critics of community policing discuss how officers risk being co-opted by special interest groups, assuming that other officers, motor, and investigators are not now influenced by special interest groups. Noncommunity policing officers often rely on paid informants who constitute many of the "seamiest" elements of society. Their testimony is often so suspect, because of their past and the fact they are being paid, that it weakens court cases.
The primary accountability problem community policing faces, however, stems from the fact that no new measures of its effectiveness have yet been developed to supplant the common reliance on such measures as response time, arrests, traffic citations, and a reduction in UCR figures. The reality, of course, is that response time tells us only how fast an officer arrives on the scene, not how effective the officer is when he/she gets there. In addition, as indicated before, the vast majority of calls do not involve a crime in progress, so the speed of response probably has little impact on preventing or solving the crime.
In addition, proactive efforts, such as community policing's emphasis on preventing future crime by intervening with juveniles, now suggests there may well be a long lag time before the results show up as a reduction in UCR figures. Also, of course, no one can say how much even the following year's figures might have risen had the officers not impacted on juveniles who would have otherwise become involved in criminal activity.
Without debating the accuracy of UCR figures, though it is a valid concern, the fact remains that crime rates reflect a number of variables, such as unemployment and age of population, over which the police have virtually no control. These rates also do not reflect improvements in the precursors to crime--deteriorating neighborhoods. What community policing does is employ a broad-based approach to community improvement that makes the entire environment one that deters, inhibits, or prevents crime. So, because of their involvement in the community, when an officer fails to be effective, his/her superiors ultimately will hear about it. Indeed, a supervisor can simply drive through beat areas and see what kind of direct impact the officer is having. If the supervisor sees a neighborhood sliding downhill, with uncollected garbage and dope dealers operating openly on the street corners, it is obvious the officer is not doing the job.
Again, just as the auto companies are allowing autoworkers more autonomy, they do so recognizing that this also allows for more mistakes. Yet the price of spurring pride and creativity is toleration of a few mistakes. As demonstrated repeatedly, treating motivated employees with respect and trust fosters an atmosphere that promotes initiative. Given that today's police officers are the most highly educated in the history of this country, this helps instill an attitude of professionalism, and at the same time it reduces union/management friction.
Community policing's unique contribution is a radical departure from the past and the present. While today's community policing efforts retain the best elements of the foot patrol programs of the past, they are intended to avoid both the old system's abuses and shortcomings.
There continues to be much debate and the discussion is healthy. As Bayley has stated, "evidence about the shortcomings of customary policing is much greater than evidence about community policing."(28).
Those who are quick to criticize community policing should be clear and straightforward about the criteria used to evaluate it. For example, there is general agreement that traditional policing has little impact on crime. Why the should community policing be attacked for its perceived lack of impact on crime?
In addition, how do you measure intangibles like intervention with juveniles and the improved feelings of safety of the elderly. Are we to judge community policing in isolation or in comparison to other police efforts?
An Evaluation of the Neighborhood Foot Patrol Program in Flint, Michigan
A Manual for the Establishment and Operation of a Foot Patrol Program
Perceptions of Safety: A Comparison of Foot Patrol Versus Motor Patrol Officers
Job Satisfaction: A Comparison of Foot Patrol Versus Motor Patrol Officers
The Status of Contemporary Community Policing Programs
The Impact of Foot Patrol on Black and White Perceptions of Policing
Uniform Crime Reporting and Community Policing: An Historical Perspective
Performance Profiles of Foot Versus Motor Officers
Community Policing: A Taxpayer's Perspective
Implementing a Community Policing Model for Work with Juveniles: An Exploratory Study
Community Policing: Training Issues
Community Policing Programs: A Twenty-Year View
The Foot Patrol Officer, the Community, and the School: A Coalition Against Crime
Community Policing: Defining the Officer's Role
Foot Patrol: Some Problem Areas
An Evaluation of a Neighborhood Foot Patrol Program
Community Policing: The Line Officer's Perspective
Community Policing: Community Input into Police Policy Making
National Center for Community Policing
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
560 Baker Hall
East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1118
800-892-9051 or (517) 355-9648