Community Policing and Psychology Term Paper

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Community policing is a strategy that requires both new attitudes and commitments from citizens and new attitudes and commitments from police officers. It builds on the basic practices of policing by emphasizing cooperation between the police department and the citizenry, by emphasizing the prevention of crimes as opposed to just catching perpetrators, and by developing long-term solutions to existing and potential problems in the community (U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ], nd). The goals of community policy include reducing crime; reducing the fear of crime; restoring and maintaining a sense of order to the community; and building and strengthening bonds between the citizens, police, and state and local governments (DOJ, nd).

The history of community policing goes as far back as the beginnings of governmental policing and the beginnings of law enforcement agencies. Sir Robert Peel is generally acknowledged as the originator of modern law enforcement agencies as he spearheaded the formation of the London Metropolitan Police District in the early 1800s (Lentz & Chaires, 2007). Peel established nine principles of policing/community policy that are still relevant today and still are the focus of modern community policing (Lentz & Chaires, 2007):

1. Peel's first principle was that the basic mission of the police force was to prevent disorder and crime. Peel created a police force and introduced the role of the "police beat" as a form of patrolling in order to make law enforcement agency visible. Peel felt that the visibility of law enforcement agents was a major detriment to crime.

2. Peel believed that law enforcement agencies should work closely with the public and that public approval and public cooperation with the bases of the successful law-enforcement agency. Peel believed that the ability of the police force to execute his duties and prevent crime was dependent on the public's approval of police actions. London was a very diverse city and peel believed that a key ingredient in getting public approval and cooperation was for the police department to understand the different subcultures that make up the community. This requires training and education.

3. Peel believed that in order to get the respect and approval of the public the police force must secure the willing cooperation of the public regarding the following laws and police policies. If the public felt a particular law was unjust or was unfairly applied the public will not cooperate.

4. Peel believed that the proportion of public approval and cooperation varied indirectly (or was negatively correlated with) the amount of physical force the police exert on them in order to get them to obey law.

5. Peel believed that in order to maintain public cooperation in favor the police department should not pander to public opinion but should demonstrate total commitment to the law, offer equal treatment and regard to all members of the public despite their social standing or ethnic background, be courteous and friendly to all members of the public, and be ready to sacrifice themselves for all members of the public in maintaining the law.

6. Peel believed that physical force should be used sparingly. Physical force should only be used when verbal persuasion is insufficient to obtain cooperation. Physical force should only consist of that force necessary to secure the law and restore order. When used such physical force should be the minimum degree necessary on that particular occasion to achieve the after mentioned objectives.

7. Peel believed that the relationship with the public should at all times reflect the reality that the police ARE the public and that the public IS the police. Both parties need to remember that the police are members of the public who were paid to serve the interest of every citizen and interest of community welfare.

8. Peel believed that the police always need to remember the limits of their authority and should never appear to act as judges and jury to the individuals with whom they are charged to arrest.

9. Finally Peel believed that the police should always remember that the test of their efficiency is the absence of crime and not the amount of arrests made, perpetrators caught, etc.

These principles are reflected in the later principles of Sir Robert Mark (Lentz & Chaires, 2007); however, in the United States there was a move away from this type of cooperation in the 1950s and 1960s. The urban crises observed in the 1960s highlighted the need for more effective community policy and a return to these ideals and the notion of a partnership between communities and law enforcement (Wilson & Kelling, 1982). Acts like The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 authorized funds to promote community policing and add a more visible police presence (Skolnick, 2011). The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) was created by the Justice department in order to carry out this mission (Skolnick, 2011). According to the COPS in order to meet the goals as developed by Peel and Mark the police departments must develop community partnerships, engage in organizational transformation, and engage in problem solving strategies regarding both maintaining partnerships with the community and during organizational transformations (DOJ, nd). Psychologists are experts in human behavior and can assist police departments in all three of these areas (Gottfredson & Polokowski, 2011).

First with respect to developing better community relationships, one issue is to develop a better impression of police officers with the community. In terms of positive impression management with the public the psychologist can help the police department develop and maintain the image of the police as public servants as opposed to mere authority figures as the research indicates that this type of presentation is viewed as more favorably by both the public and police in an organization (Vito, Suresh, & Richards, 2011). The police department should stress the public servant qualities of its officers and policies as opposed to the authoritarian roles. In addition, police officers in the field should emphasize this aspect of their presence and approach the public in a manner consistent with being a public servant. The psychological literature also discusses routes to persuasion and effective elements to influencing groups and individuals. For example, classic research by Richard Petty and John Cacioppo identified two routes to persuading people: a central route and a peripheral (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986). The central route of persuasion is effective when the audience is analytical and motivated. It uses a logical argument and is designed to address counter arguments, whereas the peripheral route utilizes rule of thumb reasoning, heuristics, cues, the properties of the communicator, etc. When soliciting communities for greater involvement with the police it is important to understand the audience being targeted. When targeting audiences with potential counterarguments to becoming involved with local police departments the research predicts that the central route of persuasion will be more effective, whereas when targeting messages towards audiences that already agree somewhat with the message or do not have strong counterarguments using peripheral routes of persuasion such as having celebrities or well mannered good-looking officers delivering the message will be more effective.

The actual elements of persuasion explored by psychologists include the communicator, the message, how the message is communicated, and the audience and psychologists can help police departments target specific audiences using specific messages and specific communicators to maximize community policing. For example, certain circumstances might call for written messages, some instances for face-to-face contact, and others messages would be more effective through the use of advertisements on television and radio etc. (e.g., Brennan & Valcic, 2012).

Psychologists can also help the police become more culturally aware as this is an ethical principle that all psychologists are required to subscribe to (Ratts, D'Andrea, & Arredondo, 2004).

With respect to organizational transformation the psychologist can assist the police departments with this on many different levels. First, the research on leadership, job satisfaction, and issues within the hierarchy of the police department indicates that there are different styles of leadership that produce different levels of job satisfaction within the organization. Police leadership as it applies to employee satisfaction is often not well-developed because of the police culture of the bureaucratic rank and file structure and the civil nature of the position itself (Densten, 1999). The relationship between job performance and job satisfaction appears to be reciprocal, thus effective leadership can increase both job satisfaction and job performance (Engel, 2003). A good deal of the psychological research indicates that a Transformational Leadership style is the most effective style of leadership for maximizing job satisfaction (Engel, 2003). A transformational leader can motivate employees (officers) to perform their duties with the organization's goals in mind as opposed to their own personal goals. This comes from a sense of the leader's personal values (Engel, 2003) and these leaders attempt to motivate others to surpass their usual performance goals. These leaders use idealized influence (charisma), inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual stimulation to motivate the members of an organization (Densten, 1999). Here the psychologist can work with the leadership in the department in order…[continue]

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