According to the United States Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services Website, "Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime." Community policing is defined in similar ways throughout local police departments, although there are enough differences to make the concept of community policing difficult to pinpoint. Partnership and cooperation are the primary features of community policing, as are the goals of reducing crime through prevention and long-term public safety strategies. The Department of Justice's three main components of community policing include community partnerships, organizational transformation, and problem solving. Each of these components will ensure a successful implementation of a community policing program.
One of the drawbacks to community policing is its nebulous and ambiguous interpretation by different police departments. The Lincoln Police Department of Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, calls community policing "the most misunderstood and frequently abused theme in police management." Community policing has been called a fad, a trend, and a buzzword (Friedmann, 1996). Because of this, some departments have taken shortcuts, only "paying lip service" to community policing (Friedmann, 1996). The Lincoln Police Department (n.d.) also admits that "all manner of organizational tinkering" has been mislabeled as community policing.
Beyond this, however, there are real pitfalls with community policing programs that should be taken into consideration when contemplating any organizational changes. For one, community policing is "not simply equivalent with foot patrol," which can take place without "building relationships with the community," (Friedmann, 1996). The idea that community policing is simply "foot patrol" had been a part of the early literature on the effectiveness of community policing, but is no longer relevant (Triojanowicz & Pollard, 1986). In fact, foot patrolling without relationship building is useless. Building relationships with the community is the heart of community policing.
Second, community policing does require long-term dedication and commitment. Each department and its managers must be prepared to thoroughly implement a community policing strategy, which could entail genuine changes to the organizational culture and its policing strategies. Organizational commitment from all levels of management, and from every member of the force -- as well as community commitment -- is necessary. Community policing often requires partnerships with community organizations, community leaders, and other government institutions, as well as with residents.
The history of community policing is in fact, the history of organized policing in general. The first formal policing organizations were developed in London with the reforms made by Sir Robert Peel in the nineteenth century. Prior to Peel and his model of patrol, policing was a loose and often lawless mission. Policing was not a social institution as it is today. Peel's point-of-view was rooted in the principles of community policing: patrolling and participating with the public in crime prevention. Centralized management and organized bureaucracy also ensure the integrity of policing and its officers.
Community policing models fell out of favor as the bureaucracy started to grow towards a "professional" model in which community involvement was deemed "unnecessary," (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994, p. 6). Distancing themselves from the community proved disastrous to police officers. Corruption became widespread, and public mistrust of the force grew to such proportions that crime prevention became difficult. Thus, a reversion to Peel's original theories and methods has led to the current interpretations and implementations of community policing. Community policing can therefore be viewed more like a paradigm, theory, and value system than it is a set of practices. The Lincoln Police Department (n.d.) defines community policing as "a value system which permeates a police department, in which the primary organizational goal is working cooperatively with individual citizens, groups of citizens, and both public and private organizations to identify and resolve issues which potentially effect the livability of specific neighborhoods, areas, or the city as a whole."
There are some practices that provide the backbone for successful community policing programs, though. Community policing centers are one of the hubs of the community policing paradigm. At community policing centers, the public has an opportunity to interact with the officers and vice-versa, in ways that are not possible in the formal "professional" bureaucratic stations. Citizens' Crime Watch and similar programs are also helpful in engaging the community about individual roles and responsibilities for preventing crime (Vancouver Police Department, n.d.). Community policing can be viewed as a strategy…