The Evolution of Community Policing, Research Paper Example
Words: 1745Research Paper
The term “community policing” cannot be easily contained in a concept because it can refer to everything from citizen-managed neighborhood watch programs to organized approaches developed and carried out by police officers and administrators. This paper will trace the historical evolution of community policing in the U.S., from the earliest “town watch” groups of the colonial era to contemporary policing models in the nation’s largest cities. Comparisons between community policing models in the U.S. will be further used to highlight the various ways that community policing has been envisioned and applied. These historical and contemporary examinations of the far-ranging issues applicable to the term “community policing” will help to clarify both the textbook definition and the real-world applicability of this approach to preventing and solving crime.
According to Jack R. Greene (2000) Community policing or different aspects of it, has emerged into the national mantra of American policing. Further he advances that research has shown where the language related to this concept; its symbolism, and programs connected to it have all evolved from urban, suburban, and even rural police departments’ approaches of linking resources with concerned citizens in their respective neighborhoods to ensure a safe environment. More importantly, within the past 15 years or at least one generation of American policing history problem-oriented policing targeting community collaboration has been the theme of effective policing programes. Advocates have emphasized the value of community policing in the American society as a powerful public safety force (Greene, 2000).
However, in tracing the historical evolution of community policing in the U.S., from the earliest “town watch” groups of the colonial era to contemporary policing models in the nation’s largest cities there is no clarity as to how these complex themes have impacted American policing. As such, during this discussion the author will deliberately trace how the emergence of these themes has actually shaped the history of community policing in America. For example, analysts have contended that the complexity of community policing programs in themselves especially, those engaging the problem-oriented theme often initiate systematic scientific investigation for exploring more serious dysfunctions occurring within the targeted community (Greene, 2000).
Importantly, they further advance that the concepts community and problem-oriented policing are inseparable “moving targets.” Consequently, in discussing the history of community policing is certainly an examination into how the phenomenon has been modified to function in turbulent environments and law enforcement impact changes occurring in the community with support of its citizens (Greene, 2000).
Major trends In Community Policing History
Prior to twenty-first century
Town watch was instituted during the colonial policing era. Neighborhood watch is similar and it can be assumed that all neighborhood watch programs emerged from the town watch system. The major difference between the two is that Town Watch groups presented themselves as active patrols. They wore pseudo-uniforms, which include vests or jackets and caps. During the patrol, they were equipped with two way radios to directly relay messages to local police officers. Precisely, Town Watch served as an auxiliary police. Persons recruited were volunteers, but received police training, weapons and equipment. During patrol duty town watch participants will pick up weapons and equipment from a designated office. After the patrol is over weapons were returned to the office (The Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium, 2000).
A major trend which has evolved in community policing prior to the twenty first century after Town watch system is known as Operation Partnership. Operation Partnership focused on identifying Law enforcement (LE) –PS (Private Security) partnerships, exploring valuable practices, achievements as well as analyzing trends and challenges. This project was sponsored by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office) within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It was discovered that partnership benefits are enhanced when private security and law enforcement function more effeicitlyb when efforts are combined. In this way they build a dynamic network to forces available to combat crime in their communities. Importantly when trusts develop there is further strengthening of community policing goals (The Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium, 2000).
However, amidst the desire towards operation partnership in 1960 a police-citizen crisis emerged forcing research questioning the philosophy behind America’s policing strategies From these research studies Wilson and Kelling (2006) advanced the broken windows theory. The assumptions were a broken window in an abandoned building indicated that either property owners abandoned the property thereby giving up rights to it encouraging vandalism (Wilson & Kelling, 2006).
These theorists emphasized the value of controlling what are classified minor crimes or dysfunctions in order to address more serious ones. Hence, creating an environment of safety for the community ought to be the focus of police, they contended. Importantly, broken windows in property within a community open the door to criminal activity by providing both as housing for criminals and a property to be vandalized. From these salient assumptions sprung various police strategies and techniques focused on improving police-community relations. Therefore, this community oriented policing philosophy arouse from the premise that by reducing citizens’ crime level is essential while a partnership between the police and the community (Harcourt & Ludwig, 2006).
Other theoretical assumptions regarding the history of community policing has traced it within three eras namely a political; reform and the community problem solving era. The political era began in 1840 and ended in 1930. From them on the reform era began. During the political era close ties between police and politician developed with police endeavoring to please politicians. Then a reformation emerged lasting way into 1970. It was a time professional crime techniques developed and the focus of reducing crime became arresting criminals. These strategies appeared to be ineffective in addressing crimes. Thereafter, from 1970 up to this time efforts at community policing is more collaborative through formation of partnerships between police and community agencies (History of American Policing, 2013).
The third era reflected shifts in policing styles. They have been cited as watchman, legalistic and service styles. The watchman style saw community policing ventures converging into use of discretion rather than force as well as crime control rather than prevention. This model allows for police to be dispatched from a community level to the people. Legalistic style projected law enforcement as the primary focus. Police were insensitive to social problems being more concerned with enforcing the law. Meanwhile the service style policing model assists the public in maintain law and order in their communities since they realize that legal solutions are not always viable. Precisely they are more aligned with the community problem solving strategies (History of American Policing, 2013).
Twenty first century
Twenty-first century community policing practices calls for service exceed calls for arrests. Four elements are predominant. The groups practice community-based crime prevention; police patrol emphasis is on non-emergencies; the public has become more accountable for deviance in the society. In turn police have become more accountable to the public for crime occurrence in the community. Fourthly, the command is more decentralized. A focus shift has created a system whereby police is just one of many agencies helping the public. Arrests are less important. Preventing the crime has gained momentum. Concerns of the public have now been aligned to concerns of the police (History of American Policing, 2013).
However, twenty-first century community policing groups have been criticized because some police officers are not grasping that a change has occurred from the old era prior to twenty first century. As such, measuring goals are difficult because they conflict. For example, a prior to twenty first century policing group would focus on arrests whereas a twenty first community policing approach would devise strategies toward preventing the same crimes from being committed over and over in the same communities. Essentially, arrests would not prevent the crimes since new criminals can enter the community more violent than those who have been arrested (History of American Policing, 2013).
More significantly, twenty first century community policing has a scientific approach towards intervention. Research is being conducted informing evidence based practices to treat crime. Kansas City research, gun experiments; Minneapolis domestic violence study and the Newport experiment are just a few scientific research studies that have provided scientific evidence for crime intervention in the areas researched. Kansas City hot spot crime prevention research studies ‘suggest that focused police interventions, such as directed patrols, proactive arrests, and problem-oriented policing, can produce significant gains in crime prevention at high-crime hot spots (Braga, 2008).
From these studies police discretion as a philosophy of community policing tactics emerged. It forges exercising choice while scrutinizing factors, which influence specific crimes. The efficiency with which a community policing offers exercises discretion depends greatly upon the officer’s background; suspects characteristics, the police department policy; community’s interest; pressure from the victim; disagreement with the law and available alternatives. Community policing discretion in the twenty first centry has gained national attention from the Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman case. There have been many conflicting arguments regarding whether Zimmerman should have used discretion. Maybe this case echoes a new era in Community Policing history in America whereby advocates are calling for revision of the standalone law (History of American Policing, 2013).
The foregoing research embraced a history of Community policing in America outlining and comparing models adapted prior to twenty first century and within the century. There was tracing of a passage from three distinct eras, political, reform towards community problem solving phases. Broken Window model became submerged into the twenty first century philosophy whereby the use of discretion based on scientific evidence provided through experiments and research studies has become the focus. However, police officers who are stuck in the traditional systems of using force without exercising due discretion has created conflicts of goals within the organization. Measures are being taken to research recent issues of police brutality in producing more collaboration between police and the community.
Braga, Anthony (2008). Crime Prevention Research Review No.2: Police Enforcement Strategies to Prevent Crime in Hot Spot Areas. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Greene, J. (2000). Community Policing in America: Changing the Nature, Structure, and Function of the Police. Criminal Justice. 3, 299-340
History of American Policing Divided into three eras (2013). Retrieved on August 8th, 2013 From http://www.grossmont.edu/lance.parr/intro4.htm
Harcourt, E., & Ludwig, J. (2006). Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City and a Five-City Social Experiment. University of Chicago Law Review
The Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium (2000).Operation Partnership: Trends and Practices in Law Enforcement and Private Security Collaborations. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved on August 8th, 2013 from http://www.ilj.org/publications/docs/Operation_Partnership_Private_Security.pdf
Wilson. J., & Kelling, G. (2006). The police of neighborhood Safety. Broken Windows. Retrieved on August 6th, 2013 from http://www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/_atlantic_monthly-broken_windows.pdf
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