Custom «Effectiveness of the Community Policing Philosophy » Essay Paper Sample

Effectiveness of the Community Policing Philosophy


Are the communities policing strategies placing officers in an ambiguous position and perhaps enhancing relationships with one group over another? This also leads to the discussion about zero-tolerance policies and aggressive patrolling to clean up the streets, make community groups happy, and improve the quality of life.  Some believe the empirical evidence for community policing effectiveness in solving the crime problem is both limited and contradictory (Cassell and Fowles, 1998). A thorough commitment to community policing involves new structures and new responsibilities for the officers in engaging the community in problem solving rather than just using the rhetoric or titles. To effectively use the community policing philosophy, departments need to tailor their responses to their community - it is not "one size fits all." Simultaneously, it continues the process of transformation from a mechanism of constraint into a community service. In doing this the specialized services at the state and regional levels deal with serious forms of crime, whereas local police services, in partnership with the community, deal with less serous crimes and with the issues of public safety and order in the community (Thomas , 1982).

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Thesis:  Much are going to be discussed in this paper. But the main of the research will be to focus on how to evaluate the effectiveness of the community policing philosophy.

"Community policies impose the incorporation of other services and organizations into the performance of police activities and the decentralization of its work. It demands new approaches to the measurement and evaluation of its success and efficiency" (Creamer, 1980).  It also means that the members of the police need to acquire higher levels of knowledge and skill to perform their work. The challenging goals of the police are praiseworthy, but in reality there exist many obstacles to achieve the stated goals of contemporary community policing. The organization structure envisioned by community policing entails power being decentralized shifted away from police chiefs and toward lower-ranking officers working within communities themselves (Creamer, 1980). On both counts U.S. faces significant problems.

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As already discussed, in the 1990s the police organization in U.S. was highly centralized, leaving little room for local community involvement. Realizing the existence of this gap, the police started in the late 1990s appointing individual police officers as "community-level" police officers with no reactive duties, only preventative ones. "In addition it supported the establishment of local safety councils so as to start developing partnerships in local crime prevention and local partnership based provision of safety" (Tetu, 1995). In addition to the idea of working together with citizens, local safety councils are meant to be a place where communities, police, and other agency representatives meet and try to find common solutions for solving local safety and security problems (Tetu, 1995). "However, this partnership - while a step in the right direction - has not yet produced optimal results. One of the problems lies in the fact that members of the police are seen to be universal "solvers" of societal and social problems" (Tetu, 1995). A study of public perceptions of responsibility for solving local safety, security, and crime problems revealed the following ranking of the problem solvers: the police, social - care institutions, prosecutor's office, and courts, other law enforcement agencies, NGOs, and educational institutions.

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"An effective community policing strategy will reduce neighborhood crime, decrease citizens' fear of crime, and enhance the quality of life in the community. An important goal of community policing is to provide higher quality service to neighborhoods" (Leo, 1992); therefore, customer satisfaction becomes an important measure of effectiveness. The perception of progress among community members and ongoing feedback from all elements of the community are essential parts of the assessment process. Randomly and routinely conducted surveys will form the agency of the public view of police performance, the level of fear and concern, and will make the agency aware of the extent to which community members feel as if they are participants in the community policing effort. One of the core components of community policing is community partnership. Therefore, an early measure of effectiveness will be the number and type of community partnerships that have been formed (Leo, 1992). "The cooperation and participation of community members is necessary to deter crime and reduce the fear of crime in the neighborhood. Assessing the effectiveness of community policing efforts includes determining whether problems have applied the community partnership and problem-solving components of community policing" (Leo, 1992).

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Assessment should measure whether a problem was solved and how this was accomplished. As stated earlier, the number of arrests made is only one possible measure of effective problem solving; solving problems often does not involve arrest and, in many cases, does not guarantee that a problem will disappear completely. For example, the officer, who determined that one of the underlying causes of an increase in convenience store robberies was that cash registers could not be seen by passerby, did not eradicate the burglary (Schmalleger,  2001). However, his efforts did provide valuable information that could help deter future robberies. "Satisfactory assessment measures for community policing must give proper credit to officers like this who successfully abate a problem through means other than arrest" (Schmalleger, 2001). The officer's contribution to solving the problem and his consultations with members of the community showed the concern and effectiveness of police officers and created the goodwill for the department that is crucial to the success of community priorities of the agency (Medalie, 1966). In community policing, officers may act as facilitators to mobilize community support. "They may also function as mediators in disputes between individuals or organizations, or take responsibility for referring a problem to the appropriate social or government agency" (Schmalleger,  2001).

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The effective use of government and community agencies in problem solving is an indication that community policies are working. Thus, the mobilization and intelligent use of community resources in solving problems and the sensitive handling of dissension become important factors in assessing the performance of officers and the success of the program. "Increased levels of community participation in crime reduction and prevention efforts are another indication of program success. The community members will not act if they are afraid or suspicious. Community members should become more willing to work with the police in a variety of ways, ranging from converting abandoned buildings to community assets to involving police actively in neighborhood watch groups" (McWhirter, 1994). They might also be more comfortable providing information on criminal activity in the area. In fact, calls to report crime may increase considerably during the early phases of community policing implementation, as community confidence in police capability rises and community trust increase. However, number of 911 calls will likely decrease over time, which will provide a quantitative measure of the strategy's effect. For instance, emergency calls in the pioneering Flint, Michigan, foot patrol district dropped 43 percent over the course of the experiment.  A concrete indication of community policing success is the commitment of an increased level of community resources devoted to crime reduction efforts.

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Active consultation and financial participation by public and private agencies, schools, and the business community will demonstrate that community. Partnership efforts are working. Communities also should begin to initiate and conduct projects with minimal guidance from the police (McWhirter, 1994). Renewed activity within the community also will demonstrate the effectiveness of community policing efforts, particularly in areas where citizens have been afraid to leave their homes. Reduction in fear can also result in the perception among residents that crime is on the wane, whether or not this is statistically accurate. "An increased willingness of citizens to walk to schools and parks, patronize stores, and go to restaurants and movies will signal a general decrease in fear of crime. In turn, the very fact that community members are reclaiming their streets will help deter future criminal activity and create more vigorous neighborhoods" (McWhirter, 1994).

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In conclusion, community help will increase the efficiency of the program and relieve some of the strain of tight police budgets. Partnerships in the community can bring fresh resources to problems, even those traditionally considered "police-only" business. "According to one sheriff, "There is virtually no limitation on how much more effective and efficient a sheriff's office can become, working collectively as a partner with community members while, at the same time, saving resources, dollars, and frustrations on the part of constituents" (McWhirter, 1994).

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