Community Policing essay
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Community policing is a method of enforcing the law and philosophy based on the perception that collaboration and support of the society and police can help reduce crime, the fear of crime and to alleviate the social problems that lead to crime and. The members of the community help to identify suspects, to restrain offenders, report crimes to police and to address the social problems that lead to increase in the crime rates in the first place. Community policing advocates for organizational strategies that incorporate community-police partnerships and problem-solving methods, which seek to deal with the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as social disorder fear of crime and crime itself. There are three gears of community policing; collaboration with the community, resolving the problem affecting the community and transformation of the police organization (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1994). Other attributes of community policing are partnership, personalized approach, permanent, proactive, patrols and problem solving.
Community partnerships refer to the collaboration between the police and the members of the community they serve. These include individuals, private businesses, organizations, community groups, media, and other government agencies. It involves bringing together the law enforcers and various stakeholder groups together so that they develop solutions to the problems and build trust in the police. These partnerships give the stakeholder groups an opportunity to input their ideas and views into the police process; this is done as part of community support and participation.
Organizational Transformation involves the restructuring of the structure, information systems, personnel, and management practices to take in the community partnerships and problem solving. It seeks to reinvent the police departments, transform their leadership organizational culture, relationship with other stakeholder groups and agencies, service delivery, and improve the public perception of the police. The transformation seeks to move away from the traditional view of police to a better force. An example is the shift from the traditional view that the police are the principal government agency that enforces the law to the community policing view that police are community members and all the stakeholder groups are the police; the police officers are just employed to dedicate their full time to the duties of every community member (Palmiotto, 2000).
Problem solving involves the engagement of the law enforcers and stakeholder groups in analyzing and identifying the problems and then developing appropriate effective responses. Trojanowicz et al. (1998) explains the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment) model of problem solving which is applied in community policing projects. Scanning: identifying the problems based on priorities. Analysis: entails finding out the known facts about the problem. Response: entails coming up with solutions, which will permanently reduce incidences and extent of problems. Assessment: determining whether the problems have changed, and establishing the outcome of the responses.
Police subculture refers to a situation where the police officers, instead of adhering to the set professional code of conduct, they come up with their own individual code of ethics. They put loyalty to their fellow colleagues first at the expense of protecting and serving the community. Palmiotto (2000) describes it as "the blue curtain" and some of its characteristics are cynicism, isolation from others, tribal/racist and ethnic. This clannish mindset results from three factors. First, police officers are the only real crime fighters and are easily identified because of uniforms, badges and guns. Secondly, they have a similar way of life; only police can understand police. They face the same challenges, risks, dangers, and rewards which the public do not have an idea. Lastly, that they are targets of criminals and perceive that various stakeholder groups such as concerned individuals, politicians and bureaucrats do not support them.
It is true racist notions of certain communities dominate that police subculture. After the 1970s' police reforms, there has been a gradual rise in minority officers. By mid 1990s, African American officers composed most of the force in Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. However, in states like Miami, Hispanic and African American officers comprised 48 percent and 17 percent respectively (Walker, 1999). Supporters of these transformational efforts recommended that minority officers had less likelihood of using force against minority suspects, and were less likely to be biased against them. Further, they suggested that minority officers would have an improved connection with minority citizens. Indeed, studies have proven that there exists major difference in the attitudes of white officers and minority citizens, though only a small number of differences in actual behavior and performance have been reported. Such other noteworthy differences are also seen in the attitudes of minority and white officers toward community policing policies. For instance, a research on police officers working in minority districts in New York City shows that minority officers had positive attitudes about the districts and citizens in the districts they worked. Compared to their white counterparts, it was found out that minority officers adopted a positive attitude towards the community policing initiatives and the society, (Walker, 1999).
Besides the race discrimination, there also is the gender bias. With the steady rise in the number of female officers, there have been many theories advanced concerning the attitudes and conduct of males compared to female officers. Those supporting the recruitment of more female officers argued that females would conduct themselves better verbally when handling difficult circumstances, and would be less aggressive. Those against the hiring of female officers put forward the fact that female officers were poor in handling aggressive situations, and faced greater risk resulting in the rise, in officer safety problem. Additionally, they disputed the capabilities of female officers arguing that they would be more like social workers than law enforcers would. Studies have indicated that there are no major variations in attitudes, performance, and on-job-conduct between male and female officers; however, there is a subculture, which underscores the existence of gender discrimination (Palmiotto, 2000).
These notions have eventually evolved to police subcultures, which are widely practiced by the police officers. These notions become practices because officers believe that they have the freedom and the right to act or make a judgment based on their own independent choice and thought. The police work usually draws individuals who are naturally dictatorial and guarded; new recruits into the police force are socialized in the environment full of the subcultures leads to the development and adoption of these traits. Cynicism starts in the military-type police training colleges and gradually rises with years of service; lack of job satisfaction and promotions usually precipitates it (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1994). Some of these widespread subcultures are intimidation, offensive language, harassment, and unnecessary or excessive use of force. Others are the codes of silence and the "cop code" (Lawrence, 2010). In the codes of silence, the officer covers evidence, assaults a suspect, or breaks a law to implement another; other officers either overlook or abet contravention of their professional code of ethics. A famed incident of law transgression by the police officers is Rampart scandal in which many of Los Angeles Police Department officers engaged in wanton shootings, assault, faking evidence and drug trafficking (Lawrence, 2010). The cop code comes in when the society feels that the police officers do not follow their code of conduct; it cultivates a sense of mistrust and contempt of the police department. In minority areas, the public starts to view the police as a face for ethnic discrimination. Because of this, the community loses trust in police and refuses to in help them solve crimes and may sometimes culminate in riots.
To overcome these embedded notions, a lot needs to be done. Some measures that can be used include controlling the day-to-day police work, raising the education standards for recruits, and improving training. It is widely argued that officers with higher education levels are better equipped to deal with the demanding duties of police officer, their conduct is better, are more likely to use alternatives to arrest, and more restrained in using force against suspects. This is clearly demonstrated in female and minority officers, where it has been proven that officers with higher education have a better view community policing and more positive attitude towards the citizens (Trojanowicz et al. 1998).
Necessary reforms should be instituted and an independent, internal affairs monitoring system be put in place. Watchdogs and community organizations can help make sure that the police force is free of misconduct and corruption. The professional code of conduct and ethics for police officers should be designed in such a way that it incorporates the universal principles of policing. According to Walker (1999), the code should incorporate three important aspects; it should ensure equal protection for all in spite of race, gender, identity, or social status of the lawbreaker. The rule of law must apply to everyone including the law enforcers, and the police must be of high moral conduct greater than that of many members of the public. It should have checks and balances to prevent abuse of power and illegitimate use their power for personal gain.
There should be clear guidelines on the use of force; policies should limit the use of excessive force on unarmed or non-dangerous criminals. There should be improved supervision and necessary disciplinary measures taken for the officers who contravene the professional code of conduct. In addition, psychological screenings and intensive screening of the backgrounds of potential police officers should be done to avoid officers with antisocial personalities (Walker, 1999).
Community policing involves the police-stakeholder groups partnerships to identify and solve the crimes and social disorders that affect the community through delivering police services and problem-solving tactics. It seeks to alleviate the fear of crime and ensure security and prosperity of the community. In implementing a community-policing program, the first step should be identifying and prioritizing the problems facing the community. The police subcultures play an important role as they can help to identify the possible drawbacks and causes of these problems. The mistrust in the police and few rogue individuals among the officers could be the cause and working on them could reverse the social problems facing the community.
The police subcultures also help to understand the challenges to community policing, to identify whether the actual policing is taking place and to determine the future trends of community policing. The existence of a subculture shows that officers have several attitudes, values, and beliefs that are common to them. These practices, attitude, values, and beliefs are passed from officer to officer via the process of socialization. These subcultures can aid in implementing community policing in that if the staffing, instruction, and on-the-street experiences of new recruits that socialize them into the police subculture are positive, the whole police force gradually becomes transformed positively. They can help to build a positive image of the police force. By creating, the trust of community members in the police, they will lead to new collaborations in the betterment of the community welfare, and community policing as a whole.