Those who have led the professional change away from the crime fighting model of policing toward the community policing model so well known today have alternately referred to it as a paradigm shift, a major reform, or an evolutionary outcome stemming from precursor efforts in American law enforcement. In the literature on community policing the terms community policing, community-oriented policing, and problem-oriented policing are used quite interchangeably, both among practitioners and scholars; we follow that practice here. To many leaders in professional law enforcement, community policing is viewed as an outgrowth of progressive policing practices attempted in the early 1970s when teams of officers focused on building public support through police-community relations efforts of various sorts. Reflecting this commonplace viewpoint, William Tafoya (2000, 306) was moved to ask: ”What could be done to correct the commonly held perception among practitioners that community policing is ‘Old Wine in a New Bottle’?”

Despite this common view, most scholars who have studied community policing in depth have come to view community policing as much more than a continuation of earlier experiments with community outreach; they see it as a fundamental change from doing police business as usual (Kelling and Moore 2000; Thurman, Zhao, and Giacomazzi 2001). Careful observers commonly note that the underlying philosophy of public outreach, citizen-centered service, citizen engagement in crime prevention, and active partnership with community-based groups and organizations leads to the adoption of new political elements, new professional norms, new crime fighting tools, new community relations efforts, and a range of new inter-agency collaborations intended to manage crime and public safety-related problems. The practical implementation of community policing can be seen at the individual officer level, at the specially designated unit level, and at the organizational level alike.

Given this degree of change in how police work is to be carried out, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the implementation of community policing in a quasi-military organizational setting steeped in rich traditions has been challenging virtually everywhere it has been instituted. Dennis Rosenbaum offered the following telling comments about how community policing was affecting police agencies in the United States by the end of the 1990s (1998, 4): ”This reform movement is both promising and threatening; it promises to improve public safety, yet it offers no simple formula or road map to get there; it promises to reform police agencies and stimulate community involvement in public safety, yet police officers and community residents are often left to imagine how this will happen.”

Police Practices Reflecting a Commitment to Community Policing

Officers involved in the practice of implementing a community policing agency commitment engage in a variety of activities spread across a wide range of specific circumstances. Community policing practices typically feature the purposeful planning of positive, trust-building, non-enforcement contacts between police and law-abiding citizens and community youth. A quite common problem-solving effort of community policing-oriented agencies is to address the public safety concerns of citizens occasioned by the presence of serious habitual offenders, violent youth gangs, or persons selling/using illegal drugs through neighborhood-based meetings and the development of collaborative action plans linking citizen coproduction of public order with supportive police activities.

The planning process of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is another frequently used tool for the formation of police-community collaboration. Community policing and such problem-solving practices have been used to address violent street crime in specific areas, as well as to address quality-of-life issues such as vandalism, loitering, drunk driving, unwanted noise, litter, and abandoned vehicles. The assignment of officers to fixed beats and/or shifts has also become a key feature of community policing in many places. Finally, a quite common community policing program involves ongoing direct contact with public schools—both in the form of special officer-led instruction (for example, Drug Awareness Resistance Education) and in the form of school resource officers—uniformed officers who are assigned to specific schools without direct classroom curricular roles.

Resources Available to Support Community Policing Practices

The Center for Problem Oriented Policing (POP) was the primary early influence behind nascent community policing practices arising in the early 1970s when police executives and researchers alike focused attention on improving police effectiveness after researchers took note of the serious limitations of foundational police practices. A nonprofit organization comprised of affiliated police practitioners, researchers, and universities, the POP Center is dedicated to the systematic application of problem-solving practices, principally situational crime prevention, and the commonly used SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment) problem-solving model. The primary institutional affiliates of the POP Center include the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School; the Rutgers University-Newark School of Criminal Justice, where a library houses most of the compiled research literature for Problem Oriented Guides for Police; and SUNY Albany, where the POP Center’s website is maintained.

The Community Policing Consortium (CPC) represents another early-day influence on the institutionalization of community policing practices. Established in 1992 under the auspices of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the CPC represents a partnership of five of the leading police organizations in the United States: the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the Police Foundation. Training modules, technical assistance, and resource ”toolboxes” were provided to law enforcement agencies by the consortium across the entire country. Seminal publications from the CPC include such titles as Understanding Community Policing: A Framework for Action and The Police Organization in Transition. Later publications, such as Community Policing Exchange, Sheriff Times, and Community Links, have been distributed to more than two hundred thousand practitioners and community members across the country. Currently, the consortium assists the COPS Office with enhancing law enforcement and community engagement processes to develop specific action plans promoting trust in law enforcement, reducing community fear of crime, and enhancing homeland security through terrorism countermeasures.

Although researchers, politicians, and law enforcement practitioners express a wide range of opinion about the overall impact of the COPS Office, it is beyond dispute that no other entity has had the breadth of influence on the practices of local, state, and tribal policing as this organization—a relatively small federal agency located within the enormous confines of the U.S. Department of Justice. Roberg, Crank, and Kuykendall (2000, 402) correctly note that ”the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (The Crime Control Act) is the most comprehensive federal crime legislation since the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.” That statute established the COPS Office, and that duly authorized agency has allocated approximately $30 billion to a wide range of criminal justice agencies, with almost $11 billion being directed to state and local law enforcement—including almost $9 billion to hire an additional one hundred thousand police officers ”doing community policing” under guidelines set forth by the agency. According to the agency’s ”Reports from the Field” web page, since its inception, the COPS Office has awarded more than thirty-eight thousand grants to assist more than thirteen thousand local law enforcement agencies in order to implement community policing practices through eighty innovative grant programs. Among these programs are Universal Hiring; Making Officer Deployment Effective; Distressed Neighborhoods; COPS in Schools; School-Based Partnerships; Problem Solving Partnerships; Tribal Government Resource Grants; Domestic Violence Grants; Meth-amphetamine Initiatives; Technology Adoption; Justice-Based After School Activities; Anti-Gang Initiatives; Value-Based Initiatives; and the creation of a network of twenty-seven regional community police institutes in 1997 for the dissemination of community policing training and technical assistance. The ”Reports from the Field” web page lists law enforcement entities in all fifty states, the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and a multitude of tribal governments—all of which have received COPS Office funds to implement community policing practices.

Community policing practices, now into their third decade of operation, have become firmly institutionalized into the profession of law enforcement in the United States, and increasingly in police work in democratic nations worldwide (Skogan 2004). It can be fairly stated that the capacity of the police and the public they serve to work together to manage local public safety issues has never been greater, and many police-community partnerships are now in place effectively promoting the coproduction of public order and public safety in their communities.

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