The Top Benefits of Community Policing (2023)

Is community policing the solution to systemic police reform in the United States?

It’s no secret that 2020 was a challenging year in the United States for law enforcement, nation-wide. The year shed light on just how strained relations are between police departments and the communities they serve as well as just how big the trust gap is. In a survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), police chiefs widely identified that rebuilding trust was a top priority in the year ahead, affirming the steep decline in community-police relations and a step towards the values of community policing.

Law enforcement agencies have been deploying community policing practices—sometimes called community-oriented policing (COP)—since the 1970s, but as demand for police reform has increased, there has been a renewed interest in community policing as a means to systemic reform.

What is community policing?

Community policing is a framework that aims to improve quality of life and increase public safety through collaboration between police officers and community members. In community policing, the job of the police is not just to respond to incidents, but also to help solve community problems; to problem-solve not just for residents, but with residents.

(Video) The Importance of Community Policing

What are the benefits of community policing?

At a pivotal moment in time for the future of policing, law enforcement agencies that haven’t yet been part of the community policing wave could certainly benefit from taking a closer look at the philosophy behind COP. At their core, the benefits of community policing derive from a strong focus on improving community relationships and building community partnerships. While crime reduction can be thought of as a bottom-line benefit to community policing, there are a number of other benefits as well—benefits which also directly or indirectly positively affect crime reduction. Here are the top recognized benefits of community policing:

  1. Improved officer morale: The national narrative around policing has had a significantly negative impact on officer morale and caused many in the field to question the future of policing and their role in it. However, in police departments when officers feel supported by their community, chiefs report that morale is often higher and perhaps less impacted by national trends. That’s not only because community policing is good for positive relations, it’s also because community policing creates more opportunities for public and visible displays of support from the community, which is a positive thing for officers to experience.
  1. Higher officer retention: One of the domino effects of 2020 and low officer morale has been a serious problem with police officer retention (paired with soaring retirement rates)—a challenge which continues to plague police departments in 2021. Officers with better morale, who feel appreciated by their community—even when tough incidents take place—are more likely to stay at their jobs, just like in any other profession. This is because when community members know their local officers, one bad apple in a department is exactly that: just one bad apple.
  1. Ease of hiring: In parallel to challenges with officer retention, police departments have also been plagued with new struggles in hiring, exacerbating the crises many police departments are facing. Higher officer retention, better morale, and a better image in the community all translate—just like in any other organization—into easier hiring. In parallel, there are federal incentives for law enforcement agencies to hire under community policing development frameworks.
  1. Increased trust & improved community relations: The ethos of community policing creates opportunities for interactions between community members and police officers not just in the context of responding to crime. This means more interaction in general, but more importantly, it means more positive interaction. The formula here isn’t rocket science: when residents whose only contact with law enforcement has been in the context of crime suddenly have the chance to engage with their local police officers in other ways, human relationships form and community relations are improved. Studies support this showing that positive contact with police “substantially improves” attitudes toward police.
  1. Improved safety for officers & community members: When residents increase their trust and respect for local officers, and vice versa, everyone—officers and residents—is safer. Trust and positive relationships increase willingness to cooperate and decrease fear, which in return contributes to de-escalation and increases safety—both perceptions of safety and actual, physical safety—for all involved.
  1. Improved police department efficiency: At a time when scrutiny of police budgets and resident engagement about police department activity have skyrocketed, community policing can actually help police departments be more effective and resource-efficient. Community policing can be thought of as “democracy in action” because it demands civic participation, which in turn enables police departments to understand directly from residents what their most pressing needs and priorities are, allowing departments to aim limited resources at addressing these expressed needs.

There’s a wonderful snowball effect that results from the benefits of community policing: engaging with residents about their needs and addressing them also increases transparency and accountability, which, you guessed it, increases trust and improves community relations.

But … does community policing reduce crime?

Community policing centers on the idea that solving for community problems and not just responding to criminal incidents will reduce crime. Research conducted on community policing suggests that it does reduce crime, and the U.S. Attorney’s General’s office has also affirmed this, providing different community policing initiatives as “promising strategies” for combating criminal activity. For example, youth outreach programs in Denver, Colorado which include free summer activities, are a classic COP initiative. However, the truth is much of the research out there on community policing and crime is outdated. Hopefully renewed interest and renewed federal investment in community policing will also be supported by research and backed-up by easily-adoptable best practices.

(Video) COMMUNITY POLICING - How the community and police benefit from community policing

What are the recognized problems of community policing?

It goes without saying that even with recognized benefits to community policing, there are certainly criticisms of community policing as well. Many of these criticisms center around the practice of community policing, rather than the theory. In theory, community policing is intended to benefit everybody, not only certain groups, but in practice, it has been criticized for only helping some and even for causing harm to others. Criticisms of community policing include:

  • That it favors certain community members (white, middle-class) or only strongly benefits specific community interests – for example, those of local business owners.
  • That it can be a mask for embedding more police officers in communities where distrust in police officers is already high. Rather than improving relations and partnering with local leaders and community members, this simply increases police presence and increases policing.
  • That it is a superficial solution rather than a cultural shift – and without real organizational change, it cannot work. In this way, community policing is too dependent on leadership and having the right leader.
  • That it is a multi-stakeholder framework – and community involvement is just as important as the officers involved. When the baseline for community policing is distrust, it’s unrealistic to ramp up and change things.

How can an agency deploy community policing effectively?

Even with these criticisms, there are many who celebrate the positive effect of community policing. Effective community policing requires altering a police department’s policies, practices, and guiding philosophies. But to really understand whether a police department’s deployment of community policing is effective (or if community policing actually works generally), police departments need to have a way to continuously measure more than just crime. They also need to be able to measure trust among their constituents – and to do so in a representative way so that they don’t fall into one of the pitfalls of community policing, only benefiting certain groups (the white, middle-class, who already engage positively with police). This is the critical difference between solving for community problems via COP – and merely solving for crime.

While law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have been using crime stats since the 1930s, the idea of data around trust is more novel. Good data aggregated through technologies like Zencity’s can help law enforcement agencies measure and follow trust scores amongst all community members to identify whether community policing and other efforts are actually helping to improve community relations.

(Video) PROS & CONS of Community Policing

A fantastic example of a police department that has been effective both in deploying community policing and in measuring its impact is the Redondo Beach Police Department. Redondo Beach PD has used Zencity to increase trust between the Department and its community members, reinforce positive practices, deploy resources according to its community’s priorities, and to tackle public safety issues, like homelessness. The Police Chief is doing this with continuous, representative, community-wide surveys – gauging trust levels and perceptions of safety by neighborhood and adjusting accordingly.

Redondo Beach is just one example of community policing done well and done effectively. There is much to be learned from police chiefs and police departments across the nation, and significant resources dedicated to helping officers and departments onboard with COP philosophies and practices.

To learn more about how Zencity can support community policing efforts and help your police department improve relations between residents and officers, speak to one of our team members today.

(Video) The Reality of Community Policing

FAQs

What do you think are the key benefits of community policing Why? ›

Community policing gives citizens more control over the quality of life in their community. Community policing means police become part of the neighborhood. This helps police get a better sense of resident's needs and helps residents to develop greater trust in the police.

What are the benefits of community policing quizlet? ›

1. Community, government, and police partnerships. 2. Proactive problem solving to prevent crime.
...
  • Tough cops.
  • Clean beat crime fighters.
  • Avoiders.
  • Problem solvers.

What is the most important element of community policing? ›

Three of the most important tactical elements of community policing are positive interaction, partnerships, and problem solving.

What are the benefits of the police? ›

Pay and other benefits
  • Pay. We are offering an increased competitive starting salary of over £33,500 including allowances for new police officers. ...
  • Annual leave. ...
  • Free London travel. ...
  • Flexible working. ...
  • Pensions. ...
  • Financial services and discounts. ...
  • Healthcare. ...
  • Personal support and advice.

What are the five benefits of community safety initiatives? ›

Policing and Community Safety Partnerships

aim to support communities develop solutions that help tackle crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. monitor police performance. help gain the co-operation of the public with the police in preventing crime and enhancing local community safety.

What is an example of community policing? ›

Common methods of community-policing include: Encouraging the community to help prevent crime by providing advice, talking to students, and encouraging neighborhood watch groups. Increased use of foot or bicycle patrols. Increased officer accountability to the communities they serve.

What are the 3 essential features of community policing? ›

Community policing is defined as involving three key components: developing community partnerships, engaging in problem solving, and implementing community policing organizational features.

What are the main characteristics of community policing? ›

Among the characteristics of community policing noted in the papers are proactive crime prevention, greater visibility for police operations, the decentralization of police operations to meet the needs of various neighborhoods and constituencies, and more cooperation between the police and community residents.

What is the role of community policing quizlet? ›

a strategy by which police and community work together to control neighborhoods and buildings to reduce the opportunites for crime.

What is community policing in simple terms? ›

Community policing is defined as 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.

What is the main purpose of law enforcement community relations? ›

Good police-community relations are imperative for developing trust between police and citizens. Without this trust, police work becomes much less effective. Even if the police officers are preventing crime, the people may not feel safe because there is no trust.

What are the four responsibilities of the police? ›

Police typically are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities.

What are the responsibilities of a police officer? ›

A Police Officer serves to maintain law and order in local areas by protecting members of the public and their property, preventing crime, reducing the fear of crime and improving the quality of life for all citizens.

What are the benefits of community safety? ›

Benefits of Being a Safe Community
  • A reduction in the numbers and cost of injuries and violence.
  • A promotion of health and safety in their community.
  • A sense of community pride.
  • People and families to move to their community.
  • A demonstration that they can make difference at a local level.
  • A change perceptions.

Is community policing effective or not? ›

Community policing has proved most successful in rich (often white) areas, due to financial donations and the desire of citizens to prevent crime.

How can you improve community safety? ›

8 simple ways to make your neighborhood safer
  1. Make friends with neighbors.
  2. Organize neighborhood safety efforts.
  3. Keep up your yard.
  4. Exercise caution when out of town.
  5. Close windows and blinds at night.
  6. Improve lighting on your street.
  7. Install a security system.
  8. If you see something, say something.
14 Jun 2022

Who started community policing? ›

19th century – The origins of Community Oriented Policing can be traced back to 1829, when British statesman Robert Peel (known as “the founder of modern policing”) launched the “Principles of Democratic Policing” (see box).

How is community policing implemented? ›

According to Strategies for Community Policing, common implementations of community policing include: Relying on community-based crime prevention by utilizing civilian education, neighborhood watch, and a variety of other techniques, as opposed to relying solely on police patrols.

How can we improve police/community relations? ›

But there are some actionable steps police can take to start improving relations.
  1. Identify Areas Experiencing the Highest Level of Trauma & Gun Violence. Unaddressed trauma magnifies the cycle of mistrust and violence. ...
  2. Send Co-Respond & Second Responders. ...
  3. Measure Response. ...
  4. Analyze Historical Data for Past Victims.
15 Dec 2021

What are the 4 dimension of community policing? ›

The four elements of community policing are the organization of community-based crime prevention, the reorientation of patrol activities to emphasize nonemergency servicing, increased police accountability to local communities, and the decentralization of command.

What are the 3 policing styles? ›

Wilson discovered three distinctive styles of policing: the legalistic, the watchman, and the service styles. Police agencies with a legalistic orientation focused strictly on law enforcement activities, whereas those with a service style focused on providing needed services to residents and business owners.

What is community policing movement attempting to accomplish? ›

Prevention-focused community policing is a modern organizational philosophy with the primary goal of working cooperatively with citizens to identify and resolve issues that can affect the quality of life in their neighborhoods through a prevention-based approach.

What is the foundation of community policing? ›

Community policing emphasizes proactive problem solving in a systematic and routine fashion. Rather than responding to crime only after it occurs, community policing encourages agencies to proactively develop solutions to the immediate underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems.

What is the foundation of community policing quizlet? ›

What are the two basic themes of Community policing? Police community partnerships and a pro-active problem solving approach to the police function.

Which of the following are considered dimensions of community policing? ›

There are four dimensions of community policing: philosophical, strategic, tactical, and organizational (Cordner & Scarborough, 1997).

What is community oriented policing essay? ›

Community Oriented Policing (COPS) The Department of Justice COPS Office states Community Oriented Policing is a policing philosophy that promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and police-community ...

What are the six elements of professional policing? ›

Model of professional policing has six elements:
  • The force should stay out of politics.
  • Members should be well trained, well disciplined, and tightly organized.
  • Laws should be enforced equally.
  • The force should use new technology.
  • Personnel procedures should be based on merit.

What are the 6 pillars of Neighbourhood policing? ›

Neighbourhood policing guidelines
  • Engaging communities.
  • Solving problems.
  • Targeting activity.
  • Promoting the right culture.
  • Building analytical capability.
  • Developing officers, staff and volunteers.
  • Developing, sharing and learning.
  • Neighbourhood policing evidence review.

What are police principles? ›

-The police should always direct their actions strictly toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty. Police officers do not judge guilt; they do not punish; they do not act as executioners.

Who is the most important officer in the police organization? ›

Emphasizing that the patrol officer is the most important member of the police organization, the text outlines basic police goals and objectives; factors that affect patrol operations, such as local politics and community characteristics; and particular occupational hazards of police patrol, such as job stress and ...

What is the essence of community policing quizlet? ›

Community policing dictates that the police follow the, when dealing with situations and enforcing the law.

What are the roles of community policing? ›

Community Policing is a philosophy aimed at achieving more effective crime control; reduce fears of crime, improved police services through proactive partnerships and programs with communities. In short, Community Policing is a partnership between the police and the Community to solve safety problems.

Is community policing effective or not? ›

Community policing has proved most successful in rich (often white) areas, due to financial donations and the desire of citizens to prevent crime.

What are the key characteristics of community policing? ›

Among the characteristics of community policing noted in the papers are proactive crime prevention, greater visibility for police operations, the decentralization of police operations to meet the needs of various neighborhoods and constituencies, and more cooperation between the police and community residents.

Which of the following best describes community policing? ›

Which statement best describes community policing? It is a philosophy, a management style, and an organizational strategy.

What is the foundation of community policing? ›

Community policing emphasizes proactive problem solving in a systematic and routine fashion. Rather than responding to crime only after it occurs, community policing encourages agencies to proactively develop solutions to the immediate underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems.

What is community policing in simple terms? ›

Community policing is defined as 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.

How can community policing help with crime? ›

Community policing is both a philosophy (a way of thinking) and an organizational strategy (a means to implement out that philosophy), that allows the police and community to work together to solve problems of crime and insecurity.

What are the 4 elements of community policing? ›

The four elements of community policing are the organization of community-based crime prevention, the reorientation of patrol activities to emphasize nonemergency servicing, increased police accountability to local communities, and the decentralization of command.

Videos

1. The Benefits and Costs of Policing
(NYU School of Law)
2. The importance of mindset in policing | Chip Huth | TEDxTacoma
(TEDx Talks)
3. Community-Oriented Policing - The Basics
(Helen Hughey)
4. Partner Webinar: Creating a Positive Impact: Best Practices for Community Policing
(Utility, Inc.)
5. Community Policing
(Arizona Public Media)
6. Community Oriented Policing
(Meth Pedia)
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