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Relationship Between Communities and Law Enforcement: Benefits of Community Policing

Communities have always had a bad rep with law enforcement over the course of history. But over the time, law enforcement has tried to work with the community and its citizens to create a better society for them both, so they can work in harmony. They have a philosophy, programs that help support the community and prevent crime, and to further the studies to seek further programs to work towards the youth, substance abuse, and the societies problems.

The philosophy of a desire of trust between a community and the law enforcement has been around for many decades. Community Policing is a philosophy that promotes organized strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to pro-actively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues. Such examples are crime, social disorder and fear of crime. According to chapter 11 in the textbook an intro to policing, police community relationships must be a two way partnership. The more educated a community is concerning the role of the police and the challenges the police face in meeting multiple demands, the more supportive and helpful the citizens can be. If one citizen believes an officer is corrupt or has a bad experience, it may mirror the whole department. The PCR (Police Community Relations) movement began in 1950’s and 1960’s. It involved assigning a few officers in a department as community affairs or community relations specialists. They attended community meetings to try to reduce tensions between members of the department and the public. To establish trust within a community, police follow the philosophy of organizational transformation, community partnerships, problem solving, and the use of other agencies and programs.

According to Community Policing Defined, Organizational transformation is the alignment of organizational management, structure, personnel and information systems to support community partnerships and proactive problem solving. Agency management instills the community police ideals to help the trust between law enforcement and the community. They make a number of critical changes in climate and culture, leadership, formal labor relations, decentralized decision making and accountability, strategic planning, and the list goes on. Climate and culture means to support a proactive view that values problem solving and partnerships. Formal changes should support informal networks and ensure communication takes place within agencies to support the view. Leadership means community leaders serve as role models to take risks and work mostly with police leaders. They must emphasize and make sure others are well educated on their task.

Some programs and agencies were created just to help build a bond between a community and the police. One agency that was created was C.O.P.S, also known as Community Oriented Policing Services. Formed by the Department of Justice, it is stated as such, on their site www.cops.usdoj.gov):

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) is the component within the U.S. Department of Justice dedicated to the concept that trust and mutual respect between police and the communities they serve is critical to public safety. This concept is the foundation of community policing and ensures that police and community stakeholders partner in solving our nation’s crime challenges. Community policing is a law enforcement philosophy that focuses on community partnerships, problem-solving and organizational transformation. The COPS Office mission is to advance public safety through community policing.

This is one of the main agencies in the government that focuses mainly on community trust building.

Communities work together to help prevent crime. Community Crime prevention programs can include Neighbor Watch, National Night Out, citizen patrols, citizen volunteer programs, home security surveys and Operation Identification and many more. Neighbor Watch is a group effort by citizens with the police to keep an eye on their neighborhood. It was originally launched in 1972 and to this day is continued to be sponsored by the National Sheriffs Association. A neighborhood has signs that it has the watch, and even has moved onto social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to send out alerts.

Another type is National Night Out. On a designated night, citizens are urged to turn on all the lights and go outside between 8 and 9 pm to get to know their neighbors so warnings can be shared more easily and faster. Other objectives can include generating support for the community and to unify it. Citizen Patrol is another popular type around the nation. Citizens patrol on foot or in private cars, and alert to police about possible crimes or criminals. Today many police departments are using trained citizens, who are graduates of the police academy, in department cars and are uniformed. Citizen Volunteer programs I believe are the most important to building a trust with the community and preventing further crimes from happening. If a police department isn’t actively seeking to recruit volunteers, it is not practicing good management. These programs can help a department get their goals accomplished more easily, maximize resources, increase public safety and improve relations so police can focus more on patrol work and investigations. When the department wants to try out new programs, most times the department can count on these volunteers from communities to help out.

Another important type of way for the police to get close to the public is the use of storefront stations, or more commonly known as mini-stations. They are a small satellite police station designed to serve a local part of the community and facilitate the community’s access to the police officers. Recently, many stores such as 7-11, McDonalds and CVS are opening their stores to allow mini-stations to be built near the door (Dempsey, 343)

Crime Stoppers is a television program that asks if the community knows a wanted criminal in exchange for cash bounty. According to Intro to Policing, Crime Stoppers originated in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1975. Currently there is over 1200 Crimestopper programs all over the war, and every day a series of crimes are shared over news and radio station also they release an “unsolved crime of the week” every day. An example was the case of Elizabeth Smart which aired March 12, 2003. Information from the show led to citizens calling when she was spotted. Together the police and the citizens information, Elizabeth was found safe. That case is a perfect example of public and private sector working together for safety.

I believe that the community policing efforts pay off when it comes to building trust and a friendly relationship. Involving the volunteers into programs, and even having storefront stations lets the public see the law enforcement working every day in their lives.

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