Community-Based Policing

Community-Based Policing :

In Philadelphia, a pulsating tavern juke box that has caused irate neighbors to log 500 Police calls in six months was moved away from a common wall with the adjoining building. The calls stopped. Though it seems simple, such a move is at the heart of what we know as Community-based Policing. The movement toward C.B.P. has gained momentum in recent years. As Police and community leaders search for more effective ways to enhance the sense of public safety and the quality of life in their communities. We have accepted C.B.P in one police department after another and we are ready now to agree that C.B.P. provides hope for the future of Law enforcement.

We can trace the seed of C.B.P. back to Sir Robert Peel, the father of the modern Police system, who said that the Police are the public and the public are the Police. For different reasons, the Police lost sight of that principle defining their relationship with the public. Modern historians have said that the reform era in government which started in the 1900's to combat corruption along with the move toward the professional image of police work resulted in the separation of Police and Community. Reform style Policing emerged in the 50s and 60s with rotating shifts and frequent movement of officers (to prevent corruption). Random patrolling (a reactive police technique) was also detrimental to the link between Police and public. The police adopted a policy of centralized control to ensure compliance with set standards and to encourage a professional aura of impartiality. All these policies along with the use of automobiles, telephones and other technological advances helped distance the Police more. The calls for service increased as urban population and crime awareness increased, making the police almost totally reactive. The introduction of computers only encouraged that false idea of quick reactive response and a statistical view toward measuring success in policing (rather than analyzing the local needs of the community.) By the late 70's the communities had become a diverse pool of nationalities, subcultures and attitudes. People identified themselves as parts of separate groups and at times the Police was not part of what they called us. During this time, a burst of new ideas and changes in the sociopolitical and economic structure began to occur that would eventually, bring about a new kind of police officer. In this changing environment, all social institutions were scrutinized. The Police, slow and overburdened, were losing ground rapidly. Police leaders felt the need to reflect on these problems and their overall relationship (their image) with the public. In their attempts to understand what was going wrong, many studies and experiments were sponsored. One of them, the KANSAS STUDY proved that, no matter how many police officers are devoted to random patrolling, there is no effect on the actual crime rate. The government had recognized the problems of crime fighting and the problems of Police - Community relations, as far back as 1967. The Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice report. The Challenge of crime in a free society, called for the creation of a new kind of police officer. Almost thirty years later that idea of a new kind of police officer has provided a whole new model for Policing. It is an evolutionary and not revolutionary philosophy that attempts to refocus the essence of policing to a Law Enforcement (philosophy) that tries to do two things…first bring Police officers and citizens together in neighborhoods and second give the Police responsibility for solving problems in the community. As stated above the new Law enforcement philosophy incorporates two elements…Community partnership and Problem solving. These two elements are the cores of the policing strategy for the future of American large communities (inner cities) and other high crime areas. The way to achieve the results promised by C.B.P. is through constant education and the application of the two elements of C.B.P.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP means adopting a policing perspective that exceeds the standard Law enforcement emphasis. This broadened outlook recognizes the value of activities that contribute to the orderliness and well being of a neighborhood (community). These activities could be helping accident or crime victims, improving emergency medical services, helping resolve domestic and neighborhood conflicts, controlling automobile and pedestrian traffic. The two major functions of the Community partnership are to keep the two parties communicating and to assess the level of fear (of crime) in the community. To avoid high level of fear in the Community Problem solving techniques are utilized in the daily contact of Police and Public and through communication. PROBLEM SOLVING is the second part of C.B.P. the philosophy behind it is based on the assumption that crime can be reduced by studying the individual problems and by applying the proper resources and that when people make choices based on the opportunities presented by the immediate physical and social characteristics of an area, by manipulating these factors people will be less inclined to act in an offensive manner. So Problem Solving involves bringing problems of the community to the right people’s attention. Hopefully, resolving that problem, so it will not get worse or create other problems. An example of a tool used in Problem Solving is what is called the broken window theory which suggests that an abandoned or non-maintained house (or community) will attract disorder or mischief and the criminal element. Through Problem Solving the window is fixed, deterioration is prevented and the community is safe once more. Like any other part of C.B.P. Problem Solving requires a lot of communication, compromise and information exchange in order to yield.


Despite the optimism of C.B.P. proponents it has not been accepted as the mature successor to the Reform Model of the Sixties. The Police have a difficult time dealing with the contradictions that exist within them. This also restricts them from achieving their newfound goals. The Police being a paramilitary organization, it is difficult to encourage flexibility and creativity (that strict supervision stifles) and still insure that the incorrupt image is maintained. The reactive instinct of the Police will also have to be curtailed, the so called tyranny of 911 has to be controlled and although some reactive or emergency services will be necessary they have to escape the tyranny of the 911 services in favor of reliance to the community and the new model along with mutual trust. It will take some time for the movement from just the facts ma'am to a more caring police officer who is a social worker, councilor and law enforcer.


A first step in C.B.P. is a plan of action or a statement of beliefs and goals that will provide direction and make values become actions and behaviors. C.B.P. is only a philosophy or a statement of value. Nuts and bolts are worked out later by setting goals and objectives unique for each community, aiming to achieve your value statement. The change in values that is in the heart of C.B.P. must be pursued in order to achieve success, because once the first excitement goes and the first difficulties arise, the statements of value that have been adopted will be the guiding light that will provide the solutions. In order for C.B.P. to be evaluated and its success determined two things need to be done, first day to day work evaluations need to change and adapt to c.b.p goals, second c.b.p. should be accepted and a commitment to increase man power if necessary should be made.

There is a distinct difference between C.B.P. and other models of Policing and that is the way we can measure success, measures such as crime rates, arrest rates and response times are obsolete. these numbers have little to do with community needs and they only represent serious committed crimes and not the increase of public disorder (or fear) or other so called non priorities. To know if C.B.P. is working, we need to know; are we solving problems instead of reacting to them? Are police officers encouraged to leave their patrol cars and cooperate with the public? Do we have streets free of drug dealers, rowdy teenagers, soliciting prostitutes, predatory criminals, graffiti or drive by shootings? In conclusion C.B.P. is striving to build stronger more self sufficient communities, in which crime and disorder do not thrive. Effective C.B.P. has a positive impact on reducing neighborhood crime, helps reduce fear of crime and enhances the quality of life in the community. It accomplishes this by combining the efforts and the resources of the police, local government and community members. Crime prevention takes on renewed importance in C.B.P. AND the community becomes a partner to law enforcement in order to address disorder and neglect or other problems that can breed serious crime.

As links between the police and the community are strengthened over time, the partnership is better able to pinpoint and mitigate the underlying causes of crime. Following all these principles we can at least attain a new sense of community and at best we can make true the vision of Sir Robert Peel…It should be understood at the outset that the object to be attained is the prevention of crime. To this, great and every effort, of the police are to be directed. The security of person and property and the preservation of a police Establishment will thus be better affected than by the detection and punishment of the offender after he has succeeded in committing the crime.

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