Evaluate the Evolution of the COP

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Community-oriented policing is a philosophy that places importance onpolice collaboration with community. This paper evaluates theevolution of the philosophy. By doing so, it discusses the differentpolicing eras that gave rise to COP. The political and reform erasspearheaded the introduction of a community era, which led to theinvolvement of community in crime control. COP emerged as a need forreforms in the excessive use of force by police, politicalinterference and paramilitary policing approach. As policing becamesovereign during the reform era, police officers distanced themselvesfrom civilians. This proved to be an ineffective way of controllingcrime, because many civilians developed distrust towards lawenforcement. To enhance the trust and collaboration from citizens, itbecame paramount to implement a new way of controlling and fightingcrime, or COP.

Community-Oriented Policing

Community-oriented policing, abbreviated as COP, refers to apolicing philosophy, which insists on the need for communityparticipation in crime prevention endeavors. COP comprises of anarray of philosophical as well as operational aspects aimed atcreating police-community partnerships to tackle “neighborhoodconditions that give rise to public safety concerns, including crime,disorder and fear of crime” (Reisig, 2010, p. 1). The philosophycomprises of three major elements, which are community partnerships,problem solving and organizational transformation (Gill,Weisburd, Telep, Vitter &amp Bennett, 2014).

COP is founded on the principle that law enforcers are not restrictedto using conventional law enactment powers in executing their roles.Instead, they should depend on community engagement in addressingwrongdoing. Hence, the objective of community-oriented policing is toenhance the public’s trust and satisfaction with police efforts incrime prevention. COP has not always been the policing strategy usedby the police rather, it was adopted in the 1990s. In the followingdiscussion, the paper evaluates the evolution of community-orientedpolicing.

Evolution of Community-Oriented Policing

According to Jones and Supinski (2010), current policing hasundergone three different eras, political, reform and community era.

Political Era

The political era started in 1840 with the formation of the earliestmodern police organizations in America. The organizations weredecentralized, and provided different social services to society. Theroles of law enforcers involved conducting patrols in neighborhoodsand ensuring that law and order was maintained. The success of suchpolice efforts derived from the fact that police were able to fostera close relationship with the community.

However, coalitions among politicians and the police frequently ledto widespread corruption and viciousness. During the political era,law enforcers were under the command and control of politicians forpolitical reasons. As a result, the police became subject to manycases of corruption, police brutality and partisanship (Gultekin,2014). Citizens and police executives were not delighted with theexcessive political involvement of politicians in law enforcement.Hence, it became important to implement changes in the policingstrategy used during the political era, to liberate policing frompolitics, as well as ensure the police had independence to enforcelaw.

Reform Era

The excessive abuse by police during the political era resulted inmany reforms giving rise to an era whereby administrative power, theimplementation of new policies and decisions was distanced fromsocial as well as political societies. The reforms were aimed atensuring that law enforcers were legally responsible for theiractions, because police lawlessness had become uncontrollable in thetwentieth century. This is a philosophy that progresses to bewidespread in current policing activities. In specific, it is aphilosophy that is aimed at regulating and reducing police violence.

The reformers objective was to separate the police from politicalmanipulation, to ensure that law enforcement became moreadministrative. Reformers were convinced that the officers were notinterested in their job and assumed that economic incentives wouldhave a significant role in ensuring police officers performed theirroles. Hence, it was acknowledged that by dividing labor and command,it would become possible to achieve un-corrupt police organizations.The argument was that “if police officers were divided according totheir specializations under different departments, they might carrypolice work more effectively” (Gultekin, 2014, p. 514). As aresult, special teams were created and a control structure,comprising of top down management, established.

This gave rise to the reform era, which began in the 1920s to 1970s.During this period, policing shifted from the provision of socialservices to the control of crime (Jones &amp Supinski, 2010). Aparamilitary central agency was created whereby civilians couldpresent complains to a police station. The reform era also marks theperiod when patrol vehicles and radios were introduced to policeofficers. In addition, foot patrols by law enforcers in communitieswere abolished (Jones &amp Supinski, 2010). The outcome wasincreased conflicts and problems for police officers, which made itmore difficult to solve crimes.

According to Gultekin (2014), the reform period “is the era ofprofessionalization because police organizations became autonomousand impersonal to citizens” (p. 514). Police implemented adventmethods of arresting wrongdoers, preventing crime as well asrehabilitating criminals. This explains why police during this periodopted to prevent crime via car patrols, and by observing crime-proneareas in society. Hence, they distanced themselves from civilians. Inthe process, they created a “we-versus-them attitude among policeofficers” (Gultekin, 2014, p. 514). This means that the policeseparated themselves from civilians both physically and emotionally.

Stone and Travis (2011) explain that during the reform period,policing was removed from the community due to the assumption thatthe police were in a better position to understand the needs ofcommunities, than civilians. Citizens were expected to be passive,leaving crime management to the police. This lead to problematicinteractions amid the society and police, and hence, more reformswere implemented resulting in the community era.

Community Era

The community era was introduced in the 1980s. In this period,police concentrated on acquiring the support as well as confidence ofcivilians. They also endeavored to work collaboratively withcivilians in addressing issues, which led to illegal behavior (Jones&amp Supinski, 2010). Police agencies aimed at restoringcommunity-police relationships via patrol strategies, like bike orfoot patrols. They concentrated on “increasing citizen satisfactionand increasing the quality of life in local communities whilereducing crime, fear of crime and disorder” (Jones &amp Supinski,2010, p. 2). These approaches resulted in what is currently referredto as community-oriented policing.

Gill et al. (2014) explains that COP is one of the many policinginnovations, which became widespread in the 1990s, following years ofdiscontent with standard police practices. Long-established policestrategies in America comprised of reactive approaches of respondingor reacting to crime, which mainly emphasized on inputs as well asoutputs, like ensuring targets were met. Hence, the approaches failedto focus on lasting outcomes, such as efficiency, police authenticityin addition to civilian satisfaction (Gill et al., 2014). As aresult, traditionally there was no or minimal police collaborationwith the community.

The rising crime rates and problems facing the criminal justicesystem in the 1970s resulted in widespread condemnation of policingpractices. The justice structure was blamed for failing to engagecivilians and it was not supported by the people it served. Inaddition, studies conducted on the effectiveness of the policeindicated that “two key elements of the standard model of policing,preventive patrol and rapid response, had little impact on crimerates” (Gill et al. 2014, p. 401). The studies raised issuesconcerning the efficiency of the police in solving and preventingcrimes. Hence, by 1990s many individuals believed the police had nopositive impact on crime.

According to Hooper (2014), many societal events happening in the1960s as well as 1970s distanced the police from the community andhence reduced the effectiveness of policing. These events include“the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, episodes of civilunrest within major urban areas, the changing age of the population(more youths and teenagers), and increased oversight of policeactions by the courts” (Hooper, 2014, p. 1). Citizens felt that thepolice were their enemies and hence the gap between civilians andpolice widened. Eventually, the police began to realize that it waspossible to get information about wrongdoing and offenders from thecommunity.

Research on the effectiveness of foot patrol depicted that itminimized the fear of felony, enhanced civilian contentment withpolice, and improved police self-esteem as well as job satisfaction(Hooper, 2014). Hence, the beliefs that were widespread during thereform era became inapplicable, resulting in the introduction ofcommunity-oriented policing. The new strategy put into considerationwhat researchers had identified as the main disadvantages oftraditional centralized policing. Those advocating forcommunity-oriented policing introduced new policing features, whichhad been ignored following the portrayal of police merely as crimefighters. The advocates also depicted the community as the basis ofsocial institutions such as the criminal justice systems as well aspolice. Thus, citizens were essential to the police role of fightingcrime.

COP is a popular policing strategy, specifically in America. APolice Foundation Survey conducted in 1997 concluded that “allpolice departments in U.S. municipalities with populations greaterthan 100,000 who responded reported that they had adopted COP, with85% of the total sample claiming that they had adopted or planned toadopt it” (Gill et al., 2014, p. 402). Likewise, a different surveyindicated that more than 90% of police departments operating in majorurban regions signified that they used competent COP officers (Gillet al., 2014). This is a clear indication of the shift from thereform era to the acceptance of the need for the community by policein solving crimes.

The COPS Office or “the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office ofCommunity Oriented Policing Services” was created in 1994 (Gill etal., 2014). The office provides the funding needed by policedepartments to implement community-oriented policing. However,despite the momentum to implement COP by many police departments inthe 1990s, there has been a significant drop in the use of thephilosophy by many departments. This is especially the case indivisions that serve a maximum of 50,000 civilians. Currently, morepolice divisions are failing in fully implementing community-orientedpolicing, which could be attributed to a number of factors.

Gill et al. (2014) explains that “COP has lost some of itsmomentum because some police departments felt unsure of what to askof communities and felt the transformative power of the program didnot live up to expectations” (p. 402). Additionally, researchindicates that many police leaders found acquiring enough resourcesto conduct community-oriented policing in the correct waychallenging. Also, the leaders noted that many officers wereunwilling to support COP. The problems in implementing COP derivesfrom, the philosophy being a guide to implement strategies, meaningthat it is not a strategy itself (Gill et al., 2014). This means thatCOP is not merely aimed at solving problems, rather it mandates forthe restructuring of police departments.

In order for community-oriented policing to be effective, policedepartments must fully decentralize their operations. But on theother hand, decentralizing poses a threat to the power inherent inpolice officers. Many are apprehensive that they may become weakenedby a philosophy that compels them to work with the community. As aresult, police seek different approaches like Compstat. Morechallenging is the fact that there is no particular framework forputting into practice COP, since the mission of every police divisionis presumed to be directed by the society it provides services to(Morabito, 2010).

Morabito (2010) further explains that the organizational makeoveraspect of community policing is very important. However, it seemsthat the limited police divisions, which claim to be practicingcommunity-oriented policing, have put into practice its majorcomponents. Many officers assume that by conducting foot patrols,taking part in educational programs, being involved in neighborhoodwatch and partnering with society, is the way to achieving COP. As aresult, the philosophy becomes impossible to execute. This is becausecommunity-oriented policing does not merely entail fighting crime. Italso involves fear reduction, response to any disorder in thesociety, in addition to creating good relationships with civiliansaimed at improving police authenticity.

It is important to note that COP disregards law enforcement as themajor role of the police. Instead, the philosophy expects thatofficers are able to control crime, meaning that they can stop crimebefore it happens, and not merely arrest wrongdoers. As such, policemust not exercise control over community, but should strive to worktogether with civilians and form partnerships that enhance civilians’trust in the police (Gill et al., 2014). The reasoning is thatcivilians who trust officers have a higher likelihood of adhering tothe law. Also, the community’s evaluations on the efficacy ofpolicing and police conduct are linked to the citizen’s complianceto participate in the betterment of society.

It is apparent that the current implementation of community-orientedpolicing in many police divisions has been ineffective. COP faces anumber of challenges, which have made the philosophy ineffective incontrolling crime. Despite the popularity of COP and assumption thatmany if not all police departments are using community policing, theyhave been doing so in the wrong way. Hence, it is necessary to reviewthe extent to which COP has been capable of ensuring that officerswork together with the community. It is also important to come upwith new approaches of enhancing the efficacy of community-orientedpolicing. This means that more training should be conducted in thedifferent police departments to enhance the use of COP in theappropriate manner.


The evolution of community-oriented policing is evaluated through adiscussion of the different policing eras. These are the political,reform and community era. The political period refers to a policingera that was marred by political intrusion in the role of lawenforcers. Thus, this resulted in the need for reforms aimed atensuring the sovereignty of the police. The outcome was the reformera, a period whereby changes were implemented in police officersroles, leading to minimal collaboration between police and thepeople. As a result, there was excessive abuse of power by police andpublic hatred towards policing.

Thus, the need for reforms aimed at making policing acceptable incommunity, resulting in the community era. The latter period gaverise to community-oriented policing, which is a philosophy thatemphasizes on the need for a relationship amid police and civiliansin order to control crime. COP has been popular from the 1970s todate. However, in earlier decades it was widely implemented andeffective. Currently COP faces a myriad of challenges mainly relatingto its implementation that have reduced its efficacy. As such, it isnecessary to review community-oriented policing to ensure that it isproperly implemented and widely used by police departments.


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Gultekin, K. (2014). The reform eraof policing: How does organizational structure influenceorganizational culture? EuropeanScientific Journal,10(8), 508-518.

Hooper, M. K. (2014). Acknowledging existence of a fourth era ofpolicing. Journal of Forensic Research and Crime Studies, 1,1-4.

Jones, C., &amp Supinski, S. B.(2010). Policing and community relations in the homeland securityera. Journal of HomelandSecurity &amp Emergency Management,7(1), 1-14.

Morabito, M. S. (2010). Understanding community-oriented policing asan innovation: patterns of adoption. Crime and Delinquency,56(4), 564–587.

Reisig, M. D. (2010). Community andproblem‐orientedpolicing.&nbspCrimeand Justice,&nbsp39(1),1-53.

Stone, C., &amp Travis, J. (2011). New perspectives in policing:Toward a new professionalism in policing. National Institute ofJustice, 1-26.

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