IMPROVING POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS 1
Approximately 75% of local police departments in America have lessthan 25 officers(Fritsch, et al., 2008).This means that most policedepartments are overwhelmed by law enforcement tasks, and this isreflected in high crime rates in the country. Besides, research shows that increasing the number ofpolice officers patrolling a particular area does not necessarilyreduce the number of crimes (Fritsch,et al., 2008). Community involvement in policing is theonly strategy that has proved most effective in addressing the issueof crime and social disorder. However, it has been hampered by thebad relations between the police and the members of the communitythey are supposed to serve. Some of the reasons for the strainedrelations between police and communities are the lack of trust andthe broken communication between these two entities. Besides, casesof police officers mistreating some members of the community,especially the minorities have been rampart over the recent past.This has worsened the already stale relationship between policeofficers and the communities they serve. When members of thecommunity are involved in approaches aimed to address the issue ofcrime and social disorder, the results include decreased crime, moretrust, and respect for the police. This paper argues that communityinvolvement in policing is an essential factor in improvingpolice-community relations.
Community participation involves the public taking active and genuineefforts to try and help the police. Before the formation of the firstmodern police department all the able-bodied men were mandated withthe responsibility of patrolling their communities. Collectively, allmembers of the community would help address threats resulting fromfire, intruders and thieves. However, the creation of the current lawenforcement systems meant that the police started living away fromtheir areas of jurisdictions. This marked the onset of the poorrelations that has characterized police-community interactions formany decades. However, this can be changed if members of the publiccan become part and parcel of strategies aimed at addressing crimeand social order in their areas.
The history of Community participations in policing
Efforts toincorporate the members of the community in initiatives designed toaddress crime and social deviance date back to the time of Sir RobertPeel. Community participation aims at opening the lines ofcommunication between community residents and law enforcementagencies. Consequently, these efforts reduce the polarization thatexists between citizens and police. Sir Robert Peel is considered thefather of community policing. He was an Englishman who received hiseducation from both Oxford and Harrow. He was requested to become amember of parliament for the British Parliament. During his tenure asa member of parliament, Peel noted that the rate of crime was surgingat an alarming rate (International Association of Chiefs of Police,2015).
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police(2015), community policing is a philosophy that promotes thesystematic use of corroboration and problem-solving techniques toproactively resolve immediate issues that threaten public safety suchas fear of crime and social disorder. It is based on three tenetswhich are community partnership, problem-solving, and organizationaltransformation. According to International Association of Chiefs ofPolice (2015), "in community policing, legitimacy and proceduraljustice rather than just the law build police authority in the eyesof the community". As such, instead of merely following theprovision of the law, the public prefers that police officer listento them and react to their suggestions.
What motivates the public to participate in the policing of theirareas?
The rationale for the citizen participation in crime preventionstrategies is to increase the quality of life and achieve a bettercommunity environment. According toChoi, et al., (2014) some of the factors that motivatethe public to take part in community policing includes fear of crime,confidence in the police, personal gain, and attachment to an area,among others. When members of the public perceive the crime rate intheir area to be high, they are more likely to volunteer in effortsaimed at remedying the situation. Additionally, an insecureneighborhood is not conducive for business. Thus, especially thebusiness community deems crime or fear of it as having the ability toscare away investors. Additionally, the level of development ishampered by the high crime rate or fear of it and this in turnsaffects the economic dynamics of the community. For example, mostareas that register high crime rates are characterized by low pricesfor properties and deserted households. Besides, some people,especially those who have lived in a specific area for decades are soattached to the environment such that they would fight anything thatis capable of destroying their community with all their powers. Onthe other hand, some members of the public are driven by the desireto achieve personal gains in their efforts to participate incommunity policing initiatives. Such individuals include politicianswho want to win the support of the members of the public (Choi, etal., 2014).
Challenges hindering the involvement of the community in policing
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police(2015), law enforcement departments are experiencing a shortage ofresources this is making it hard for them to achieve a consistent andsustained community policing efforts. Besides, the scarcity ofresources hinders the full implementation of community policingstrategies because police departments are unable to attract andretain qualified personnel. Community policing requires that lawenforcement officers spend more of their time with the residentsaddressing their different problems. As compared to the traditionalpolicing methods, community involvement is relatively laborintensive. Although if fully successful community policing strategiesreduce the number of crimes consequently reducing the amount of timerequired for police-community interactions, the inadequate resourcesin the hand of police departments halts the achievement of this goal.The second hurdle many law enforcement agencies are facing and whichis affecting their implementation of community policing strategies isthe change in community demographics. Jurisdictions are slowlyexperiencing a change in their demographics as more people fromdifferent nationalities, religion, and cultures settles in theseareas. With increased diversity, communities are becoming lesscohesive. This means that police officers have to form strong bondswith each and every community segment (International Association ofChiefs of Police, 2015).
Communication, education, and transparency and understanding inthe improvement of community-police relations.
Strong communication is pertinent in the establishment of a closeworking relationship between the community and the police. Opencommunication conveys the message that the law enforcement agencieshave nothing to hide. Although communication is critical in everyaspect of police work, law enforcement departments must devise amechanism for conveying relevant information during times of crisis.When a crisis of any kind occurs, police departments should seek toprovide as much information as possible regarding what triggered theincident and actions being taken to remedy the situation and preventit from occurring again in the future. According to InternationalAssociation of Chiefs of Police (2015), personal conversation withthe members of the community, especially during difficult moments,bolster the perception that law enforcement officers are inhumane. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies should ensuretransparency in all aspects of policing. This includes makingavailable information such as arrests and crime statistics as well asany other law enforcement data. Police departments should practiceintegrity when releasing any kind of information even if the releasedreport does not portray them in the best light (InternationalAssociation of Chiefs of Police, 2015).
For many years, the image of the police has been tainted resulting ina negative perception from the public. Mainly, the mainstream andsocial media have played a critical role in tarnishing the image ofthe law enforcement agencies by publishing only negative news aboutthem. To improve the police-community relations, law enforcementagencies must be proactive in the provision of information thatamplifies the positive actions of the police. Additionally, thepolice should counter the negative information conveyed by the mediaby releasing as many positive stories as possible (InternationalAssociation of Chiefs of Police, 2015). These messages and storiesshould have clear objectives. For example, the police can publishstories about how they are working with the community to apprehendperpetrators of crime or avert future criminal attacks. Also, thepolice can use their media coverage to educate the public on whatthey can share and what they cannot. Besides, the police can educatethe members of public that providing certain information jeopardizesthe dual process or result in the infringement of the suspect’srights. If the community receives consistent information from thepolice, they are likely to view them as caring and are more willingto join them in their course.
The tenet of collaboration and partnership means that efforts gearedtoward ensuring safety in the community must involve allstakeholders. According to International Association of Chiefs ofPolice (2015), citizens must corroborate with law enforcementagencies to co-deliberate, co-design, and co-formulate the programsthat the government ought to implement. Additionally, thecorroboration provides a roadmap on how these programs ought to beimplemented. Research shows that partnerships foster a sense ofownership where stakeholders feel that the success or failure of theinitiatives in which they were involved depends on them. Theinvolvement of members of the public in the formulation andimplementation of crime reduction police gives an opportunity forconstructive criticism. Constructive criticisms give the police achance to understand what is ailing the community and consequentlyseek their suggestions on how to solve these problems thus improvingthe relationship between these two entities.
The other pertinent element that is critical in improvingcommunity-police relations is trust. Trust between police and thecommunity is based on mutual understanding and respect of eachother’s perspective and needs (International Association of Chiefsof Police, 2015). Both the police and the public must demonstratetheir sincere interests in ensuring a safe community. Trust is alsoachieved through the eradication of bias towards one or more segmentsof the community. As such, members of the police must avoiddiscriminating against the minorities as this has, over the pastyears, worsened the already bad relationship between the lawenforcement agencies and the public.
How the police benefit from improved relations between them andthe members of the community
With improved police-community relations, law enforcement officersare able to execute their mandates more effectively. Upon theestablishment of trust between members of the community and thepolice, the public is more likely to volunteer information even whennot prompted. Only 45% of violent crimes and 17% of property offenseswere cleared through arrests in 2008 (Criminal Justice PolicyResearch Institute, 2011). This shows that the majority of crimesusually go undetected. Besides, members of the community are moreforthcoming in providing crucial investigative leads if they enjoy aclose working relationship with the police agencies that serves them.If citizens perceive the police as likely to exhibit a high level ofprofessionalism when approaching distress calls, they are likely tocontact them any time they have some disturbing incidents. It is acommon practice for the police to consider the person who reports acrime to be a potential suspect. Although this has helped inarresting criminals disguising as victims or witnesses, members ofthe public shun from reporting crimes for fear of being consideredsuspects.
Greater citizen support is achieved with improved police-communityrelations. As citizens spend more time interacting and working withthe police, they increase their knowledge of how law enforcementagencies operate. Studies have shown that as citizen’s knowledge ofhow law enforcement agencies work improves, their respect for thepolice increases. Greater citizen support also helps members of thepublic to understand that the police genuinely care about thecommunity (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2015).Besides, community involvement results in shared responsibility onmatters regarding crime and social disorder. Traditionally,addressing the issue of crime and social disorder has been thereserve of the police. With community policing, members of the publichave come to the realization that the police alone cannot resolve themalady of crime. Besides, they have come to understand the variousways they can corroborate with the police toward safer neighborhoods.For example, community policing aids the citizens to understand howthey can become proactive in addressing the issue of social devianceby reporting suspicious activities and individuals to the police.
Community involvement results in greater job satisfaction on the partof the police. Naturally, human beings prefer working in areas wherethey feel appreciated. Additionally, community policing means thatpolice spend relatively fewer hours addressing the issues of socialdisorders which mean that they can see the outcomes of theirinitiatives, and this leaves them feeling motivated. Besides, thepolice experience high morale when executing their mandates.According to Gill,et al., (2014), “high morale is reflected in jobsatisfaction and organizational commitment and loyalty.” This meansthat police officers are able to provide greater quality of work.Organizational commitment as a result of high morale means that apolice department experiences low turnover. Additionally, motivatedofficers are less likely to be absent from work.
How the community benefits from improved relations between themand the police.
According toGill, et al., (2014) community policing strategies havepositive effects on the citizen trust and satisfaction with thepolice in addition to the people`s perception of disorderly conduct.In 23 comparisons, community-oriented programs were approximately 80%effective and the citizens were approximately 40% more likely toreport being satisfied with the efforts of the police (Gill,et al., 2014). This research shows that the public ismore satisfied with the work of police if they are involved in thepolicing strategies.
Besides, the community has less fear and more trust of the policewith improved relations between these two entities. Criminal JusticePolicy Research Institute (2011) reports that according to the BJSsurvey of 2011, only 17% of the United States citizens aged 16 yearsor older had had a face to face interaction with a police officer.Besides, most of the police-community interactions occurinvoluntarily. However, with members of the law enforcement agenciesconstantly interacting with the public, the fear of the police islikely to dwindle while trust levels increase.
Members of the community tend to experience less fear of crime whenthey are involved in policing. Gill,et al., (2014) notes that it is usually hard toquantify how improving police-community relations result in thedecline of the public fear of crime. Fritsch,et al., (2008) report that Americans are more terrifiedby crimes such as robbery, rape, burglary, mugging and homicides andthese offenses are hardly encountered by police officers duringpatrols. This means that it is only through the elimination of theboundary that exists between the police and the community that thecrimes that most Americans fear will be exposed and addressed.Besides, members of the community experience less crime in theirneighborhoods when they are involved in policing. According toGill, et al., (2014) community-oriented policing isattributed with 5%-10% greater odds of reduced crime. When the crimelevels in a community fall, members of the public are likely to havehigh regard for the police.
With improved police-community relations, the public gain fasterresolution of crime. Gill,et al., (2014) report that reducing the time taken forpolice officers to respond to emergency calls does not increase theprobability of arresting criminals nor does it mean that the citizenswill be more satisfied. This means that members of the community arelikely to be satisfied if they are involved in the process of findingremedies to problems plaguing them.
In conclusion, history shows that the relations between police andcommunities have been stained for many years. Before the onset of themodern police system, the able-bodied men were responsible forguarding their communities. During this period, the crime rate wasrelatively low. With the onset of the modern police system, thepublic started being mistrustful of the law enforcement agenciesserving them. On their part, the police agencies feel unappreciatedand threatened by the same individuals they are supposed to beserving. Many policing strategies have been employed with little orno success. However, the few departments that have effectivelyadopted community policing initiates have experienced a decline inthe number of crimes and enhanced trust between the police and thecommunity. On the other hand, communities that are working incorroboration with the law enforcement departments meant to servethem have more trust and respect for the police. Additionally, suchcommunities experience fewer crimes. Some of the challenges facingthe integration of community policing strategies by many policedepartments are the inadequate resources and the changing communitydemographics. For community policing strategies to work there is aneed for open communication, transparency, and education. This paperhas demonstrated that community involvement in policing is pertinentin improving policy community relations.
Choi, K.,Lee, J. L., & Chun, Y. T. (2014). Why Do Citizens Participate inCommunity Crime Prevention Activities?. ,Journalfor Criminalistics and Criminology 65(4),287-298.
Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute. (2011). Decreasing CrimeBy Increasing Involvement: A Law Enforcement Guidebook For BuildingRelations In Multi-Ethnic Communities. Accessed fromhttps://www.pdx.edu/cjpri/sites/www.pdx.edu.cjpri/files/Decreasing_Crime_By_Increasing_Involvement.pdf
Fritsch, E.J., Liederbach, J., & Taylor, R. W. (2009). Policepatrol allocation and deployment.Pearson Prentice Hall.
Gill, C.,Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., Vitter, Z., & Bennett, T. (2014).Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder, and fear andincrease satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematicreview. Journalof Experimental Criminology, 10(4),399-428.
International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2015). IACP NationalPolicy Summit on Community-Police Relations: Advancing a culture ofCohesion and Trust.http://www.iacp.org/Portals/0/documents/pdfs/CommunityPoliceRelationsSummitReport_web.pdf