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Community Policing Revisited
When people, and that includes police officers, hear the words community policing or community oriented policing, lots of different ideas come to their minds. Concepts like “crime prevention,” the Wilson-Kelling “broken windows” theory, and “community relations” may roll off their tongues as they try to define just what this term means.
An obvious response to the phrase may be, “Cops working with those they serve to help solve crimes.” Others may dismiss it all as “touchy-feely” policing of which they have little interest. Some others may simply shrug their shoulders, unsure of how “police work” is any different from “community policing.”
Actually, all of these ideas contribute to the essence of community policing. It is not one specific practice or a complicated formula. Even though it may be a term from as recently as the early-1980s, the components of community policing have been around for generations.
Like many things in the human endeavor, community policing is a work-in-progress and definitely open to improvement and refinement. It doesn’t just draw input from the minds of seasoned cops. It also solicits thoughtful opinions from anyone interested in making a community a safer place to live and thrive. Community policing has a solid foundation based on religious ethics and morality strengthened over time. However, it is malleable on its exterior to current trends requiring adaptations reflective of cultural and social perspectives and expectations.
Community policing respects traditional values but understands the importance of new ideas and is open to them. Community policing inspires cooperation without diminishing the importance of discipline. It applauds advanced learning while acknowledging the simplicity of right and wrong; that there really is a right and a wrong.
Community policing is a symbiotic relationship of growth where “protecting and serving” are interchangeable terms for both the officer and the citizen and together they find ways to help each. That effort takes mutual respect and trust and when they refer to each other, the word “we” is used instead of “them.”
Community policing is law enforcement that is deeply embedded in the “spirit of the law” while recognizing the value of the “letter of the law” when appropriate. It approaches with strong caution any actions that can appear political and goes out of its way to avoid bias because officers are keenly aware this corrodes that trust, which is vital to long-term success. And because it produces a culture that respects the rule of law, it protects the rights afforded all of us.
This style of policing allows officers to look upon violators, especially the violent ones, as opportunities to not only stop them in their tracks but find ways to draw intelligence from them to prevent further crime. Community policing wants not only a confession but an explanation of “why.”
Community policing is a collaborative effort that expands the borders of expectations and works to change practices so violent predators stay controlled while finding ways for non-violent ones to “work” off their sentences in innovative ways. Community policing is committed to fairness sprinkled with empathy so decisions are grounded in common sense and good judgment.
Most importantly, community policing is based on the principle that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” while at the same time acknowledging that each person is prone to mistakes on a regular basis.
Community policing is the Golden Rule with a badge pinned on it: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Community policing is us.
Published in Law and Order, Apr 2012
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