Police Strategies

Changes in policing developed from the research examining policing practices. The research into policing also caused an increase in financial support for higher education. The police officers were encouraged to continue their education. The police were also encouraged to broaden their use of research and the analytical process to solve problems.

The police have a long history of discriminating against minority groups. The minority groups differ depending on the time period. Civil disturbances have resulted from the police misconduct.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the police departments established community relations units to resolve problems in police-community relations. Initially, these units were one-sided with the police providing information to the public. Found to be lacking, this philosophy changed to two-way communication with the public being capable of providing information to the police.

The 1970s saw an effort to train officers in community relations and crime prevention techniques. The 1980s saw an increase fear of crime by the public. The police became more proactive and more assertive. This was done to satisfy the public and help reduce fears of violence and drugs. However, charges of discriminatory practices surfaced once again.

As part of community relations, the police would focus on crime prevention. The officers were responsible for educating the public on ways to protect themselves and their property. Target hardening was one method that called for improvements in doors, windows, locks, and lighting. Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) also attempted to improve the community by providing information on construction and clean up of the neighborhoods.

Team policing was tried by many departments in the 1970s. This strategy involved a reorganization of the patrol officers and gave them more responsibility for everything within their patrol areas. However, this program was not successful. Middle management within the police organization saw this as a threat to their power. Also, many of the officers operated with little guidance as to exactly what was expected of them.

Foot patrol is often thought of when discussing community policing. Studies indicate that foot patrol may not necessarily reduce crime but it does make the citizens feel more safe and secure. The broken windows theory is often associated with foot patrol. Under broken windows, patrol officers focused greater attention on the minor offenses and disorderly conduct. The philosophy behind this was that stopping the minor behavior would send a message to the citizens that such behavior will not be tolerated.

In the 1980s, community policing began to develop. It was seen as a combination of 30 years worth of research and crime-prevention strategies. Community policing is a philosophy, not a program. There are three dimensions of community policing. One is the philosophical dimension. This would include citizen input. This input may be achieved through town meetings, open forums, advisory boards, and surveys. As part of the philosophical dimension, the police are expected to take on a more broad police function. This would include resolving conflict, helping victims, solving problems, and apprehension and enforcement. This is expected to be done in a friendly, open, and personal manner.

Another dimension of community policing is the strategic dimension. Under the strategic dimensions, the police are expected to have greater interaction with the citizens. This would involve reoriented operations. Changes in the way that the departments respond to calls would be part of the reoriented operations. Community-policing also requires the police to have a better rapport with the citizens. This may be achieved through a geographic focus that called for permanency of assignment. The police would patrol the same areas and the public would have the opportunity to get to know the police. Community-policing also has a greater prevention emphasis. This strategy calls for the police to be more proactive and take on more of a social welfare orientation.

The final dimension of community policing is the tactical dimension. Positive interaction is part of the tactical dimension. The police are expected to build rapport and partnerships with the citizens through the positive interactions. The police are also expected to be more involved in problem-solving. Instead of rushing to the call, handling the call, and then rushing to the next call, the police are expected to take the time to look for underlying problems and conditions. Alternatives to arrest make be considered in this problem-solving technique.

It has been difficult to determine the effectiveness of community policing. Some of the reasons for this difficulty include the complexity of the program, multiple effects, variation in program scope, and research design limitations.

There have been positive outcomes seen from this philosophy. There does appear to be a greater cooperation and communication between the police and the citizens. The citizens are attending meeting, serve as volunteers, and help determine the problems of the community. The police are involved with the citizens through assistance programs and provide education and communication with the citizens.

Despite the positive outcomes, there is evidence that community policing may not be as successful as some may claim.