Community-Oriented Policing

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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A philosophy that combines traditional aspects of law enforcement with prevention measures, problem-solving, community engagement, and community partnerships.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, U.S. law enforcement relied on a professional policing model. This model was based on hierarchical structures, efficient response times, standardization, and the use of motorized patrol cars. Although this model improved efficiency, operations, and accountability, it proved inadequate when civil disturbances erupted in the late 1960s. Critics charged that police and the communities they served were alienated from each other, and a call came for community-oriented policing.

A first attempt was the team policing approach, which assigned responsibility for a certain geographic area to a team of police officers who would get to know the neighborhood, its people, and its problems. This harkened back to the early twentieth century when police walked a beat. The approach, however, proved ineffective because it placed more emphasis on long-term problem solving than on rapid response to crime incidents. Internally, team policing intruded on functional lines of authority, with patrol officers becoming involved in areas reserved to detectives and other specialists.

Community policing programs grew out of the failures of team policing. The goal of community policing is to bring the police and the public it serves closer together to identify and address crime issues. Instead of merely responding to emergency calls and arresting criminals, police officers in such programs get involved in finding out what causes crime and disorder, and attempt to creatively solve problems in their assigned communities. To do this police must develop a network of personal contacts both inside and outside their departments. This contact is fostered by foot, bike, or horse patrols?any effort that gets a police officer out of his or her squad car.

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The community policing philosophy now dominates contemporary police work. The federal government promoted community policing through the passage of the VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 1994 (Violent Crime Control Act), Pub.L. 103-322, Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 1796. Title I of the Crime Act, the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act, provided $8.8 billion to fund local law enforcement agencies as they developed and enhanced their community policing capabilities. To assist in...

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