Community policing is designed to use problem-solving and collaboration as a means for identifying and improving situations in communities where crime is a consistent problem. This philosophy emphasizes increased communication between law enforcement and community members. More specifically, it entails officers not simply responding after crimes have already been committed, but actively working to improve problems within the community by engaging in discussions with their citizens. This is especially worth considering today, in light of reports of police brutality and excessive force making headlines in recent years.
When done well, community policing can rebuild a sense of trust by the community toward law enforcement that may have previously been broken. Read on to find out more about community policing, and how it’s used effectively.
What Is Community Policing? And How Is It Used in Practice?
The term “community policing” has been recognized in the mandates of Canadian police forces since the early 1990s. When putting this philosophy into practice, law enforcement looks into resources within their communities—this can include schools, government workers, and social services organizations, to name a few—and works alongside them to identify solutions for making those communities safer.
Rather than only addressing crimes after they’ve happened, community policing strives to prevent it from happening in the first place, while also aiming to cultivate a safer environment within those communities. Law enforcement officials can actively work toward building stronger connections with the citizens they are expected to protect. Instead of sowing seeds of anger or distrust, this form of policing encourages active collaboration between law enforcement and people in their local communities. Students doing their police foundations training may learn about community policing during their studies, as well.
What Are the Benefits of Adopting Community Policing?
With community policing, law enforcement officials are no longer the only people in the driver’s seat as far as enhancing the conditions of their jurisdiction. This allows communities to hold law enforcement officers accountable, as well as helping them realize their objectives while protecting citizens. In turn, officers and community members are more easily able to work together as allies rather than adversaries, as citizens are more actively participating in crime prevention.
As such, they are able to work with those who have police foundations careers to help them prioritize the crimes that impact their community most directly. This allows them to feel a stronger sense of trust and respect for those responsible for law enforcement, and allows those doing the policing to have a more nuanced understanding of what people in their communities expect from them—as well as which issues are the most pressing ones to address.
What Else Should Those in Police Foundations Training Know?
Public Safety Canada breaks down the key components of community policing into three core categories: community partnerships (the collaboration between law enforcement and their communities), organizational transformation (the changes on a structural level that allow for community policing to happen successfully), and problem solving (the examination of problems within a community before finding workable solutions for them). With these three pillars in mind, it’s important to use this philosophy in ways that don’t alienate, oppress, or cause further harm to other marginalized groups.
While it’s a relatively simple way of improving police-community relations, studies have shown that community policing can work. A 2019 study from researchers at Princeton University found that it can improve both the ability for these two sides to collaborate, as well as the attitudes of community members toward law enforcement in general—even during brief exchanges. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that community policing will work in the exact same way and with the same level of effectiveness in another city or neighbourhood, this sample size of positive, non-enforcement interactions between officers and their citizens does show promise.
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