True Community-Based Policing is the Core for a Better Community for All
In a post 9-11 world, the police have become more militarized in operation and thinking. The new police exist in the U.S. as a paramilitary force, the role of protect and serve is to preserve the system just as it is and do the bidding of the power elite. Any other analysisof the role of police is just romanticized nonsense.
Community-based policing is both a philosophy (a way of thinking) and an organizational strategy (a means to carry out that philosophy) that allows the police andcommunity to work together in new ways to solve problems of crime, disorder and safety. It rests on two core elements: changing the methods and practice of the police and taking steps to establish a real working relationship between the police and the community theyclaim to protect and serve.
The philosophy is built on the belief that the community deserves an input into policing, and indeed, has a right to it. It also rests on the view that in order to find solutions to community problems, the police and the public must move beyond a narrow focus on individual crimes or incidents, and instead consider innovative ways of addressing community concerns.
At the heart of community-based policing is the recognition that the police are much more than mere crime fighters and can be public servants in other ways. The end goal is the creation of a professional, representative, responsive, and accountable institution that works in partnership with the public. These 'peace officers' are a service rather than a force, and an institution that only criminals need rightly fear.
Achieving these goals requires taking action at three levels: individual, institutional, and social. Even as the values of service and competency are imparted at the level of the individual officer, an appropriate management structure capable of embedding andsustaining these values must be created as well. In order to achieve this goal, management must first have a relationship with the community
Reform to the police alone, however, is insufficient; community support and assistance are also necessary to achieving the basic goals of the police. Community-based policing, therefore, also encompasses strategies to reorient the public who, for frequently good reasons, have been leery and distrustful of the police. However, beyond a rhetorical commitment to community policing there has been little sense of how to operate a process to achieve the changes sought. In the best-case scenario, management should come from the community; have a true history with the people in that community so it will enable them to better manage the rank and file to give proper service to the community through law enforcement.
In the communities of color in Westchester, the crime rate has escalated with the insurgence of weapons in the communities. Controlling the availability and circulation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) is vital in the effort to increase community safety, the aim of community-based policing. However, citizens will only be willing to hand over firearms in their possession if they perceive an improvement in public safety andsecurity and if they have a certain degree of trust in the police and other security agencies. This is where community- based policing can play an important role instrengthening SALW initiatives. Similarly, if there is a good working relationship between the policing and the community, it will be easier for the policing to obtain information about arms caches or transit routes for arms trafficking.
Community-based policing can contribute to a wider poverty reduction strategy. Several agencies and governments have recognized the links between security, development, and poverty reduction. High levels of crime stifle development in any community, businessesbecome the victims of crime, commercial activities are interrupted, and outside investment leaves.
The poor and marginalized also suffer disproportionately from the effects of crime andviolence. They lack adequate protection from corrupt or dysfunctional security institutions. The poor are also often marginalized when it comes to political or socialstructures and are likely to have very little influence over the policies and programs that affect their daily lives.
Community-based policing, through its partnership approach, aims to ensure that the safety and security needs of all groups in a particular community are addressed. In this way, the police can facilitate all people's access to justice, regardless of their social oreconomic status. Addressing local needs while effectively combating crime improves safety and security, and with it, strengthens the conditions for development to take place.
Policing is an activity that is not carried out in isolation. All the disparate aspects of policing that individual officer are called upon from issuing parking tickets to thwarting crimes impact and involve other institutions and processes.
In closing, effective Community Policing will link other criminal justice institutions. The Police Department is the primary entry point to the justice system and the part in closest contact with the public. A fair, competent, non-discriminatory, and respectful police is integral to upholding the rule of law. Along with courts and the correctional service, the police are an essential part of the 'triad' of institutions needed to make a justice system run effectively and truly serve its community.
In Unity and Peace
Damon K. Jones
Damon K. Jones
North East Region Representative
National Black Police Association