Community Policing as a Strategy to Improve the Effectiveness of Law Enforcement

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The relationship between the police and the communities they serve hasn’t always been the most productive. Against the backdrop of the tumultuous era of the 1960s when the nation’s collective unrest regarding various then current events ranging from the social upheaval of the civil rights movement to the broadly unpopular and deepening conflict in Vietnam spilled onto the streets of American cities seemingly everywhere, local police forces, lacking in experience with crowd control, often found themselves in violent encounters with these various groups, earning them a reputation of being oppressive organizations (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 112). This reputation works against the police even to this day by causing a deep distrust of law enforcement in various communities.
In response, police departments have shifted from the old-fashioned legalistic style of policing which was marked by the strict adherence and enforcement of the letter of the law, to what is now called community policing. The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office of the United States Department of Justice formally defines community policing as “a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime” (n.d., p. 3). In other words, police departments try to partner with not just private citizens of the the communities they serve, but also members of private and public organizations to learn about their concerns first hand and then include them in solving these issues in various ways. According to Schmalleger, a few examples of this strategy at w...

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