Community Oriented Policing (COP) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

Community-oriented policing (COP) fosters police-community partnerships and problem-solving to address public safety concerns and improve trust.

Community-oriented policing (COP), also known as simply community policing, is a law enforcement philosophy that focuses on collaboration between police and the communities they serve to proactively address public safety issues, such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime. It encourages law enforcement agencies to adopt organizational strategies that promote partnerships and problem-solving techniques to tackle the immediate conditions contributing to public safety concerns.

Core Components of COP

To better understand community-oriented policing, let’s look at its three main components: community partnerships, organizational transformation, and problem-solving.

Community Partnerships

Establishing strong partnerships with community members, organizations, and other stakeholders is essential in COP. These partnerships enable law enforcement agencies to better understand the needs and concerns of the community and work together to develop and implement strategies to address these issues. Community partnerships can take many forms, including:

Neighborhood Watch programs: Community members collaborate with police to monitor and report suspicious activities in their neighborhoods.

Police-community forums: These events provide opportunities for police and community members to discuss concerns, share information, and collaborate on solutions.

School resource officers (SROs): Police officers are assigned to schools to work with students, staff, and parents to promote safety and prevent crime.

Collaboration with community organizations: Police may partner with local organizations, such as nonprofits, businesses, and religious institutions, to address community issues and support crime prevention efforts.

Organizational Transformation

Implementing COP requires changes within the law enforcement organization itself. This transformation may involve changes in the agency’s structure, management, policies, and practices to support the principles of COP. Key aspects of organizational transformation include:

Decentralization of decision-making: Empower frontline officers and supervisors to make decisions and take action on issues affecting the community.

Geographic focus: Assigning officers to specific neighborhoods or areas, fostering familiarity with the community and its unique needs.

Training and education: Providing officers with the necessary training and education to effectively engage in COP strategies and problem-solving techniques.

Performance evaluation: Assessing officer performance based on community engagement and problem-solving efforts, rather than traditional metrics like arrest numbers.


Problem-solving is a critical element of COP. Police officers are trained to identify problems in the community and work collaboratively with community members to develop solutions to those problems. This may involve analyzing data, conducting research, and implementing evidence-based practices to address specific issues. Problem-solving strategies used in COP may include:

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED): An approach that focuses on modifying the physical environment to reduce opportunities for crime.

Hotspot policing: Concentrating resources and efforts in areas with high crime rates.
Community-based policing programs: Initiatives that involve community members in crime prevention and problem-solving efforts.

Community outreach programs: Efforts to engage community members, build trust, and improve police-community relations.

Benefits of Community-Oriented Policing

COP has been shown to have a positive impact on crime reduction and community satisfaction with law enforcement. Studies have found that these programs lead to reductions in crime and disorder, as well as increased trust and cooperation between police and the community. COP has also been shown to improve police officer job satisfaction and reduce officer stress and burnout.

Challenges in Implementing COP

The implementation of COP can be challenging. It requires a shift in the traditional law enforcement mindset and a commitment to collaboration and problem-solving. It also requires resources, including funding for training and community programs, as well as support from police leadership and elected officials.

Despite these challenges, COP continues to be a popular philosophy among law enforcement agencies across the country. Many police departments have adopted COP as a key component of their overall strategy to promote public safety and build trust with the communities they serve.

The Future of Community-Oriented Policing

As society evolves, so too must community policing. Law enforcement agencies must adapt their strategies to address new challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities. Some trends that may shape the future of COP include:

Technology: Advances in technology offer new tools for law enforcement to connect with the community and enhance problem-solving efforts. Examples include social media, mobile apps, and data analysis tools.

Community engagement: As the public becomes more aware of the importance of police-community partnerships, there may be an increased demand for transparency and involvement in the decision-making process.

Focus on mental health and addiction: With the growing awareness of mental health and addiction issues, COP may increasingly involve collaboration with mental health professionals and substance abuse treatment providers to address these complex problems.

Emphasis on prevention and early intervention: Future COP efforts may focus on preventing crime and disorder before they occur through initiatives such as community education programs and early intervention efforts for at-risk individuals.


Community-oriented policing is a comprehensive approach to law enforcement that prioritizes partnerships, organizational transformation, and problem-solving. This philosophy aims to build trust and collaboration between the police and the communities they serve, ultimately leading to safer and more resilient neighborhoods. Although challenges exist in implementing it, the potential benefits make it an essential strategy for law enforcement agencies committed to promoting public safety and improving police-community relations. As the field continues to evolve, community policing will remain a vital part of the future of law enforcement.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023

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