Chapter 2: Towards a Better Way

The first “police force” as we know them today—characterized by uniformed officers serving the public around the clock—grew out of a population explosion in the city of London.  When Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police (1830), he set forth a number of principles, one of which could be considered the core of the community policing movement: “…the police are the public and the public are the police.”  Sadly, the vast majority (for myriad reasons) have lost sight of this core organizational principle.

Criminal Justice scholars have suggested that the reform era in government (circa 1900), supplemented with a national trend toward “professionalization,” resulted in the decoupling of the police from the community.  Police managers at that time developed the notion that police corruption was caused in part by familiarity with neighborhood residents by officers.  If you put them on rotating shifts in different areas at different times, this familiarity would not develop, and corruption could be averted.  That idea proved faulty.  Part and parcel to this shift was a move to centralized command (along military lines).  This, the logic went, was to demonstrate to the public that the police fairly and impartially followed procedures that came down from the high command.  For reasons we will consider more deeply later, that idea too proved faulty.

Social distancing may have become a common phrase during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it can also be used to describe what happened between police and the communities that they served.  Technology played a major role.  Within a span of a few decades, the automobile, the telephone, and the two-way radio converged to create the modern model of policing.  These marvels of technology allowed persons in distress to call the police for service, and then a dispatcher would contact officers in a patrol car via radio.  Needless to say, response times to calls for service shrank to a matter of minutes in most urban areas.  The problem was that people liked the idea of rapid police responses, and they started making use of it.

The insidious side of rapid response to calls for service was that officers spent their shifts rushing from one call to the next call in a reactive way.  There was little time left in a shift to do any sort of proactive police work, such as working on crime prevention efforts.  The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” no longer had a place in police work.  Another unintended consequence was the opening of a chasm (or a widening one in communities of color) between officers and neighborhood residents.  Unless you were in the middle of a crisis or being stopped for some infraction, you never had any contact with police officers.  Positive interactions with officers dropped to near zero, where we find them today.

One of the best examples of doing the wrong thing because “we’ve always done it that way” is random patrol.  The basic idea of random patrol is that cops will be driving around looking for crimes, but you’ll never know exactly where or when they’ll show up.  We’ve known for fifty years (since the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment was conducted) that people don’t pay attention to how often they see cop cars, and there is very little impact on crime or people’s fear of crime victimization.  Studies have shown that about 1% of criminals are caught in the act of committing a serious crime by officers on patrol.

Nevertheless, the patrol division is always the largest division of all police departments, and it costs the most money.  It requires staggering sums of money to pay officers and provide their fringe benefits, and it costs another staggering sum to maintain a fleet of vehicles that almost never stop running.  Aside from having a negligible impact on crime, officers moving at high rates of speed behind tinted windows served to widen the chasm between the officers and the public.

When these factors are taken together, a somber picture emerges.  The friendly beat officer of yesteryear was replaced by nameless, dangerous figures that lurked behind darkened windows.  With their individuality lost, all police officers became merged (in the minds of the public) into an entity known simply as “the police.”   This has had a huge impact on public impressions of law enforcement in an age of heated racial exchanges.  As unfair as it may be to individual officers, a single bad actor can tarnish the reputation of an entire department, and one bad department can tarnish the reputation of the entire profession.

The height of police isolation from the people came in an era of growing “professionalization” when the prevailing ideology was that the professional knew best and when community involvement in crime control was seen by almost everyone as unnecessary.  This constrained view of “professionalism” was wrong-headed and certainly not what I mean when the term is used later in this book.  A high degree of public order and public safety can only come as the byproduct of cooperation between police and community members.  The idea that a single police officer can shepherd a flock of 1,000 or more citizens without the aid and support of those citizens is pure foolishness.  Yet, this was the model that dominated law enforcement prior to the community policing movement and remains the status quo in most cities today.

The Civil Rights Revolution

During the 1960s into the 1970s, a confluence of ideas and protests grew exponentially into a full-scale social movement. Anti-war protesters, civil rights activists, and other groups began to demonstrate in order to be heard, and many of these protests evolved into full-scale riots. Overburdened and inadequately prepared police came to symbolize what these groups demanded to change in their government and society. Focusing attention on police policies and practices became an expedient way to draw attention to the need for wider change. Police became the targets of belligerency, which ultimately led police leaders to mindful reflection and analysis.

This use of police agencies and officers as proxies for greater social ills must be accepted and understood.  It seems unfair to individual officers, and perhaps it is in some grand cosmic sense.  As a practical matter, the police are the face of governmental and social oppression, and they must accept it, adapt to it, and ultimately overcome it.  A cursory analysis of what is being said by those protesting reveals that it is not about the life of a single man, but has a broader, deeper meaning.  This book seeks to fix policing in America, but the entirety of our society needs repair when it comes to race relations.

In this era of protest that began what has been called the Civil Rights Revolution, citizens began to take a much larger stake in the development of policies and practices that affected their lives. The general police inability to handle urban unrest in an effective and appropriate way brought demands by civic leaders and politicians for a reappraisal of police practices. Between 1968 and 1973, three Presidential Commissions made extensive recommendations for changes in policing. Agencies of the U.S. Department of Justice, in collaboration with countless police departments throughout the country who were open to innovation, played an important role in stimulating, supporting, and publicizing research and technical assistance programs.  Millions of dollars were spent to facilitate and support criminal justice education (which gave rise to criminal justice programs in American universities). In addition, these Federal agencies fostered a wide array of police training, conferences, technology upgrading, and research.

A number of organizations within the policing field also became committed to improving policing methods in the 1970s.  Among those at the forefront of this movement for constructive change were the Police Foundation, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Urban Sheriffs’ Group of the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  These organizations conducted much of the basic research that led police to reevaluate traditional policing methods.  The Civil Rights Revolution also dramatically changed the landscape of the laws that govern police treatment of citizens, but we will delve deeper into that topic in the section headed Procedural Fairness.

Research on Policing

Two major factors led to a treasure trove of information about what worked and what didn’t work in policing.  The first important factor was a massive surge in federal funding.  This funding spawned criminal justice education in America’s colleges.  This, in turn, resulted in the rapid development of research on policing. Many of the research findings challenged prevailing police practices and beliefs. Federally funded victimization surveys documented the existence of unreported crime. Practitioners had to acknowledge that only a fraction of crimes were being reported, and, therefore, began seeking ways to improve their image and to interact more effectively with the communities they served.

A critically important early research study (that, sadly, is often ignored) was the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment. This field experiment found that randomized patrolling (the most expensive and pervasive model of “police work” to this day) had a limited impact on crime or citizens’ attitudes.  This revelation caused police thought leaders to begin thinking about alternative ways to use their patrol personnel.  Another study by the Kansas City Police Department assessed the efficacy of rapid response by police and concluded that (in most instances) rapid response did not help solve crimes.

The study unveiled that a large portion of serious crimes is not prevented by rapid response times.  While a quick police response can increase the chance of making an on-scene arrest, the time it takes a citizen to report a crime largely predetermines the effect that police response time will have on the apprehension of an offender. This study showed a need for widespread call-screening protocols to distinguish between emergency and non-emergency calls. More economical dispatching of calls could make supplemental time available for patrol officers to interact with the community and engage in proactive measures.

This study led to further research that demonstrated the efficacy of response approaches that ensured that the most exigent calls garnered the highest priority and the most accelerated dispatch. Studies of alternative responses to calls found that community residents would often accept responses other than the immediate arrival of officers if they were well informed about the types of alternatives used.  This is a critical clue—and policy prescription—about information and transparency with the public.  We argue that the public will more often than not cooperate with police methods and objectives when they simply know what’s going on.

What Is Community Policing?

The basic theme of this book is that we already have the tools to fix policing in America.  Community policing was the dominant paradigm of change until the 9/11 terror attacks shifted our thinking away from community building and onto foreign threats to national security.  We argue that community policing really was the cure. It failed to improve things in the past because it was rejected by officers, suppressed by police unions, and poorly implemented.  The bulk of this book is spent underscoring the reasons for those failures and recasting community policing in a way that is viable and sustainable.  Before we can describe a “new” community policing, we first must describe what community policing was.

Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux (1994) suggested that, with the trend of short sound-bite media coverage of events, the policing community must attempt to create a simple and concise definition of community policing.  The logic was that “If we do not define community policing ourselves, then others, who do not understand the concept, will do so.”  They suggested the following definition and called it the “Nine P’s” of community policing:

“Community policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.”

Koch and Bennett (1993) defined community policing in philosophical terms as “A belief or intention held by the police that they should:

1. Consult with and take account of the wishes of the public in determining and evaluating operational policing policy and practice; and

2.  Collaborate with the public whenever possible in solving local problems.

Kelling and Moore (1988) stated that we arrived at an era of community policing with a call to establish (or re-establish in some constituencies) close community relationships.  According to these police thinkers, we have moved through the “political” era (with close police and community relations) and the “reform” era (with professionally neutral and distant relationships).

Ferreira labeled three “models” of community policing.  His organizational strategy relies on his presupposition that there is no single overarching goal of policing, and divergent communities must decide what exactly they want the police to do in their particular neighborhoods.  “Once we understand what role we want our police to fulfill in society we will be able to determine the type and model of policing that will be supported by a specific community.”

Ferreira’s first model of community policing is described as “Crime Prevention and Peace Preservation Policing.”  Based on ideas developed by Lambert in a 1984 paper, he describes this model of policing as being underpinned by the ideology that “if the main task of the police is to prevent crimes and preserve the peace, then the police must secure the active cooperation of the community.  This model also includes the involvement of the community in monitoring and controlling police activities.”

Ferreira’s second model is labeled “Communications Policing.”   He cites Ericson et al. (1993):

“Community policing is best understood as the policing of communications about risk and security in late modern society.”  He goes on to state that “they further argued that the police went through various stages and models in the past: Militarism (order maintenance); Legalism (law officers); Professionalism (public servants); and Communitarianism (community agents). In this last model, police should be agents of consensus by making communities cooperative and bearers of a sense of tradition. This could be achieved through interaction with community members so that they can provide for their own security.”

Ferreira’s third model is categorized as “Community Building Policing.”  In explaining this model, he discusses Alderson’s 1979 work, in which it was proposed that police officers should take social as opposed to legal action as part of community policing. “Police will need to penetrate the community in all its aspects and develop personal relationships at the beat level.”  He goes on to state that “Since communities are organic and changing, flexibility is needed.  He believed that the police must help to build communities and that “some shape must be given to its obligations.”  Since a common good is important for a community, he supported multi-agency involvement in his social engineering approach.  Kelling and Stewart (1989) echoed this sentiment when they stated: “To respond appropriately, police must view their role in neighborhoods as a means of re-establishing the neighboring relationships and strengthening the institutions that make a community competent and able to deal with its problems.”

Why did Community Policing Fail?

As far back as the genesis of community policing, many policing scholars suggested that community policing should not be regarded as a substitute for traditional modes of policing, but rather as a complementary strategy.  We, of course, believe that this does not go far enough.  To truly do the work in healing the rifts between citizens and police, community policing must be a replacement strategy.

It is not fair to brand community policing as a “failure,” at least as a blanket statement.  Some programs did have success.  In his evaluation of the social scientific literature on community policing programs, Ferriera (1996) described numerous “success stories” among the myriad community policing programs launched in the United States and abroad. Criminal justice scholars Wycoff and Skogan (1993) studied the implementation and implications of community policing in Madison, Wisconsin. They found that it was indeed possible for a traditional police department to change.  It was also plausible for officers and the community alike to benefit from strengthened sentiments.

In 1992, The United States National Institute of Justice reported evaluation findings from a community policing collaboration in Seattle, Washington. The report emphasized achievement since crime statistics showed a dramatic improvement in the quality of life of citizens.  McElroy and his associates evaluated the Community Patrol Officer Program in New York City and identified several grounds for optimism about the future. However, they also found some causes for concern.  There was a general lack of community involvement, shortcomings in implementation, and a dearth of command support.   These glimpses of effectiveness were not restricted to the United States.  Bayley (1989) evaluated community policing in Singapore.  He hailed it as a “model” that would serve other police organizations well and called it “one of the most far-reaching examples of police reform in the world today.”

A community policing pilot project that started in Chicago in 1993 was evaluated following two years of operation. The findings were encouraging. It was found that perceptions of a crime problem had decreased significantly among citizens, and both robbery and thefts declined.  In addition, residents had more positive attitudes towards the police.  Police supervisors participating in the program were more positive than their counterparts about the implications of community policing.   Similar programs were examined by scholars throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.  Many of these were not comprehensive community policing programs, and some of them had little or no observable effect.  Frequently, however, poor research designs that botched the test of the consequent effectiveness of the programs have been blamed.

The plurality of the empirical evidence seems to suggest that community policing, at least in some forms, can actually work, at least to some degree.  The consensus among scholars in the field is that the philosophy holds real promise.  In stark contrast, more recent literature seems to reflect the consensus that it has ultimately failed.  It falls upon the community of policing scholars (and policymakers) to explain this paradox.

Problems of Implementation

Policing experts began to worry from the very beginning that community policing strategies would difficult to implement successfully.  A major concern was that this would be a massive change in how policing was done in America, and nothing like it had ever been attempted.  A major impediment was the self-image of “law enforcement officers” who view themselves as “crime fighters.”  Anything not directly related to “catching bad guys” would be considered outside of the scope of “real” police work.  Even before community policing started to be seriously discussed, many officers regarded other types of police functions as “nuisance demands” for service.  In asking police departments to switch over to community policing, we were asking them to dismantle their entire culture and build a new one around alien concepts.

To my way of thinking, community policing did fail.  A significant reason for this was that it lacked an agreed-upon operational definition.  It has traditionally been defined in philosophical terms, with different philosophical goals.  Simply put, as a philosophy, early attempts at community policing were plagued by a lack of action verbs.  Officers were told how to think about their jobs and their communities, but there was little in the way of specific actions to take to achieve those overly general goals.

Another reason that community policing failed is the very nature of the police subculture in the United States.  I have long suspected that the relevant aspects of this subculture are nearly universal, but lack an empirical basis for this supposition. In other words, community policing failed in large part, not because of its merits, but because it was openly resisted at first, and was later not adequately implemented by line officers.  It was quickly abandoned when the first opportunity arose to do so.

The remainder of this book will seek to address these three major concerns.  First, we will examine the lack of a firm theoretical basis on which to rest both conceptual and operational definitions of the key constructs that make up community policing.  In that vein, we will proffer a revised definition of community policing.  Second, we will address the fundamental incompatibility of the dominant police culture, and propose ways to change that effete culture to make it compatible with the implementation of modern community policing.  Finally, we will offer modes of practice, based on the new theoretical perspective, that can logically move community policing from an ephemeral philosophy to a well-grounded social scientific theory, and ultimately to police practice.   We have tailored Partnership Theory as our theoretical basis, and have modified the Community Strengths Perspective to translate the theoretical underpinnings of the new community policing into best practices that can be implemented at all levels of police departments.

Criticisms of Community Policing

While many policing experts still hold that community policing has great value and potential, the philosophy has not been without its detractors.  Ferreira (1996) noted that since order could only be maintained by a community itself, the police alone cannot do it.  Although the police officers need the consent of citizens to be effective, in many instances, that consent is not given.  He thought that if the police then change back to law enforcement to get the job done, then the community will feel that community policing was abandoned.  Waddington (1984) felt that community policing was nothing more than a restoration of the “bobby on the beat” concept of policing because it was less impersonal than the officer “flashing past” in a police car. Waddington (1984) concluded that community policing was a “romantic delusion” because it was not based on “the world we have lost” as some supporters are claiming.  According to him, there was never a time when the police officer was everyone’s friend, and there will never be such a time in the future.

Ferreira’s discussion of Waddington’s (1984) work suggests the presence of a “Romantic Fallacy of Community Policing.”  We agree with this argument, in as much as it points to a social stratification in which minorities and the poor have never been on good terms with the police.  While these comments were applied by the author to describe conditions in the United Kingdom, there is no reason to believe that the American experience was any healthier.  Given American’s closer temporal proximity to institutionalized racism and intolerance, it is likely that the effects of social stratification on police-community relations are even more acute in the United States.  It must be remembered that the degree and nature of racial tensions in the United States vary widely from community to community.

We agree that Americans can never return to the style of policing depicted in the “Andy Griffith Show.” This is because those days never occurred unless only the white middle-class majority that existed at the time is examined.  This tendency to develop a generalized community-policing template is fraught with peril for this very reason.  The real-world application of the community policing philosophy must be tailored to each individual neighborhood if it is to be successful.  Rather than practice templates, those in the business of giving advice to police departments better serve those departments by providing a philosophical and theoretical framework for police practice.

The Call for Partnerships

To foreshadow the most important theme in the balance of this book, we make a brief mention of the idea of partnerships.  As Jones (1996) suggests, “Police departments must begin to form true partnerships with an informed and involved public.  Law Enforcement agencies must also be proactive in their efforts to regain and increase public confidence.  While police continue to grapple with rising disrespect and disobedience, the challenge of creating real partnerships with communities could produce positive, even profound, outcomes.”  He further speculates that embracing these ideas will provide  “…results will be improved public safety, effective community liaisons, improved skills for resolving community and cultural disputes, thereby ensuring every individual the basic principles of human dignity, equity, and social justice.”

Why Do We Need COP?

There are myriad reasons that police leaders often agree with the public consensus that it is past time to reform the policies and practices of police organizations in America.  These reasons are rooted in the history of the American experiment with democracy in general, and specifically with the history of policing.  Also, we find ample reasons underscored in the policing research conducted since the 1970s.  Further reasons for change can be found in an examination of how our society has evolved over time, and how neighborhood dynamics have shifted, especially in our urban centers.  Policing strategies that worked in the past are not likely to remain effective nor even tolerated.  The broader goals of enhanced wellbeing, public safety, and the security of individuals have not been widely achieved.

Many in the policing professions agree that there is a pressing need to make changes to curb various crises in American communities.  As neighborhoods and broader civil discourse has evolved over time, so too has the frequency and modality of crime and disorder.  Perennial police problems such as illegal drugs, robberies, burglaries, and murder remain.  Our focus is on large police departments and urban centers. Still, it is essential to note that suburban and rural communities have not remained unscathed.

The social fabric of America has yet to come unwoven. Still, it has been cut apart and stitched together in new ways as our society and the economy have evolved.  Households cannot thrive on a single income, and two-income families are not the norm.  Single parents struggle to raise children and still meet their economic obligations.  Schools, churches, and other public support systems have failed to meet the demands.  Governments at all levels are having trouble balancing budgets.  History will recall the COVID-19 pandemic response in America as the most significant transfer of wealth in United States history.  That wouldn’t be so terrible if it were not in the wrong direction.  The wealthiest individuals and corporations garnered much more wealth, power, and dominance, while small, neighborhood businesses and the poor working class were financially devastated.

The federal government has the power to “print” unlimited amounts of money, so Uncle Sam can’t go broke in any real sense.  This is where all of the COVID-19 stimulus money came from—the Federal Reserve simply added a lot of zeros to the digital ledger.  The vast majority of this new money flowed into the coffers of America’s largest businesses, and from there into the investment accounts of America’s most affluent citizens.  Very little of that money flowed into the “real economy,” and small businesses and the vast majority of working-class citizens experienced an exceptional economic hardship.  This financial hardship spreads like cancer.  Once it affects workers, it starts to touch the tax base of cities, counties, and states.  This underscores the tailored approach advocated by community policing because community dynamics are different between communities and within communities over time.

Outcries of civil unrest underscore the fact that Wall Street may be saved by the federal government, but Main Street is in dire straits.  Local government, community leaders, and police departments must recognize the fact that the bulk of the responsibility for keeping neighborhoods safe and falls on them. For too long, America has accepted a dichotomy where “law and order” are at odds with “liberty and justice.”  The flawed logic derived from this binary thinking has resulted in accepting the idea that we must “dominate” those that don’t strictly adhere to the law (regardless of their reasons) by any means necessary.   The flip side of that coin is that we must dismantle the entire criminal justice system if we are to prevent the abuse of government power.  Community policing, when properly designed, embraced, and implemented, promises a middle-ground approach that everyone can live with, regardless of their political leanings.

Communities must make a unified stand against serious crime, violence, and disregard for public safety.  Angry and disillusioned citizens don’t have the resources or the will to achieve this by themselves.  If radical change is to happen in American policing, then it will have, at least at the beginning, the bulk of that work done by the police themselves.  Police agencies must dedicate themselves to helping build more robust, self-sufficient communities.  Such communities have a higher quality of life, and they also have lower levels of crime and disorder.  Rightly conceived, community policing is democracy in action.  In a real democracy, everyone has a voice.  Governments, civic leaders, business leaders, public agencies, non-governmental organizations—all stakeholders—must be given a voice and concurrent responsibility.  In our anger, it is easy to demand “change” in policing.  It is a more complicated matter to specify what those changes will be, and how broadly those changes will extend.

It has long been suggested that community policing can play a vital role in the way all services (both government and private) are provided at the neighborhood level.  To become a real community policing agency, police departments have to make fundamental changes in both their structure and management.  We add to this list of necessary changes the idea that police departments must fundamentally change their philosophy and culture.  A key difference between community policing and traditional policing is a broad expansion of the goals of policing.  Crime suppression is a valid and vital goal of policing, but it cannot remain the sole purpose.  Neighborhood disorder and quality of life are critically important issues in their own right, regardless of the validity of theories that link “incivilities” to serious crime.  These must be part of the expanded role of the police.

Ironically, the crime-fighting emphasis of most modern police departments has been a self-defeating philosophy.  Analyses of crime statistics have shown time and time again that this emphasis as a minimal effect on reducing crime.  It is also important to note that the militaristic idea of centralized management strictures has served to isolate individual officers from the communities that they are supposed to help.  This isolation functions to hamper crime-fighting efforts.  The most salient example of this is probably the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program.  This venerable old program seeks to compile crime rates for the United States by seeking the voluntary cooperation of police departments (and sheriff’s departments) from all across the country.  Despite the hardships imposed by decentralized policing in American, the Bureau has done a pretty good job of getting agencies to participate.

The problem with UCR data is that it reports crimes known to the police.   Criminal justice thinkers have long recognized that there is a direct correlation between the seriousness of an offense and the rate at which people report occurrences of those offenses to the police.  If someone steals $5 from you, you aren’t likely to call 911 and demand an investigation. If you see someone murdered, you will almost assuredly call the police.   What is less well known is that certain people are much less likely to report crimes to the police, even serious ones.  In some American neighborhoods, no one talks to the police about anything, period.  Without strong ties to the communities that they serve, officers cannot gather the information that leads to crime clearances, and, very often, they aren’t even aware that a crime has been committed.  Almost no crime is ever solved without some information provided to police by community members.

The core of healthy relationships that result in the flow of information to police is trust.  In our communities of color, this trust is often lacking.  In these communities where conflict exists, and relationships with police are historically strained, building that trust will take herculean efforts and lots of time.  Community policing doesn’t offer a magic pill that will cure this damage that took decades to create. Still, it does provide a framework within which it can take place.  If community members can be convinced to trust the police to genuinely care about community perspectives and problems, then change can start to take place. Neighborhood residents will start to feel that the police are part of the community and not an occupying force to be reckoned with.

Did It Work?

The San Diego Police Department spearheaded several pioneering research studies during the 1970s. These studies consisted of an evaluation of one-officer versus two-officer patrol cars, an assessment of the relationship between field interrogations of suspicious persons and crime suppression, and a community-oriented policing (COP) program assessment, which is generally considered the first scientific study of community policing.

The COP program required that officers become knowledgeable about their beats through what were called “beat-profiling” activities, in which officers examined the demographics and call histories of their beat areas. Patrol officers were also required to produce “tailored patrol” strategies.  These were designed to address the types of crime and public concerns suggested by their profiling endeavors.

Patrol officers involved in the COP project determined that random patrol was not as crucial as previously believed. They also concluded that establishing stronger ties with community members was, in fact, crucial. Also, the project showed that positive interaction with community members could improve the attitudes of officers about their work and toward the communities they served.  These positive interactions could also incentivize officers to formulate innovative solutions to complex community problems.

Numerous findings from this study have important implications for contemporary community policing initiatives. Importantly, by getting to know people, the officers were able to access prized information concerning criminal activity as well as the perpetrators of that activity. They were also able to get a realistic appraisal of the needs of the community and their requirements for police services. The study also revealed a need to rethink the issue of shift rotation. Officers, it was shown, need to be assigned to permanent shifts and permanent beats if they are to meaningfully have involvement in community activities.

Also, the COP project evaluation demonstrated the critical role that sergeants and lieutenants (mid-level management) play in program development and delivery. In fact, it was this failure to include supervisors in training and design efforts that ultimately led to the collapse of the COP program in that city. This brief analysis of the COP program in San Diego reveals a pattern that can be found throughout the research literature: Community policing failed not because the underlying idea was flawed, but because it was poorly planned, poorly implemented, poorly executed, or some combination of those factors.

Unmet Promises

The phrases “community policing” and “community-oriented policing” (COP) have been used in the political arena since the 1980s. Many police departments have some mention of the concept as part of their mission statement. Skogan (2005) suggested that the harsh reality is that the overwhelming majority of these agencies did not, in fact, implement community policing in any meaningful way. It may be politically correct to mention community policing in the department’s mission statement. Still, without further details, the concept cannot shape behavior. Paying “lip service” to the idea has weakened its credibility as a bona fide strategy for police reform.

Several high profile police leaders participated in numerous Presidential Commissions during the 1960s and 1970s. They also contributed their time, expertise, and effort to the police organizations that were working to bring about improvements in policing. Sadly, many of these progressive police leaders found themselves isolated when they tried to integrate this spirit of change into their own departments. The materialization of COP was impeded by centralist management procedures and traditional operating assumptions.

Many veteran officers (especially managers) found it difficult to accept this assault on the practices and procedures that had always guided their careers. Policing has always been a conservative profession. Not conservative in the political sense, but in the sense that tradition is highly valued and that change is suspect. Thus, COP advocates should not have been surprised when these philosophical and procedural novelties were often defeated by traditional policies and that the visionaries were frequently suspected of being manipulated by outsiders. Another common accusation was that the innovators were pursuing their personal career agendas at the expense of the organization.

Positive change in America’s police forces is not without hope. Many police executives have realized that it is no longer sufficient to think in terms of only making superficial to traditional leaderships and operational procedures. The challenge then, as well as the current problem of police leaders, is to meet the increasing and multifaceted demands for service with more effective delivery approaches that at once optimize staff and resources, encourage innovative thinking, and that directly involve the community.

The past police response to community dissatisfaction (especially among people of color) holds many lessons for future interventions. As journalist Terrell Jermaine Starr (2015) stated, “Politicians from President Obama to Chris Christie have been touting community policing. But it’s a distraction from the real problem.” He goes on to assert that the real issue is a lack of accountability. In response to the mistaken view that community policing necessitates more officers on the street, he states that “… [I]n communities like mine, the predominately black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, putting more officers on patrol doesn’t lessen the chance of police brutality — it worsens it. As long as police know their badges empower them to operate with near-impunity, we don’t need more encounters with them; we need fewer.”

To combat this rift between police and communities, President Barack Obama issued an executive order appointing an 11-member Task Force on 21st Century Policing to respond to several serious incidents between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect. According to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), “the President wanted a quick but thorough response that would begin the process of healing and restore community trust” (COPS Office, p. 1). The objectives of the Task Force were made clear by the President: “The task force shall, consistent with applicable law, identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust” (COPS Office, 2015, p. 1).

The President’s Taskforce

The task force did an impressive job of identifying specific issues and practices that were problematic and made a total of 59 recommendations with 92 accompanying action items. According to the Implementation Guide (which was quickly published after the Task Force’s final report was released), “The task force insisted that the recommendations be anchored in measurable and behavioral change and not in abstract theory around policing” (COPS Office, 2015, p. 1). We believe that this insistence was well-intentioned but ultimately misguided. While the underlying logic is not detailed in the report or the implementation guide, we consider that this may have been a backlash against previous theoretical perspectives that failed to garner any evidence of empirical validity. Such theories misdirected police efforts for years, squandered many millions of dollars, tied up a vast amount of human resources, and were used to justify unethical practices in the name of fixing broken windows. Wilson and Kelling (1982) used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within communities, linking disorder and incivility to later occurrences of serious crime.

Cultural Transformation Theory

To understand the need for and process of transforming the current police culture, we use Riane Eisler’s cultural transformation theory (Eisler, 1987). Cultural transformation theory was developed in response to Eisler’s need to understand the domination side of the social organization she encountered as a young child. Her personal experience with the domination model of social organization led her to seek an understanding of fairness and peace and how it could be obtained. Therefore, she embarked on a life of research into prehistory and human history. As her knowledge of justice and peace grew, she gained insight into structures that are applied to social organizations. This idea led her to conclude that organizations need to re-evaluate things using a holistic lens. In the instance of policing, that would mean seeing police organizations as complete systems rather than seeing them as individual parts. In employing a holistic lens, she was able to see alternative views to the conquest, the pursuit of supremacy, and the assumption that humans are innately violent (Frimoth, 2013).

This understanding ultimately led to the development of a theory that provides a way to transcend traditional social categories that lead to binary choices such as us/them, right/left, and police/citizens. To this end, cultural transformation theory is about the two primary ways in which societies tend to be organized, domination or partnership. In recognizing that organizations tend toward domination or partnership models, it was possible to ascertain which communities were on the domination side of the spectrum, maintained through fear and control, and which ones were on the partnership side of the spectrum, based on mutual respect, accountability, and shared beliefs.

The current police culture is primarily based on a domination model. Therefore, we recommend moving towards a partnership model that is more culturally relevant and attuned to America’s increasingly diverse communities. We believe that a partnership model of policing is a promising model and provides a holistic way to understand community policing. It requires new ways of organizing and provides a means to understand the importance of culture and genuine community problems while focusing on the way situations are framed. It also requires an understanding of the impact those frames have on defining neighborhood conditions. It underscores the interconnectedness of things and conditions while acknowledging limits, thereby establishing boundaries that are critical to understanding different communities.

In short, we believe that users of a partnership model of policing should be capable of:

  • Understanding neighborhood conditions in context (both current and historical);
  • Appreciating multiple stakeholders and thus perspectives;
  • Addressing and clarifying questions of purpose;
  • Distinguishing what constitutes problems in communities, how communities define themselves, and why police intervention is needed;
  • Facilitating action that is purposeful and which can be judged as systemically desirable and culturally feasible;
  • Developing a means to orchestrate understandings and practices across space and time in a manner that continues to address public safety concerns when it is unclear at the start as to what would constitute an improvement (i.e., adaptively manage a co-evolutionary dynamic); and
  • Institutionalizing on-going use of the approach in a manner that does not trivialize the premises on which it is built (adapted from Ison, 2010).

The Domination Model

Eisler (1987, 2013) used the term domination model to describe societies that orient toward domination. She stated that such communities are maintained using authoritarian control in both the family and the state. They rank males over females and rank stereotypically “masculine” traits and activities such as control and conquest higher than stereotypically “feminine” ones such as nurture and nonviolence. These societies are further characterized by a high level of socially accepted, even idealized, abuse and violence to maintain rigid rankings (Eisler, 1987; 2014).

This model places police over the community and expects a certain (often elevated) amount of violence to occur. In doing so, it ignores communities’ historical contributions and celebrates police conquest over communities or outside groups. Eisler’s (1987) description of domination societies has also been applied to organizations using force and coercion and justifying their use throughout the organization. In a domination system, there are many dimensions of aggressive actions. Under the domination paradigm, violence is seen as natural, even divinely ordained (Frimoth 2013). Ultimately, in this belief system, there are two options: You either dominate or you are dominated. Therefore, the war between the police and the community is inevitable. The central belief is there is no alternative (Eisler, 2013).

The Partnership Paradigm

The partnership model represents communities that exhibit democracy in both the communities and governments (as well as the equality of males and females). It places a high value on stereotypically “feminine” traits and activities such as empathy and caregiving. Obviously, this paradigm is contrary to the “machismo” of the police culture. It will require a long and challenging battle to install. The critical flaw of the police culture is that it is a culture of domination. That term is not often used in discourse on policing in American, but we do see instances of it. We need to look no further than the Twitter posts of the President of the United States. For example: “D.C. had no problems last night,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. “Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.” If we are to fix policing in the United States, it is this pattern—this mindset—of “overwhelming force” and “domination” that must be dismantled.

Our society tends to reject extreme violence that results in lawless death. Under the current paradigm, however, there is a low level of socially accepted abuse and violence. This does not exist in a partnership paradigm because they are not needed to maintain rigid top-down rankings of domination (Eisler, 2002). Overall, partnership societies are more concerned with linking rather than ranking. They use hierarchies, but what Eisler (1987) calls “hierarchies of actualization” (p. 106) instead of hierarchies of domination. In hierarchies of actualization, accountability, respect, and benefits flow from the bottom up as well as from the top down. Power is used to empower rather than to disempower (Potter, 2010).

The partnership model consists of several interactive, mutually supporting components.

Democratic and egalitarian structures, with flexible hierarchies in which power is viewed not as power over but as power to and power with. In other words, it is the kind of power that is empowering rather than disempowering, as inspiring and supportive rather than controlling. Such a view requires an equal partnership between police and communities. This requires qualities and behaviors–in both police and the community–that are non-violent, nurturing and caregiving in nature, and that are considered “unmanly” in the dominator model, be assigned high value.

No cultural acceptance of Abuse and Violence. This does mean that violence does not exist. Still, it does mean taking away the institutional approval and seeking alternative solutions to force and violence as a means to police communities. Inherent in this are beliefs about human nature that support empathic and mutually respectful relations. This means recognizing that violence and cruelty are human possibilities but are not considered inevitable and healthy, much less moral.

Eisler noted that cultures that orient toward the partnership end of the partnership/domination continuum also transcend conventional categories such as religious/secular and police/community (Eisler, 2013). According to Eisler (1987), cultures are on a continuum between pure domination and pure partnership; additionally, they may move closer to one or the other extreme in response to forces in history. Eisler believed that looking at cultural evolution through the lens of the partnership/domination continuum provided promise for a more equitable and peaceful future. This makes it possible to see that we are surrounded by a movement toward family and social structures that are closer to a partnership template despite significant resistance (Eisler, 2013).

Furthermore, cultural transformation theory offers a conceptual framework that is not unilinear (containing one path to societal change). It does not move from the primitive to the civilized. Instead, it is multilinear (multiple paths to societal change), which recognizes that things do not always progress in an orderly fashion. Instead, it accepts that systems evolve in their way by adapting to diverse environments. Specifically, it posits that the partnership model and domination model are two primary attractors for social systems; that movement from one to the other does not happen linearly.  Times of disequilibrium offer an opportunity for fundamental cultural transformation. I can think of no other time in recent American history that meets this requirement of “disequilibrium” in our larger society. The time is now to reinvent the police culture.

In fact, the current unrest in policing in America represents an example of an opportunity brought on by disequilibrium. Because there are clear problems in community policing and a pervasive lack of trust of police in African American communities, there is a need to move law enforcement administration’s thinking from domination to partnership when engaging in community policing. This book provides a way for law enforcement to shift toward a multilinear policing paradigm and to train officers to assess the communities they patrol from a partnership perspective, understanding that the way to evolve in their relationships with African Americans (and other disenfranchised groups) in their communities is by adapting to more diverse environmental factors.

Many commentators have suggested that police alone cannot fix things and build partnerships with communities. The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder underscores the fact that anger, fear, and mistrust are rampant in minority communities. A shift to a viable, sustainable community policing model will require that governments and police agencies bear the brunt of the burden, at least until the anger and mistrust subside to some degree.

The 8 Pillars of the New Community Policing

Based on the theoretical perspective described above, we have expanded the Four Cornerstones of Community Transformation Theory (Eisler, 2010) into what we call the Eight Pillars of the New Community Policing:

      1. Partnerships
      2. Problem-Solving
      3. Procedural Fairness
      4. Proscribed Scope
      5. Protection
      6. Professionalism
      7. Purpose
      8. Principles

The genesis of the idea of recasting the theory for a particular application was the work of De Azevedo Hanks (2015), in which she developed “The 8 C’s of the Partnership Model of Family Organization.” Our restatement leaves the substance of her theory intact but customizes its tenets for application to policing. We wish to note that what follows is built on previous work. The glaring deficiencies in the initial formulation of community policing were mostly addressed by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing in both the Final Report (President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015) and the Implementation Guide (COPS Office, 2015). Our contribution to the field is to provide a theoretical foundation and a structural framework that rests on that theoretical base.

Changing Police Organizations

To adopt the partnership model and install community policing as a replacement for traditional policing within America’s police departments, those departments will need to master new responsibilities and adopt more flexible management styles. While this book takes the position that patrol is an overrated function of police departments, most line officers are assigned to a division by that name.  In other words, there is no way to talk about front-line police officers without referring to them as “patrol.”  When we discuss patrol officers within the context of community policing, we mean the rank-and-file police officers that have frequent contact with citizens and assign little value to driving around in cars all shift.  These front-line officers have traditionally been afforded little respect and status within police departments.  This is in contrast to the importance of the tasks that they perform.  Unlike with traditional policing, community policing flips the usual military command structure on its head and mandates that initiative, responsibility, and decision-making authority are found with front-line officers.  In other words, officers belong to a particular neighborhood, and police issues in that neighborhood belong to that officer.

This responsibility comes with a requirement that officers be given an unprecedented level of discretion and decision-making power.  Decisions as to what should be done and how it should be done fall on individual officers at the neighborhood level, a concept that is truly alarming to midlevel managers in traditional policing organizations.  Of course, this does not suggest that officers are free to set up fiefdoms and act without consequence.  These officers with “boots on the ground” are in constant contact with the ultimate stakeholders—neighborhood residents—and are in the best position to hear their concerns and tailor solutions to the neighborhood problems that residents actually care about.  This level of autonomy is why we are so adamant about very rigorous selection and training policies, and why we insist that officers need to be assigned to specific neighborhoods for protracted periods.  Suppose the organizational structure of a police department doesn’t change and the way officers are supervised does not change. In that case, it is a clear sign that a department is just paying “lip service” to community policing and has not, in reality, adopted the philosophy.

In a true community policing organization, the role of management shifts dramatically.  They don’t generally make decisions, but rather spend the majority of their time facilitating the community problem-solving efforts of officers on the streets.  Under community policing, command (management) is not centralized, and decision flow up from the bottom instead of down from the top.  When a department truly adopts community policing, it moves to empower two groups.  It moves to empower the community it serves, and it moves to empower the street-level officers that serve those communities.   Neighborhood residents do the setting of police priorities in neighborhoods, not command staff at police headquarters or men in suits at City Hall.  Police leaders guide and facilitate, they don’t dominate.  This is contrary to the domination model of the military hierarchy that is implicit in traditional policing.

A critical element of providing this level of autonomy is the system used to evaluate police officer performance.  All public service employees must be evaluated to make sure that they are earning the trust and salary that taxpayers are providing.  Traditional policing looks at things like the number of tickets issued and the number of arrests made.  Community policing demands a more difficult but more rewarding approach.  Community policing forces departments to look at things like how satisfied neighborhood residents are with the officer’s performance, how good of a job they are doing at identifying neighborhood problems, and how good of a job they are doing at solving those problems.

Personalized Policing

The idea that community policing requires that neighborhoods and neighborhood officers need to be empowered suggests not only a shift in the way organizations are organized and managed, but how police services are delivered.  Community policing can easily turn into a public relations stunt that seeks to improve public perceptions of the police, but without actually changing anything.  A clear indication that this is happening is when the activities officers engage in are uniform across a major city.  At one level, there are systematic problems that can generally be handled in the same way.  When someone is murdered, special homicide investigators and crime scene units can serve an entire city.  But when it comes to basic patrol functions, the concerns about neighborhood problems that residents have should dictate the police response.  For the community policing philosophy to work in everyday practice, police-citizen interactions must become more personal and less bureaucratic.  A neighborhood’s officers must be known and trusted to do the right thing to protect the interests of residents.

It is important to note that personalized policing still requires policing.  Many of the detractors of community policing see it as a way for lazy officers to wander around chatting all day and not really doing anything.  Personalized policing means that the officers assigned to a neighborhood are actively identifying problems that are of neighborhood concern, identifying solutions to those problems, and actively pursuing those solutions.  When a department seeks to evaluate the performance of individual officers and the department itself, citizen satisfaction, citizen fear of crime, and actual crime rates should be examined.  Community policing does not at all require police to ignore crime.  It requires them to consider crime suppression as a duty, and not the duty.  It requires them to suppress crime in a way that residents find acceptable and equitable.

[ Chapter 1: Is Policing Broken? |  Chapter 3: Community Partnerships ]

This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License

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