Community Policing & Problem Solving
The COPS Era, with a few exceptions is a series of missed attempts for addressing America’s frustration over the divisive period of the 1960s. The farce that it was something revolutionary by branding it as neighborhood-based failed to convince cops or communities.
Ask any cop what are the central principles of Community Oriented Policing. Next, apologize to her for wasting her time. The law enforcement hierarchy rushed to interject a model of community involvement but failed due to many reasons, not of the least were poor research, planning and implementation.
While today you would be lucky to find a senior leader who knows that the COP model involves more than shaking kids’ hands at neighborhood events, there were promising developments born out of the effort.
A designated cadre of officers having the autonomy to identify problems, analyze them, offer solutions and implement programs to address the problem is a very proactive ideology. The reality is, it runs contrary to the historical reactionary role of police models. Most importantly, administrators do not willingly surrender institutional control to street-level decision makers, so it continues to falter.
The ideology of the COP model is identified with four themes; formality, alternative strategies, prevention focus, and organizational. These four areas form the backbone of the community policing paradigm shift from the traditional role of post-incident response. These four foundational principles failed to engrain the issues into the policing conscience.
The best opportunity for the COP model catching traction was the massive amounts of federal funds made available through the Omnibus Crime Act of 1994. It provided for the hiring and training of new and current officers in the principles of COP. When the funding stopped, so did the momentum.
Counter Terrorism model
Since the launch of the COP model, research and evaluation of the programs have shown a positive trend in improving relationships between the community and police. It is believed that the same principles applied to create an effective COP program can be transitioned into a strategy by local law enforcement for detecting and deterring terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD. The theoretical policy of community policing was already established and more effective than re-inventing the wheel.
The idea of adapting the COP model to Counter Terrorism (CT) initiatives seemed like a positive forward movement. The basic tenants of fostering community relationships, utilizing alternative methods of policing such as foot and bicycle patrols promoted the reciprocating relationship desired for decades. This embedding officers into communities was believed to build a pipeline of information about national security threats.
Problem Oriented Policing model
A variation of the COP model is the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) concept that teaches officers to be selective in their targeting of problems. Once identifying that an actual issue exists, officers have the autonomy to develop analytical evaluations for best resolving the issues. Once approved, they are empowered to implement the solution.
POP officers do not respond to citizen complaints in a reactionary fashion. They are absolutely proactive in rooting out a community’s social harms. They are also taught to evaluate the consequences of their work upon completion for ensuring that the original issue was resolved. The POP model remains active in current police applications.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is another community-based strategy born out of the COP Era. It attempts to curb crime through the use of resources like controlling natural access, providing natural surveillance and fostering territorial behavior. CPTED works between the community and police to increase observations of high-risk targets in a community for potential criminal activity. These same surveillance relationships can be focused on the prevention of terrorism and WMD incidents.
Other Adaptions for COP model
A final effort for incorporating the COP principles into community involves the very neighborhoods served through citizen academies and educational programs. Utilizing the eyes and ears of a community will better enhance the first responder’s role assigned to local law enforcement. True and sincere partnerships between police and communities may finally deliver the relationships desired.