Community Policing and Problem-Oriented Policing

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Although many may find community policing and problem-oriented policing to fall in the same category, there is (surprisingly) a difference between the two. For one, community policing has many definitions. For some, it means instituting foot and bicycle patrols and doing acts pertaining to the ideal bond between police officers and their community. While for others it means maintaining order and cleaning up neighborhoods in desperate need of repair (Dunham & Alpert, 2005). However, an idyllic definition of community policing is altering the traditional definition of crime control to community problem-solving and promising to transform the way police do their job. Within the past two decades, there has been much research on community policing. Researchers have found that there are four dimensions of community policing: philosophical, strategic, tactical, and organizational. These dimensions make up most of the common elements of community policing (Dunham & Alpert, 2005).

The philosophical dimension (which is arguably the most significant) pertains to the central ideas and beliefs that inspire community policing. The three aspects that make up the philosophical dimension—citizen input, broad police function, and personal service—come together to form a perspective a free society in which citizens have open access to police organizations and have a significant input on policies. This input gives people and their communities an opportunity to influence how their officers patrol their neighborhoods. The methods to achieving the input vary from agency to agency, yet they all want to ensure that the input is reliable. Some police agencies use systematic and periodic community surveys, while others may use open forums and town meetings (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994). The second aspect of a broad police function emphasizes on the general perspective of police function rather than a narrow focus on law enforcement. And with personal service, the third aspect, community policing is aimed towards overcoming the most common complaints that the public have about all government employees (not just police officers). Officers who usually communicate with citizens in a friendly, open and personal manner are more likely to gain trust and confidence than officers who act in a narrow and bureaucratic manner.

All three of the other community policing dimensions each have three aspects as well. The strategic dimension includes re-oriented operations that recommend less reliance on the patrol car but more face-to-face interactions; the geographic focus that shifts the essential unit of patrol accountability from time of day to place; and prevention emphasis which supports better use of the officers’ time—free time should be used for problem solving and citizen interaction (Dunham & Alpert, 2005).

The tactical dimension explains ideas, philosophies, and strategies into programs, practices, and behaviors (Greene and Mastrofski, 1988). This is done through positive interaction, partnerships, and problem solving (Three P’s). The actions officers take in this dimension relate more to interaction than anything else. Some examples include talking to people on the street or speaking in school classrooms, participating in crime prevention programs or youth-oriented educational programs (D.A.R.E), and knowing the correct steps to solving a problem (identify, analyze, search for alternative solutions, and implement and assess a response to the problem).

Lastly is the organizational dimension. It is here where structure, management and information collaborate to form a single aspect that affects any kind of implementation of a response to a problem. The structure element looks at various methods of restructuring police agencies in order to support the other dimensions, while management concerns leadership and supervision that highlights on organizational culture (Dunham & Alpert, 2005). Information solely consists of the...
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