U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

COPS: Innovations in Policing in American Heartlands

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2001
101 pages
This report describes changes in community-oriented policing in eight law enforcement agencies that participated in a locally initiated research project sponsored by the National Institute of Justice in the late 1990's.
The report describes a variety of community-oriented policing activities that departments implemented at different stages of development. It also provides information about factors and strategies that helped move departments to function at progressively higher stages of community-oriented policing services. The report is structured around five progressive stages of departmental priorities. In stage 1, police activities were primarily driven by demands made by individuals who called to request emergency police response or other non-emergency services; community crime prevention activities were separate from regular patrol and were conducted by civilians or officers with special assignments. In stage 2, police activities focused on reducing high rates of particular crimes in specific neighborhoods. In stage 3, police activities were partially shaped in meetings with neighborhood groups, with attention to collaborative projects that addressed specific local concerns. In stage 4, police activities were planned as part of cross-agency/community-wide coalition plans of action to prevent crime and delinquency. In stage 5, police activities were an outgrowth of integrated community-based approaches for designing more productive and economically sound uses of neighborhoods and redirecting individual or group activities that presented a high potential for harm to people or property. The study found that major advances in implementing community-oriented policing have occurred in small-sized and medium-sized cities as well as rural counties. Four years of experience with "heartland" departments suggests that large cities have just as much or more to learn about community policing from small-sized and medium-sized cities and rural counties as the converse; if the chief or sheriff is not committed to change, then it is not likely to occur; launching community-oriented policing services with a small cadre of officers can ultimately result in as large an impact on a department's mode of policing as restructuring the entire department at the start; although formulas for limited problem-solving projects can be taught to officers in classrooms, experiential on-the-job learning is much more valuable over the long term for first-line officers and supervisors, as well as for the communities they are policing. Finally, there is no one right way to implement community policing. The design and effectiveness of an approach will depend on the characteristics of communities and the teams of officers and community members involved. 24 notes and 17 suggested readings

Date Published: September 1, 2001