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Inchoate Nature of Community Policing: Differences Between Community Policing and Traditional Police Officers

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 579-601
Date Published
September 2004
23 pages

This study compared community policing officers with traditional motorized patrol officers along several dimensions.


Community policing, while laudable in its principles, has been implemented unevenly and incompletely in law enforcement agencies across the Nation. Some officers are assigned to community policing roles while the majority of officers are kept in their traditional, motorized patrol functions. A review of the research literature suggests that there may be distinct differences between traditional and community police officers in terms of police style, job satisfaction, and attitudes toward policing. The current study drew on evaluation data from the Philadelphia Police Department’s COPS AHEAD program (a community policing program) to compare a group of 162 COPS AHEAD rookie and veteran officers with a group of 113 rookie and veteran motorized officers. Participants completed questionnaires measuring attitudes toward police work, police style and functioning, perceived policing impact, and job satisfaction. Drawing on the tenets of work-redesign theory, the author expected to find a clear link between job assignment, job satisfaction, and subsequent job performance. Results of regression analyses indicated that community policing officers were more likely to make use of departmental information sources and reported greater personal impact on their community than did motorized officers. Motorized officers expressed negative attitudes toward community policing models, however no differences between officers were found with regard to attitudes toward traditional police work, such as the importance of response time and making arrests. Finally, no difference between officers was observed in the frequency of conducting traditional police activities, such as making arrests. The findings suggest that there are more similarities than differences between community policing and motorized officers, although community policing officer reports higher levels of job satisfaction. Future research should focus on why community policing has not been adopted as a true philosophical shift in policing. Tables, figures, references, appendix

Date Published: September 1, 2004