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Work Yet to be Done: Community Policing as Potemkin Village

NCJ Number
Date Published
42 pages
This paper assesses the status of community policing as concept and practice and identifies work that must be done if the concepts of community policing are to be realized in practice.
An assessment of the current state of community policing notes that community policing is promoted as a philosophy rather than a program, as it constitutes an expansion of the perceptual and motivational understanding of police work from "enforcement for enforcement's sake" to "enforcement as part of an integrated program to improve the community." The author identifies the mistakes of the community policing movement as residing in a failure to realize the philosophy in operational terms that can be measured in scientific evaluation; the cloaking of traditional police enforcement activities as efforts that involve the community; continuation of the organizational structure and culture of traditional policing; and the failure to train police officers in new skills and tasks that reflect community policing concepts. Operationally, community policing thus consists of small programs that rest primarily on the enthusiasm and self-motivation of a relatively small number of officers who are determined to find ways to increase cooperation between the police and the community for the purpose of improving the safety and quality of life of the community. The main work to be done involves the transformation of the American police establishment such that all officers have been trained and conditioned to display the talents and the attitudes of that current minority of officers who understand and practice community-policing tasks. Suggestions for where to start in this endeavor are to discard the artificial distinction between "community" policing and "traditional" policing; to identify and promote the skills necessary to make the philosophy a reality in practice; to create organizational readiness; to establish an active role for the community; and to develop a realistic evaluation capacity. 35 references

Date Published: January 1, 1995