Community Policing Strategies for Countering Violent Extremism
Interview with David Schanzer, J.D., Associate Professor, Duke University and Director, Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security
Mr. Schanzer discusses his study of community policing strategies for countering violent extremism. Schanzer points out that there is a wide variety of terrorist ideologies from religious, to environmental, to economic. He is hoping to discover if particular community policing strategies are more effective in countering certain types of terrorism and building resilience against extremism.
David Schanzer My name is David Schanzer. I’m a professor that practices at Duke University, the Stanford School of Public Policy. I also run a center that is inter-institutional with between Duke, UNC, and RTI International, called the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. And the name of my project is Community Policing Strategies for Countering Violent Extremism.
The Obama strategy for countering terrorism through partnerships
Well, in August of 2011, President Obama put out a strategy for dealing with violent extremism, which called for the development of partnerships between government and communities, and more specifically law enforcement organizations in communities to help build resilience against violent extremism. So one of our research questions is, well, this national strategy has called for this, but how many local law enforcement agencies are doing it, what specifically, what kinds of tactics and strategies to engage with communities do they use, which types of threats do they see this as being effective against and which type is not. So there are a lot of open questions about how effective the strategy can be if we don’t really even know what law enforcement agencies are doing. So our project is designed to try to fill the gap in our knowledge in that regard.
Discuss the specific stages of this study
We have three stages: We are going to be doing a nationwide survey, then intensive follow-up interviews with a small subset of the chiefs of police, and then we are going to do eight site visits. So the survey will be the broadest. We are going to be able to do 100 percent of the law enforcement agencies that are above a certain size, and then we will do random sampling of smaller law enforcement agencies. So we will try to get at both, but no, we are not going to touch every law enforcement agency in the country. We are also going to then, for our more intensive studies — the interviews, the focus groups in the communities — we will be trying to pick groups that are taking different approaches so we can try to compare them. So we might have one site where the main concern is Al Qaeda–inspired terrorism, and they are very deeply engaged with the community. We will try other places that maybe they see the bigger threat as right-wing antigovernment terrorism and they are actually using more surveillance techniques to deal with them, and they are not trying to engage. And we will come up with different varieties so we can try to get some insights into what they’re doing and what their potential effectiveness is.
Studying law enforcement through the eyes of the community
Well, I think another interesting angle of the project is our focus groups, where we will be going to specific communities and doing focus groups of both community members, and then separately, of the law enforcement agencies. So we will begin to try to learn in a somewhat unscientific way, but at least a start, at whether the perceptions of the community as to what law enforcement are doing is similar to the perception of law enforcement and their engagement with the community. So I think that will be a really interesting part, and I’m expecting we’ll see actually very differing perceptions from those different groups. So we will be eager to report on those results.
What is the end goal of this study?
I don’t think we’ll be able to "validate" exactly what is a best practice, but we will certainly have been exposed to a wide variety of different policing strategies, and we will certainly have recommendations to make as to which practices, you know, we think are likely to be effective. And hopefully we will develop a best practices manual that might be helpful to law enforcement agencies that do want to go down this route for dealing with the potential extremism problems.
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