Policing Policies Policing Policies by Chris Grollnek
Seems like a relevant topic these days…
The community-policing model focuses on police working with communities toward a common goal of problem solving. Working with leaders and members of the community assists in forging a process of trust and mutual respect. The objective of a community-policing policy model is for the community to view the police as part of the solution to common social disorders. Allowing the community to partner with the police assists in solving crimes by pro-active measures. Zero tolerance policing promotes distrust of the police within the community. A policy written to accommodate zero tolerance leads to corruption and immoral police practices. Although this is not always the case, this method of policing gives power to the police, removing public opinion. The community views the zero tolerance police practice as pitting citizens against police. This type of enforcement only prolongs the solving of crimes and community support because most calls for service become reactive. Evaluating both positive and negative aspects of both police models will be advantageous to create a local model. Assessing advantages and disadvantages of both models will further the goal to revise a policing model tailor made to a community implementing change.
Community Policing Model
Police departments across the nation continue to seek solutions for crime reduction. Searching for the “perfect” crime prevention solution continues to elude many metropolitan police agencies. Between 1988 and 1989 community policing was evolving into a model of policing that agencies could alter policies to facilitate. Expanding services beyond their traditional police approach, agencies were promoting officers presence within the neighborhoods. Realizing that it is important that police remain part of the community in which they serve, several benefits became apparent. According to Adams (2006),
Although the development of community policing has been attributed to as many different [sic] people as there are experts on the subject, Frank Schmalleger credits Robert C. Trojanowicz and George L. Kelling with starting the movement through their studies of foot patrol of Newark, New Jersey, and Flint, Michigan, in [sic] 1981. They stated, “police could develop more positive attitudes toward community members and could promote positive attitudes toward police if they spent more time on foot in their neighborhoods.” In 2000, the police department in Santa Ana, California, celebrated its twenty-fifth year of community policing, which was initiated [sic] there by Chief of Police Raymond C. Davis in 1975. [sic] (p. 66-67)
In an effort to seek professionalism within the police community and occupation, many aspects of recognizable police actions became absent. The more officers and agencies alike sought to differentiate themselves via their vocation, the farther they found themselves from the citizens they serve. Many of these issues continue today as they did in the 1970’s, making a combination of policing strategies necessary.
Community policing is similar to business ventures and opportunities within corporations. Advantages and disadvantages coexist and portions of both become either acceptable or not, requiring policy to fill the void where necessary. The responsibility of administrators is to recognize the benefits of community policing and weighing any liability against another model.
Community policing is advantageous to facilitate several aspects of police work. The criminal justice system traditionally solves crimes through informants and leads from its citizens. A strong community-policing program allows officers to develop professional relationships with merchants and citizens alike. Developing a rapport where citizens believe police want to help instead of enforce, promotes information gathering capabilities. This method of coexisting brings communities together in an effort to strengthen and create an atmosphere of a safe environment.
An additional advantage to consider for community policing relates to financial gains for practice. Several federal grants are available for municipalities and counties participating in community policing, creating ability to hire more officers and conduct more programs. Visiting businesses and residents within officers beats assists in the prevention of major crimes, such as burglary, robbery, and other preventable offenses (Adams, 2006).
Police models move forward to achieve goals through diverse methods. It is unfortunate that every model, no matter its intension or scope, includes disadvantages. Community policy is no different when discussing positive and negative effects of departmental policies. A strong community-policing model slows response times to calls for service in progress because officers are more apt to be walking within their beats or visiting with the citizens. Foot patrols keep officers from vehicle patrols and engaging in conversation or investigations. This is a good practice for community relations but could be dangerous in officer assist situations. Some neighborhoods within communities, no matter the desire to assist, determine police are their enemy and want nothing to do with this method of service.
The community alone is not to blame for a distaste of community policing. Officers at times become overzealous and believe the way to solve crimes is through authoritarian methods. Some officers believe a political approach, such as shaking hands and kissing babies, detracts respect for the uniform and mission of their office. Leadership is not always present to address disparity as concerns with programs arise. A detachment between administrators and officers will occur and allows a void to be present.
One of the biggest disadvantages of community policing directly relates to one of the strongest advantages, finances. “The popularity of the term has resulted in its being used to encompass practically all innovations in policing, from the most ambitious to the most mundane” (Adams, 2006, p. 80). Translating this quote demonstrates the ability departments have to use the words “community policing” for automatic funding purposes.
Zero Tolerance Enforcement Model
Law enforcement agencies adopting zero tolerance models of enforcement with no alternate means are setting themselves up for public mistrust. Although zero tolerance is acceptable and common practice within political realms and creators of policy, criminal justice administrators find themselves adapting easily. Law enforcement officials become comfortable with zero tolerance methods and the variables and factors become apparent during the policy making process (Ismaili, 2010). “In this sense, the term has been deployed to ‘convey a mode and to impress an audience, rather than in any concrete way to describe a set of policies or to frame particular objectives’ ” (Ismaili, 2010, p. 8).
Some areas within municipalities and counties demand zero tolerance enforcement models and has very little to do with administration of policy. Areas within communities that have high crime rates and officer safety issues do not allow community policing to occur. In some areas there are people who do not share the same philosophy of one or another model of policing. These residents become bound to their surroundings and victims of their own environment. Citizens wanting to assist police in these sectors within cities fear retaliation from criminal elements. Officers responding to calls for service with a zero tolerance attitude help these citizens address their concerns indirectly.
Situations in which zero tolerance models work are put into action with a time limit for their goal of enforcement. An example would be crime-ridden neighborhoods suffering social disorder, similar to crimes typically found in the Broken Windows model of policing. Open containers, public intoxication, solicitation, panhandling, and the like become high value targets for enforcement action. Cleaning up the minor crimes assists in the attitude of the area, sending a message that the police will hold the line. This type of enforcement needs a clear definition for officers and citizens to reduce the perception of an indefinite police state (Ismaili, 2010).
Establishing guidelines for criminal behavior is not an easy task to undertake. When sectors of cities are no longer safe to travel in, the requirement of drastic measures are in order. A positive result of zero tolerance police action allows tourists and citizens to feel safer when visiting. The minor crimes begin to increase the statistics of the department, demonstrating the increase in enforceable action. Higher enforcement numbers result in safer city standings, allowing money from federal agencies for more resources. The more contacts with offenders committing minor crimes, the more ability the agencies have in building a database of lawbreakers.
One of the most advantageous positions to promote zero tolerance policing is the opportunity to reduce hate crimes. With high enforcement squads targeting crimes and not focusing on major crimes can take sectors of cities back one block at a time. Gang ridden areas and high crime rate areas, generally driven by narcotics trafficking, do not have the same ability to operate their illicit trade with zero tolerance in effect (Ismaili, 2010).
The promotion of zero tolerance has more disadvantages than advantages. High crime rate areas have little fear or respect for authority, requiring police to adjust their attitude and tactics for safety. Attempting to create a policy that deals with specific issues such as these exposes agencies to an extreme level of liability. Officers within these sectors are at a much greater risk to physical harm. Corruption is important to observe from a multilevel view because some officers are susceptible to corruption. Criminals carving out a section of area and capitalizing through illegal activity will not be as willing to work with police to solve crimes. Each step toward more enforcement drives the opposing force farther away from the goal of the other.
Environmental racism and violation of civil rights are on the rise according to new criminological studies when addressing zero tolerance police models. These issues are a byproduct of the stronger enforcement model. Disparaging one class of citizens because of socio-economic factors becomes the argument against zero tolerance. The desire for more aggressive enforcement action through loose policies of zero tolerance drives crime rates down to make streets safer. Pundits argue the more aggressive the enforcement, the more corrupt the agency will become (Ismaili, 2010).
Experimental Policing Model
The McKinney Police Department (MPD) shares many common policing issues with major metropolitan areas. Protecting its citizens through the prevention of criminal activity is high on the priority list of goals and objectives. Attempting to implement several models of policing, McKinney has come to the realization that not one model is best for any individual city. Experimenting with community policing, zero tolerance enforcement, and several other recognizable models of policing, MPD is currently using the experimental policing model.
The search for the perfect crime prevention solution continues to elude even the brightest in metropolitan police agencies. By adopting an experimental policing model allows administrators a variety of techniques and safety policies. Proven techniques of enforcement, community involvement, and zero tolerance units assist in providing information of what is working and what is not. The agencies executive staff addresses crime rates as they fluctuate and change to policy modifications.
One risk the MPD determines to be a critical factor is officer safety diminishing because of a policy failure. It is for this reason the administration and patrol sergeants regularly meet with the community leaders to find a balance that works well for residents. Geographic boundaries, local cultures, and other contributing factors within criminological theories explain crime causation differently. Attempting to address each issue and predicting a successful outcome takes time, money, and resources.
The ideology of people within the city is central to understand to provide services in the most efficient manner possible. This is the foundation in developing the most efficient process and system to provide service to the community. Through policy management and an adjustable structure, officers under direct supervision become responsible for response while maintaining public trust. The determination for the correct starting point of implementation is crucial to ensure the focus of prevention is achievable. Focusing on problem solving and addressing social issues within the community continues to drive the statistics in a downward trend for the City of McKinney. Key factors of the experimental policing model demonstrate value added benefits similar to other models:
- Dismissing disorder where fear exists
- Departure of a transient population
- Diminishing citizens fears
- Escalating community pride
- Beautification projects with police involvement
- Formal presence driving down criminal behavior
This four-part experimental police model involves crime analysts, problem solving teams, case essential detectives, and deployment units. Focusing on statistics and analyzing crime patterns drives the problem solving teams in the appropriate direction. Case essential detectives investigate criminals that the problem solving teams apprehend. The deployment units focus their efforts where the analysis predicts their presence would be most effective. Each portion of the model follows the same general orders and basic policies obvious to law enforcement agencies. Policies such as use of force, vehicular pursuits, arrest, search, and seizure are the majority of rules that remain consistent. Policy adjustments continue for situations when deployment units may travel out of their zone or district and adjust problem solving teams missions as intelligence becomes available (McKinney Police Department, 2011).
The ideology of the department and the community focuses on promoting a safe living and working environment. The ideology of the officers within the department believes the main purpose of law enforcement is to fight crime and suppress evil. Translating the goals and vision of the administrators to the frontline officers requires discipline and oversight. Applying the same principles of developing policing models for community safety, policy development requires the same attention. The goal for the City of McKinney and its entire staff is to be a safe place to live, work, and visit. The experimental policing model facilitates this desire one policy change at a time.
Policing models change from one municipality to another and vary in scope and definition. The attitudes of officers enforcing those goals and objectives have personal views of enforcement practices. These opinions are not always inline with the administration. Community policing and zero tolerance models fall on both side of the police model spectrum. Gaining the support and understanding of the officers and community is a high priority when developing a model to address criminal activity. Community trust and officer understanding are key elements in a policy behind police models of protecting and serving. As criminologist continue to seek the perfect model for crime suppression, a mixture of models will continue to evolve one community at a time.
Adams, T.F. (2006). Police Field Operations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Ismaili, K. (2010). U.S. Criminal Justice Policy: A Contemporary
Reader. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
McKinney Police Department. (2011). Crime Model Policy. Retrieved from intranet
Policing Policies by Chris Grollnek
Active Shooter Expert and Media Consultant
Active Shooter Prevention and Mitigation Expert