The Disparity between Traditional and Community Policing

What is Traditional policing?

Traditional policing, as it has come to be known, reflects the goals of the early reformers of the police, The emphasis was to separate the police from politics and to hold them more accountable to the body politic and the law. Under traditional policing, the police have a narrow range of interventions.

Generally speaking, under this model the police must rely entirely on the coercive power of the criminal law to gain control  The threat of arrest is the dominant mode of acquiring compliance from the community. Under such arrangements, aggressive street tactics coupled with broad application of the criminal law results in tremendous line officer discretion, which generally is unregulated.

Although the police organization creates the appearance of control through highly ritualized command and control systems, police officers have no latitude in decision-making in the field. Traditional policing has a narrow law enforcement and crime control or crime repression focus.

It is centered on serious crime, as opposed to maintenance of community social order or general service delivery. The police are crime fighters under this model, and they shun any form of social work activity. Under the traditional model, police work is synonymous with catching crooks and is largely reactive, i.e., the police respond to calls for assistance from the public. Applying the law and deterring crime are the central focuses of all police activities under the traditional model.

With the traditional model of policing, the police culture is inwardly looking at the values that are often tied to the cop culture stemming from the traditional model of policing. They include skepticism and cynicism among the police, the development of a code of secrecy to fend off external control and oversight, and often a general disdain for the public at large and minimizing contact with the public. Traditional policing suggests that institutionally and individually, the police seek to minimize external interference with police work and administration.

Community Policing

The philosophy of community policing is built upon the premise that reducing citizens' fear of crime while forming a partnership between the police and the community is a worthwhile goal of police organizations. Perhaps like the road to hell, the road to community policing is paved with good intentions. These intentions have two geneses.

First, much of the shift from traditional to community policing can be traced to a longstanding history of attempts to reform the police and make them more civilly and legally accountable.  Second, much of the emphasis on community policing seeks to make the police more effective in dealing with neighborhood crime and disorder and to avoid longstanding criticisms of the police being ineffective, inefficient, and insensitive.

The organizing theme of community policing suggest that law enforcement can be more focused, proactive, and community sensitive. Moreover, community policing portend significant changes to the social and formal organization of policing.

On the level of social organization, community policing is thought to break down the barriers separating the police from the public while inculcating police officers with a broader set of community service ideals. Organizationally, community policing is thought to shift police policymaking from a traditional bureaucracy to one emphasizing greater organizational environmental interaction.

Simultaneously, the shift to community policing is said tobe accompanied by a flattening of the police hierarchy and the development of coordinated service delivery with any number of public and private agencies that affect neighborhood safety.

Community policing promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes of crime, to reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and community-police partnerships. It rests on the belief that law-abiding citizens in the community have a responsibility to participate in the police process.

It also rests on the belief that solutions to today’s contemporary community problems demand freeing both community residents and law enforcement to explore creative ways to address neighborhood concerns beyond a narrow focus on individual crimes.

The Roots of Community Policing

The roots of community policing come from the history of policing itself and draw on many of the lessons taught by that history. Modern law enforcement began in -England with the formation of the London Metropolitan Police District in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, considered as “father” of law enforcement. The new police force was created to address the soaring crime rates in Great Britain’s capital. Peel, the first chief of the police force, is credited with developing several innovations that are still practiced today. Are his principles of policing still applicable today? Absolutely!  Sir Robert Peel’s.Nine Principles of Policing are:

1. The basic mission of the police is to prevent crime and disorder.
2. The ability of the police to perform their duties  is dependent upon public approval of police  actions.
3. Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public.
4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionally to the necessity of the use of force.
5. Police seek and preserve public favor.
6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary.
7. Police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public.
8. Police should always direct their actions strictly toward  their functions.
9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder.

Community policing is a major vehicle to improve the effectiveness of police efforts in communities and as means of reforming police organizations. The promises of community policing are many. They include strengthening the capacity of communities to resist and prevent crime and social disorder; creating a more harmonious relationship between the police and the public, including some power sharing with respect to police policymaking and tactical  priorities; restructuring police service delivery by linking it with other local, municipal and national services; reforming the police organization model; and creating larger and more complex roles for individual police officers.

Police agencies in many countries around the world have learned, in the two decades or more since the advent of community policing, that dependence on traditional policing measures alone will never enable societies to reduce the impact of today’s complex, cross-border crime problems. In fact, modern crime prevention and public safety efforts comprise a broad spectrum of new and innovative solutions, all aimed at today’s and tomorrow’s problems.

This new style of policing is said to produce more committed, empowered, and analytic police officers; flatten police hierarchies; and open the process of locally administered justice to those who are often the object of justice decision making.

In view of the above, we strongly suggest that law enforcement executives in Liberia adopt the Community policing model. The shift of the Liberia National Police from traditional model to community policing model, will create a more harmonious relationship between the police and the public, including some power sharing with respect to police policymaking and tactical priorities; restructuring police service delivery by linking it with other local, municipal and national services; reforming the police organization model; and creating larger and more complex roles for individual police officers. Once adopted, it must be an organizing philosophy integrated into the entire police agency, and should not be seen simply as a new project or a temporary specialization.



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