2020 saw police departments and policies placed under more scrutiny than ever before. One of the ways that many departments have sought to restructure and rebuild bridges with their communities, is by moving towards community policing.
Community policing is a strategy that hinges on forming strong relationships with community members. The concept dates back to 1829 in the UK, then rose to prominence in the USA in the 1960s. At that time, community policing was embraced in order to heal the rift between police and the public in the wake of civil rights demonstrations. Perhaps the parallels between those protests and those in 2020 explain why community policing is once again entering the conversation.
Put simply, the philosophy behind community policing is for officers to bring a more personal approach to policing by working a regular ‘beat’. In other words, they patrol the same area for a period of time and develop a partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems. The main benefits behind this are twofold: police get to know the people in the area, and the community gets to know the officer. This ideally builds trust and also promotes cooperation between the officer and the public. The other benefit is to serve the ‘broken windows theory’, or the idea that stopping small, low-level crimes reduces serious crimes as well.
NATIONAL COMMUNITY POLICING WEEK
On October 1st of this year, President Biden declared the week of October 3rd, 2021 to be National Community Policing Week. This is separate from National Police Week, which falls in May. It is not the first time a President has declared a National Community Policing Week; President Obama did the same in 2016. However, until now the occasion hasn’t been widely recognized.
In the proclamation, President Biden very clearly states his support of community policing as a concept, stating simply that, “… it works.” In defining the occasion, he writes, “During National Community Policing Week, we recommit to building bonds of trust between our law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and encourage community policing practices across our Nation.”
Another staunch supporter of National Community Policing Week is Acting U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. In a public statement she wrote, “Protecting the safety of our community, preventing and reducing crime, and preserving peace and justice, is a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the entire community.”
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FUNDING
On October 6th of this year, the Department Of Justice announced that they would be awarding over $33 million in funding to advance the practice of community policing in law enforcement. The grants are being awarded by the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). Their purpose is to support promising practices through the development and testing of innovative strategies, to build knowledge about effective practices and outcomes, and to support new, creative approaches to preventing crime and promoting safe communities.
The funds will mostly be earmarked for the following:
- Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) – an initiative to embed mental and behavioral health services within law enforcement.
- Tolerance, Diversity, and Anti-Bias Training – the creation and delivery of tolerance, diversity, and anti-bias training for law enforcement officers.
- De-escalation Training – the creation and delivery of national-level training efforts, in an effort to build and maintain officers’ de-escalation proficiency.
- COPS Microgrants – these grants are offered to support pilot projects that offer creative ideas to advance crime-fighting, community engagement, problem-solving or organizational changes to support community policing.
- Accreditation – to assist agencies with gaining accreditation to ensure compliance with national and international standards.
COMMUNITY POLICING ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
In general, the number of police on college campuses has risen over the past few years, despite crime statistics on campuses remaining level. This suggests an increased demand for security from college administrations. Currently, there are more than 4,000 campus police departments across the country that employ nearly 32,000 campus police officers combined. 87% of college campuses have sworn officers with the power to arrest, and 90% of these departments are armed. However, these campus police aren’t always popular with the student populations.
Campus police face unique challenges and also often have to perform additional tasks such as dealing with lost and found items, providing access control, and responding to and documenting Clery and Title IX incidents. As one officer wrote, “ …campus officers often deal with people who consider themselves entitled … officers who want to patrol aggressively and compile impressive arrest records can create problems for college chiefs.” As a way of balancing the need for campus security with student pushback, many campus police departments have turned to community policing.
Community policing efforts on campuses go beyond security patrols and include active outreach programs for the students. Some of the more common programs include:
- Active Attacker Response Program – an overview of the Run Hide Fight model for response to an active attacker.
- Meet and Greet – ‘Coffee With A Cop’ and similar programs give members of the community the opportunity to meet officers on a more personal basis.
- Alcohol Awareness – Providing the community with an overview of the dangers of excessive and underage drinking and relevant laws.
- Domestic Violence Awareness – A review of the signs of abuse along with support and resources for victims.
- Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention – Teaching about the importance of consent, and providing resources and support for victims.
- Nighttime Patrol Requests – Giving the public the chance to request for officers to patrol a specific area while staff or students are working or studying on campus.
- Drug Awareness – An overview of the different types of commonly used drugs, their effects on the body, and providing access to resources available for treatment and support.