Community Policing Essay

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As gatekeepers to the criminal justice system, police are typically the first responders to intimate partner violence (IPV) incidents and thus shape formal responses to domestic violence. Historically, victims of IPV received little to no support within the criminal justice system. Domestic violence was considered a private matter, a problem that most often occurred within people’s homes. Consequently, police were reluctant to intervene, and often no legal actions were taken against offenders. This began to change in the 1970s, however, as the women’s movement and other advocacy groups brought the issue of domestic violence to the public’s attention. In addition to lobbying for the mobilization of community resources to provide assistance to victims of IPV, such as emergency shelters and counseling, advocates also lobbied for the increased use and severity of criminal sanctions against offenders of such crimes. As a result of these efforts, IPV was no longer considered a private matter existing outside the domain of the criminal justice system.

During this same period, the public, along with various advocacy groups, began to criticize other law enforcement practices, such as police use of excessive force and racial discrimination. Furthermore, police and community interaction was minimal, which subsequently led to increased citizen dissatisfaction of current policing strategies and a reluctance to rely on police to address social problems. A new philosophy, termed community policing, was created to transform traditional policing methods and facilitate greater trust between citizens and police. Rather than rely on traditional reactive policing strategies that exacerbated the gulf between citizens and police, community policing stressed partnerships with community members in order to increase personal and better address and prevent neighborhood problems. As a result of these reforms, policing strategies for handling domestic violence also changed.

Comparison Of Traditional And Community Policing Strategies

Traditional policing strategies consist of reactive measures for controlling crime, with the goal of either catching a criminal after a crime occurred or deterring future crimes through police presence in the community. This focus consisted primarily of two tactics: (1) police responding to service calls placed by citizens, and (2) random vehicle patrols through business and residential districts. Because officers spent most of their time responding to calls or patrolling in their vehicles, the traditional approach thwarted development of positive relationships between officers and community members, particularly those who were not in crisis. In line with crime control strategies, police concentrated their efforts on “real” crime fighting, thus relegating IPV to nuisance calls in which police prioritized the separation of the disputants or tried to mediate the quarrels; arrest of batterers was uncommon since police were not trained to classify IPV situations as criminal matters.

Community policing focuses on proactive strategies and exists simultaneously with a change in police response to IPV. In general, community policing efforts focus on preventing and resolving issues within the community before larger problems develop. Officers forge relationships with citizens to encourage greater respect of law enforcement, which ultimately leads to increased participation in community crime control. For example, officers may hold meetings with residents in order to address concerns and find ways to resolve problems together within their community. As such, it is important for these officers to work with the same community so that residents will get to know them and be more willing to cooperate with policing efforts. Typically, officers no longer rely solely on patrol vehicles; instead, officers utilize more foot and/or bike patrols. These new techniques encourage further interaction between community members and police officers, thus increasing the familiarity and level of trust between the two groups. In fact, although previous studies have shown that community policing has little or no impact on crime rates, the research does reveal that community policing has a positive impact on citizen attitudes toward the police and patrol officer attitudes toward their job.

Another proactive strategy entails collecting and analyzing data to find the nature and scope of various problems within the community. To do so, police again need to collaborate with community residents. Furthermore, law enforcement must collaborate with community organizations such as schools, churches, and other citizen groups in order to implement and assess effective preventive strategies. In sum, community policing altered the ways in which law enforcement utilized community support networks to combat crime and deal with other important issues.

Community Policing Strategies For Intimate Partner Violence

Because community policing models emphasize activities that are absent from the more traditional methods of policing, community policing models have altered the strategies utilized by law enforcement for tackling issues such as domestic violence. One significant change is how police interact with both victims and offenders involved in IPV. Because officers under community policing are assigned to a specific jurisdiction, they become familiar with the residents of that community. As a result of this familiarity, victims of domestic violence are more willing to assist officers during domestic violence incidents. For instance, victims are more willing to divulge personal information and report such crimes to police due to the increased level of trust between the two groups. Offenders, too, may exhibit greater cooperation with law enforcement officers because of the ongoing shared knowledge of residents and community officers.

In addition to the increased level of trust, participants in domestic violence are less likely to manipulate the criminal justice system because officers are familiar with the particular situations and households. For example, offenders are more likely to comply with court-mandated interventions because they are more likely to be shamed by the officers and the general community if they are noncompliant. Likewise, research has shown that community policing officers are more effective in monitoring court-mandated interventions such as civil protection orders, temporary restraining orders, and participation in treatment programs.

Another community policing strategy strives to develop collaborative partnerships with community organizations in order to provide resources and other support networks to victims of IPV. With the understanding that police cannot combat domestic violence alone, the community policing approach encourages the help of community leaders, organizations, and individual citizens. Through these collaborative partnerships, police can ensure that victims have the necessary resources to handle domestic violence within their homes. For example, policing goes beyond arrest as officers typically work with community organizations to provide ongoing safety and emergency shelter and offer resource referrals and financial or medical services to victims of such crimes.

In summary, by expanding the role of police officers to include a community-oriented approach that facilitates greater communication and connection between officers and citizens, the ability of police to respond more efficaciously to IPV is possible. Community police officers have a stronger connection to a range of residents, and this familiarity means that when managing a crime such as IPV, officers have a greater contextual knowledge of the situation and what problems need better monitoring, and victims and offenders experience more responsive law enforcement.

Bibliography:

  1. Giacomazzi, A. L., & Smithey, M. (2001). Community policing and violence against women: Lessons learned from a multiagency collaborative. Police Quarterly, 4, 99–122.
  2. Laszlo, A. T., & Rinehart, T. A. (2002). Collaborative problem-solving partnerships: Advancing community policing philosophy to domestic violence victim services. International Review of Victimology, 9, 197–209.
  3. Long, J., Wells, W., & De Leon-Granados, W. (2002). Implementation issues in a community and police partnership in law enforcement space: Lessons from a case study of a community policing approach to domestic violence. Police Practice & Research, 3, 231–246.
  4. Miller, S. L. (1999). Gender and community policing: Walking the talk. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  5. Novak, K. J., Frank, J., Smith, B. W., & Engel, R. S. (2002). Revisiting the decision to arrest: Comparing beat and community officers. Crime & Delinquency, 48, 70–98.
  6. Robinson, A. L., & Chandek, M. S. (2000). Philosophy into practice? Community policing units and domestic violence victim participation. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 23, 280–302.
  7. Sudderth, L. K. (2006). An uneasy alliance: Law enforcement and domestic violence victim advocates in a rural area. Feminist Criminology, 1, 329–353.

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