Law enforcement careers, especially those of police officers, are being transformed from the traditional routine patrol and rapid response type of officer to one who is geographically and community focused. Community policing works through a partnership between the police, community groups and organizations, and the community at large, where all work together to respond to crime, resolve community problems, and proactively prevent crime. The end result is that the overall quality of life in a given community is improved and enhanced.
In a community-oriented police program, officers are assigned to a specific geographical area where they seek cooperation and collaboration from the community they serve. Officers work on foot, bike, or horse patrols, which enables them to be much closer to the people in the community than they would be if they were solely patrolling in police vehicles. Officers communicate with neighborhood groups and participate in school programs for educating children. They work with social agencies such as health and human services or ordinance enforcement on a consultative basis, and attend business and civic events such as neighborhood association meetings.
The police and community together identify the problem areas of crime, prioritizing the public safety concerns. The police place an emphasis on preventing crime altogether, rather than reacting to a crime after it has already occurred. An officer is authorized to make decisions at the community level.
Police departments will need to review and probably revise their organizational structure. Departments need to be organized so that they both support and facilitate a community-type policing program. This also requires a change in the way officers are supervised and managed, so that such practices are consistent with the structure of the community policing program. Police department information systems might need to be revamped in order to support and facilitate an individual police officer’s ability to operate effectively in the community policing environment. Municipal governments and community leaders realize they must share in the responsibility for caring for the crime problems within their communities. Working together with the police, they look to improve conditions that can lead to criminal behavior, and focus on crime prevention strategies. Police officers, and the community, benefit from this type of policing, as new, effective partnerships are formed-partnerships that help strained police resources and result in self-sufficient and strong communities. The ultimate objective, crime reduction, is the greatest benefit of all.