For those responsible for setting out policing strategies and policies, it is clear that policing is about alternatives. There is no uniform standard which all police organisations must follow - policing differs country by country and even, in places such as the UK, force by force. Policing, of course, also changes within countries over time, so that policing approaches deemed suitable at one time no longer seem acceptable at a later stage. What such variations in policing exhibit are alternative models of policing, some of which we shall attempt to capture in the entry.
As a basis for a review of models of policing, it is still useful to consider the question of whether the police are (or should be) a force or a service (Stephens & Becker, 1994). Although this policing 'dilemma' risks over-simplifying complex policing questions, it is nevertheless useful to conceive of policing, or parts of policing, as located somewhere along a continuum with 'force-oriented' policing at one end and 'service-oriented' policing at the other, as follows:
The 'force-service' dilemma reveals that 'policing' is more than 'crime fighting' and 'law enforcement', but also about general 'order maintenance', or 'keeping the peace', which is a role that goes beyond strict law enforcement. The dilemma for those responsible for setting the orientation of policing is how far that orientation leans towards crime fighting on the one hand or order maintenance on the other. A force orientation, which at its extreme is paramilitary policing, prefers to view policing in the narrower sense of being about strict enforcement of the law, as essentially reactive to problems once they have been identified, and looks to technology - equipment, vehicles, information technology - for solutions. A service orientation emphasises preventative and proactive work and the 'soft skills' of police officers (interpersonal skills) in problem-solving. Perhaps the best example of this ethos is what in Britain are called 'police/community surgeries', where the police hold regular 'drop in' opportunities for local people to make contact with the police on any matter they wish - one effect of which is to encourage contacts between the police and community which are not necessarily crime focused. The notion of 'service', as its name implies, also repositions the police from an authority over the community to servants of the community, or perhaps more appropriately as being in partnership with the community and its institutions.
The 'force-service' axis is a way of thinking about policing which intertwines with the notion of alternative models of policing - as shall be seen, some models are more 'force' or crime-fighting oriented, others much more 'service' oriented. However, those responsible for determining policing forms cannot simply choose one policing model over another. As Mawby (2008) makes clear, the adoption of particular policing models is heavily influenced by the differing articulations of the police and the state. In liberal-democratic states there is normally a significant degree of separation between the state and the police - although this differs by country - and the overarching function of the police is a combination of crime control and 'peace-keeping'. This creates space at least for more 'community oriented' policing (as discussed elsewhere) to flourish; the police are more a part of civil society. In more autocratic states, however, the police are at times essentially an arm of the state and their overriding function is protection of the state machinery. As a consequence in such states the 'service' role of the police may be all but non-existent and policing adopts a heavily 'militaristic' model; indeed the police and the military may be distinguishable only by their focus, with the former responsible for internal security and the latter external security. As such, the scope for the development of civil models of policing in such societies is severely restricted. For these reasons the emergence of genuinely alternative models of policing tends to be associated with policing in liberal-democratic states.
For an overview of 'Policing Models' in the context of state systems consult chapter 2 of Tim Newburn's Handbook of Policing.