Community policing' is most readily associated with the former British chief constable John Alderson and the Scarman Report on the Brixton riots. It is more about a general orientation of policing than a specific set of policing techniques, although these can be drawn from the community policing model. In Alderson's model, community policing is based on the following principles:
Policing with the Consent and Support of the Community:
Effective policing needs to be built upon a solid foundation of community acceptance and support of the police and what they are seeking to achieve. This has been labelled 'policing by consent'. Under this principle the community accepts the role of the police in their community, accepts the officers who undertake that role and supports the police in carrying out their duties. Rather than have policing imposed on a community, with policing operating irrespective of what the community itself might prefer, policing by consent involves the police taking the community with them as they work out how to police their area. This is closely associated with the notion of the minimum use of force, a central feature of community policing. This involves officers only using force as a last resort and then using the absolute minimum force necessary to achieve an objective.
Policing which Mobilises the Community in the Fight against Crime:
Linked to policing by consent is the idea that crime can only be tackled properly if the community become actively involved in the process. The belief is that members of the community are a key resource in fighting crime (if not more important than the police) and therefore their participation in the wider processes of policing must be sought. The notion of the community being a resource relates to the role of the community in providing information to the police on crime related matters and on the key role the community can play in crime prevention, in reducing crime by making their properties and themselves more secure and less vulnerable. Community policing seeks to work with the community in encouraging people to become actively involved in crime reduction.
Policing which is Sensitive to and Respectful of Communities:
Community policing places great emphasis on the need for the police to be aware of each community's special characteristics and preferences and for officers to be sensitive as they go about their duties. This ties in closely to the notion of a police service as discussed above. Peace-keeping is also prioritised over strict law enforcement.
The creation of an effective permanent beat patrol, however, is not a simple as it seems, or as simple as some police managers seem to think! They can involve a heavy use of resources. Areas to be patrolled cannot be too large or the close contact with the local community will prove impossible. This type of policing also involves a great deal of SKILL - working closely and sensitively with communities normally requires specialist training in things like 'interpersonal skills' and 'community awareness'. Sometimes these factors are ignored as beat patrol schemes are implemented. We shall return to some of the problems with community policing later.
In Practical Terms the Community Policing Model typically involves:
- Area-Based and Devolved Policing: Policing is framed, shaped and consequently varies by locality, and police decision-making is devolved to local areas reflecting local variations in problems and community preferences.
- Permanent Beat-Patrol Officers: Officers who are on continuing and long term attachment to a particular locality who can advise local people (for example, on matters of security), reassure, gather information and seek the community's views on matters linked to policing. Foot patrols can also potentially deter crime in the sense that a regular and close police presence might stop offences being committed because of fear of detection.
- Consultation Arrangements with the Community: It is accepted that different communities will have differing preferences in policing, and in order to capture these local police should engage regularly with local community representatives and collectively with local people.
- Crime Prevention Programmes: As above, schemes which mobilise community resources to prevent crime, such as 'Neighbourhood Watch' in the USA; community policing seeks to 'mainstream' crime prevention and raise it from its traditional status at the margins of the police mandate - this reflects the orientation towards proactive rather than reactive policing.
- Multi-Agency and Inter-Agency Working: Linked to crime prevention 'multi-agency working' is based on the assumption that crime control is the responsibility of a range of institutions and not just the public police. This included informal institutions, such as the family or neighbourhood, but in most cases formal agencies - social services, schools, youth agencies and the health services (particularly given their responsibilities for mental health which has close links with offending behaviour). Community policing emphasises the notion of partnership between the police and all of the other key agencies, partnerships based on joint and 'joined up' efforts to control crime and other social problems.
Community policing offers the broad platform upon which other policing models have built, such as problem-oriented policing. One model however which is stands firmly at odds with community-policing is zero-tolerance policing.