Global Perspective of Community Policing: A New World Order to Prevent and Combat Crime

A paper presented by Dr. Martins .J. Oni, Director General, Police Assistance Committee / Association of Tradesmen & Artisans of Nigeria (PAC/ATA) during ISS World Conference on Intelligence Support System for Lawful Interception, Electronic Surveillance and Cyber Intelligence Gathering held at Sandton Convention Center, Johannesburg, South Africa in July 2014.

Community policing can aptly be described as partnership and collaborative efforts in lending support to activities of the police in combating and preventing crime in the society. Globally the definition of community policing has remain consistent  i.e fraternization of better ideas to address public safety issues, strategic initiatives within departments to better efficiency and concentrated involvement at all levels.

The concept of community policing has continue to gain ground globally, becoming an acceptable model and norm to fight crime through collaborative communal policing, the collaboration among public safety groups and the creation of an enormous network of partners has made the most significant impact on policing and providing safer neighborhoods.

No doubt, the concept has become a new world order having globally affirmed its effectiveness in ensuring public safety through collaborative group efforts to mobilize support on information networking to assist security agencies.

For instance, at the 120th Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference held in Philadelp hia, U.S.A. in October 2013, a whole session was devoted to discourse on community policing and community capacity building. Prominent and Senior police chiefs presented papers on the topic, making the United States a reference point.

In a paper, Mr. Joshua Ederheimer, Acting Director US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, spoke on the 20years of existence of the office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which was signed into existence by President Bill Clinton in 1994. He explained that the idea behind the creation of cops office by the Clinton administration began under one primary change which is “Lets fight crime by adding more officers to the field” adding that it was immediately realized that additional personnel alone could not solve the issues plaugeing so many US cities. It was realized that it would take involvement from everyone communities, law enforcement, business and schools meaning that engagement became as important as enforcement. He posited that it is easy to identify most of the partners that have made community policing their key tool in advancing public safety. According to him the COPS office in the US includes a list of over 90percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies that have instituted community policing ideas within their region. The COPS office has partnered with the various agencies to help hire additional officers, acquire new crime-fighting technologies, develop and deliver training opportunities and resources, promote safer schools and secure policing services for tribal areas.

According to Mr. Edertheimer, the US government within a spate of two decades had spent more than $13million to promote community policing, an investment that police chiefs from all over the United States will say has supported their most immediate needs resulted in their most notable success.

As at today, the COPS office in the United States utilizes an army of partners to provide focus on most troubling problems and action in US most troubled communities.

The COPS office have also partnered with practitioners throughout the field on a number of key initiatives aimed at bettering the practice of policing. And of those endeavours, non has been more important than the collaborative work aimed at decreasing the number of officer facilities, adding that the COPS work has well been complemented by the consistent and more participation of agencies and officials of all types, the official submitted.

In essence, the importance of community policing as a new world order in combating and preventing crime in most countries of the world cannot be over emphasized. In most countries the model has been in vogue.

In Nigeria, the Police Assistance Committee, the organization, I head as the Director General has established strategic partnership with so many individuals and many government agencies interested in promoting community policing and keeping our cities and communities safe. Our style is to constantly organize seminars and workshops in collaboration with security agencies and other stakeholders to enlighten our members, particularly our state, and unit co-ordinators and the general public at large on how to gather information and intelligence and transmit same to the police, the armed forces and other security agencies to assist them in prevention and combating of crime in our society.

Since the inception of PAC almost two decades ago, security agencies in Nigeria have benefitted immensely from the efforts of our members who are mainly tradesmen/women and Artisans, Market leaders as well as neighborhood watch officers assist the law enforcement agencies and other grassroot members of the public.

The Standard definition of community policing resources includes community partnerships and problem-solving techniques. The promise of partnerships in law enforcement reinforces acceptance that crime is not only a police issue but also a community issue. This is a critical approach to changing the mind-set and silo-based approach of crime resolution to a shared mind-set of improving the community through collaboration effort that encompass a proactive approach with many partners and a multi-faceted approach to community policing. Creating comprehensive partnership is not easy work, while the benefits are long-lasting and impactful. Building community partnership is not only transforming the police approach to solving crime but also empowering the community.

When the police partner with reputable community-focused organizations the partnerships they create demonstrate increased credibility to the community which allows police organizations to be more effective. Partnership selection should include an assessment of community and faith-based providers who have an established trust in the neighborhood.

Another essential community engagement function beyond partner selection and engagement is communication. Frequent communication with partners provides an opportunity for meaningful, honest discussion and an opportunity for transformational change. Allowing community input will help to redefine police priorities and result in an opportunity for police to support and encourage citizen input.

Another strategy of successful community engagement is the establishment of an advisory committee. An advisory committee should bring together a cross section of partners, which with strong leadership will create a common need, vision and goal. An advisory committee that will sponsor seminars/workshop to educate the public on community needs, the role of law enforcement, crime prevention strategies or other critical community issues can help to create a positive mind-set in the public towards the police. An advisory committee can also create a strong volunteer base for community clean ups, recreational activities, youth involvement and citizen, patrols-along with other opportunities to engage the community. An advisory committee creates a platform for citizens input and frequent communication between police and stakeholders on a regular basis.

In reality, partnership in community policing essentially fall into two places with two components: Police working in partnership with others and residents being proactive and engaged in their neighborhoods.

An example of effectiveness of community policing suffice in the recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon in the USA, where perpetrators were caught mainly because ordinary citizens shared all possible information immediately with the authorities in the places where the bombs exploded. Ordinary people immediately took out their cell phones and started to film the area.

The authorities viewed the video materials provided by ordinary people and this led them very quickly onto the trail of the perpetrators. If ordinary people hadn’t shared their photo and video material; it would have been very difficult to solve the crime.

In this incident, the reason why so much video material was acquired from ordinary citizens was that the attack took place close to the finish line, where the family and friends of the runners were waiting for them to finish.

They were in the right place at the right time, and this made it possible to acquire so much video material from ordinary citizens which led the police to catch the perpetrators quickly.

It is time for police leaders to collaborate with community stakeholders and find ways to enhance the wellness of their police officers and communities.

Police work is stressful, hence collaborative effort is desirable. Traditional news on police occupational stress have often been viewed in a negative light, much of this perspective is due, in large part, to the police institution’s reactive approach to stress management-police agencies typically wait until significant, negative effects of stress manifest in individuals, teams or the whole organization before actions are taken to mitigate and manage.

In essence, police and community leaders should consider leading forward to build a police organizational and cultural construct that has resilience at its core.

Another critical area of community policing is working closely with Local Law enforcement leaders. Many local law enforcement leaders have recognized the influence of their position and have used that as an opportunity to lead in areas beyond the management of their own agencies. Law enforcement leaders have the opportunity to lead change locally, regionally, and nationally in both practice and policy; they just need to identify a current area that needs change. This could be as simple as having a conversation with other key stakeholders to brainstorm ideas.

In conclusion, the notion that police are the lone authority on crime must be dismissed. The framework to allow for the empowerment of all citizens and the work of creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that truly improve communities and citizen’s quality of life must be globally encouraged.