Community-Oriented-Policing (C.O.P.) through Problem-Oriented-Policing (P.O.P)

by Frank Barron

Many, of the older police officers and police chiefs who are contrary to change, do not like the procedural requirements necessary to implement community-oriented-policing. It requires the officers to dialogue as liaisons with the communities and their leaders. Those resistant to change prefer to patrol in cars and to respond to calls rather than to be bothered with what may seem to them like trivial neighborhood disorganization and decay. “Many of the conservative police leaders who had never liked community policing to begin with had also become addicted to the forfeiture funds flowing to their departments from drug arrest. The Drug Enforcement Administration was vigorously promoting collaborations with local police by noting that even if the people arrested were found not guilty, law enforcement could keep the money and the property they had impounded.” (Bucqueroux 2015)

Even though there have been no studies that have proven that community policing reduces crime, studies have determined that the citizens in the communities consistently report that they have less fear of crime and a greater trust of the police. “Almost universally police departments gauge the success of their community policing efforts on how well they solve the problem of crime as evidenced in quarterly crime statistics. It is hard to blame them, “Trust” and “Transformation” are considerably hard to measure quantitatively, whereas crime figures are a simple matter of math.” (Moraff 2015)             

For community policing to work and to get results in a timely manner, there needs to be effective use of Problem-Oriented-Policing. “Although Problem-Oriented -Policing still retains an element of reactiveness (i.e. a continued response to calls-for-service) at the same time it represents a significant shift in police emphasis and practice in that it attempts to identify and remove the problem underlying repeated incidents.” (Reitzel, Piquerro, and Piquerro 2015).

Herman Goldstein developed the strategy known as Problem-Oriented Policing which has many attributes of a community policing program. Police officers usually need the help of the citizens to identify problems and to develop leads to solve crimes that are causing fear and decay in their neighborhoods. Goldstein promoted policing procedures that found a problem and solved it. Goldstein believed that law enforcement needs to be proactive in stopping crime at its core, rather than being reactive to one incident at a time. He also taught that when a 911 caller reported a criminal incident the police should determine who is at the center of the problem, instead of arresting a retail drug dealer, go after his supplier. Herman Goldstein proposed a system of problem-solving policing that he called SARA. SARA stands for Scan, Analyze, Respond, and Assess. His SARA application of P.O.P was tested in Newport News, Virginia in the late 1980s with successful problem (crime) solving results. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) reviews annually examples of P.O.P. by many police departments across the nation. One of them is awarded the Herman Goldstein award of Excellence.

Even though studies of community policing have not proven that it reduces crime, P.O.P. which is akin to C.O.P. has been proven to be very effective at solving and controlling many different types of crimes in many communities across the United States. Professor Emeritus Herman Goldstein realized that the most important decisions were being made, without restrictions on their discretion, by the lowest ranking police officers. He was concerned that life or death decisions were being made by officers who often had an omnipotent attitude about their authority.                                                

In poor minority neighborhoods community policing should be well organized with just the right police officer assigned to work with citizens, groups, churches and other city departments to restore order and pride in the community. Specific problems should be handled through coordinated teams of officers following the proven guidelines of Problem-Oriented -Policing. There will still be a need for a S.W.A.T. team to be available when needed in an emergency. Police officers on patrol will be needed to handle the 911 calls and to be on watch for motor vehicle violations and perform routine police work.

About the author: Frank Barron, served as Coroner of Richland County, South Carolina for 22 years, was President of South Carolina Coroners’ Association 7 times, is a graduate of The Citadel having earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. One of his primary areas of interest is elimination of discrimination in the judicial system.

Photo from Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

References

Bucqueroux 2015, “Reasons Community Policing Died,” https://medium.com/@bonniebucqueroux/11-reasons-community-policing-died-fdb1b14367de

Goldstein,H. 2005, Interviewed by Samuel Walker, Youtube 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyfqZEYK_y4                 

Moraff,C. 2015 “Community Policing: Promise and Failure”. The Crime Report

Reitzel, J.D., Piguero, N.L., and Piguero, A.R. 2015, ‘What Is Problem Oriented Policing?” p 500, Critical Issues In Policing, 7th edition, Waveland Press, Inc, Long Grove, Ill.

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