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The Paradigm Shift to Community Policing

By Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP)
George Modeste

Police Executives are becoming increasingly aware of the political nature of their roles. Community policing provides a new challenge in the political arena because of its emphasis on significant changes in traditional police administrative and operational practices. During the past five years or more, all the Police Forces/Services in the region are going through a reform and modernization programme so as to implement their corporate strategy plans. Some have completed their reform, others are still going through the process, e.g. St. Lucia. However, one of the major components of their reform has to do with “Community Policing”. We’ve heard over and over from Police executives and politicians that community policing is the way to go, moving away from the traditional policing model. With the new community policing model to put the change in perspective, first let’s define the community policing philosophy: “The philosophy rests on the belief that citizens in the community deserve input into the police process in exchange for their participation and support. It also rests on the belief that solutions to the contemporary community problems demand freeing both citizens and the police to explore creative, new ways to address neighbourhood concerns beyond a narrow focus on individual crime incidents.” Contrary to this definition in the traditional paradigm procedure used by the Police and other agencies in discharging their functions. Let me highlight some of the methods and approaches used. That:-
• The problems are manageable in numbers
• Arrest is a primary tool
• Police are numbers-oriented
• Police are incident-driven
• Police have an “us vs. them” mentality
• Citizens call 999
• We do it for the community
• Police are reactive
• We let it happen
• Police, government agencies and citizens are reluctant to share information
• Citizens do not interact with neighbours
• Officers focus on responding to calls and arresting criminals
• Citizens believe the police should solve problems
• Government agencies schedule and deliver services.

Now let’s examine the new approach to policing vis-à-vis the traditional method which I’m going to outline. That:-
• The problems are overwhelming
• There are additional tools to solve the problems
• Police are result-oriented
• Police engage in proactive problem solving
• Police form partnerships with the community
• Citizens meet and work with the police and government agencies to solve problems
• Police are proactive
• We make it happen
• Police, government agencies and citizens recognize the value of sharing information
• Citizens unite to form active neighbourhood and community groups
• Officers focus on reducing and preventing crime.

Arguably, the latter is more in keeping with 21st century policing.

Benefits of Community Based Policing

Community Based Policing can only have a positive effect on both the Police Force/Service and the communities because it embraces partnerships and partners should have a common objective:-
• A positive partnership between the Police and the community
• A commitment by all stakeholders to work with the Police
• A well trained and motivated people-oriented Police Force/Service
• And effective and efficient crime management system based on verifiable information
• A more proactive and aware citizenry
• An increased level of community participation in decision-making, crime solving, crime reduction and crime prevention
• More understanding and respect between young people and the Police
• More civic pride and ownership of their communities by citizens both young and old
• The following application of the three “Rs” approach by the Police
o Rapid Response
o Reassurance
o Respect
• Improved co-operation between the Police and both government agencies and non- government organizations
• An improved public image of the Police Force

Community Policing has also been called Community Empowerment Policing, reflecting the transformation that takes place when people stop being passive consumers of Police services and instead, become active participants in the process of helping to make neighbourhoods better and safer places in which to live and work. Let it be understood that community policing is not ‘soft’ policing.

The benefits of the philosophy have been explained, likewise the differences between traditional policing and the paradigm shift. Therefore in order for this concept to be fully accepted and executed, members of the organization must change their attitudes towards self and job, must be consistent in enforcement, provide a quality customer service.

Also, officers must not be selective in the execution of their duties, thereby showing biasness. Trust must be foremost in order to generate community participation and build people’s confidence in the organization. The service provided should not be quick response to the more affluent communities and no response to the less fortunate areas.

Consequently, the organization must address all these internal problems and others, during the reform process. Having done so satisfactorily when the organization can go out in various communities and market itself during which time the concept of Community Policing will be explained and introduced. I have no doubt it will be fully embraced by the majority.