This post, Community Policing, Rightly Understood, by Kent Scheidegger, first appeared on at http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/.
Over the last quarter of a century, the United States has seen historic drops in crime–most famously in New York. These gains, once thought impossible, were achieved largely through dramatic innovations in policing, especially the adoption of an approach that stressed order maintenance in communities, data- and intelligence-gathering, and a problem-solving approach to crime and disorder.
In recent years, however, antipolice sentiment has risen in the U.S., sparked in part by a series of tragic, high-profile police-involved killings in major cities but also by the work of critics, mostly on the left but also on the libertarian right, who argue that targeted policing aimed at public disorder is coercive, hostile to community life, and often racist. These critics see such policing as the antithesis to what they call community policing. The arguments that have gained popular currency among police critics have essentially blinded them from seeing that the sort of aggressive policing that they object to can actually be an element of a community-policing model.
The increasingly widespread view that community policing and order-maintenance efforts are at odds represents a fundamental misunderstanding. In reality, the proactive policing that New York first undertook in its subway system under then-transit police chief William J. Bratton in the early 1990s–informed in significant part by Broken Windows theory–was a core element of community policing. Indeed, the very behaviors that residents wanted more heavily policed called for exactly the sort of approach that many modern community-policing advocates now decry.