Saturday, April 2, 2011

Community Policing: A new perspective

Why do we talk about community policing. Is it not showcasing what actually police are supposed to do or have been doing for generations. Why is there need to put old wine in new bottle and market it as great innovation. Is community policing that we discuss anyway different from traditional policing.

Community policing words hence catches me off guard. I feel little out of place in explaining verbatim these two words, and needing them to bring together through this concept. To me the very definition of community policing sounds so familiar, a jugglery of words, states the traditional work in new format. There are just two words in this concept ‘community’ and ‘police’. Community policing is an attempt to establish collaboration between the two. With the police no longer the sole guardians of law and order, all members of the community become active partners in the effort to enhance the safety and quality of neighborhoods. Community policing has far-reaching implications.

To fructify the extended outlook on crime control and prevention, to meet the new emphasis on making community members active participants in the process of problem solving, and to establish the constabulary / officers’ critical role in community policing, there is need for intensive changes within the police organization. The neighborhood patrol police officers, backed by the organizational support, helps community members mobilize support and resources to solve problems and improve their quality of life. Community members voice their concern, contribute suggestion and collaboratively take action to address the problem. Creating a constructive partnership will require the energy, creativity, understanding, and patience of all involved.

Here I would go to the extent of saying that the very existence of police is due to community. They are both in my opinion inseparable and their association is indispensable, and has been ever so. The police stations will run out of job if the community stops to participate. If they stop complaining, registering cases, providing evidences, becoming witnesses, police existence will be at stake. That will give rise to a big problem of identity crisis for the police. Hence, it implies that for all these years the police have survived merely because of community support. Then the million dollar question is why talk about community policing when both have been there, supporting each other, being together. Why coin a new word community policing when the community and police have been together since its inception. Why not just plug the holes in the system wanting attention. Can’t the attitudinal problem on either side be corrected and collaboration and participation established.

The partnership, which is innate, has become more of a coercive one. The companionship is selective and there is lack of willingness on either part to participate. Over the years, both the natural partners have gone astray, drifted away from their necessary role, resulting into widening of the gap and requiring immediate intervention to bridge it at the earliest. It is in best interest of both to join hands. The mind set of alienation has to be changed. Development of mind-set means that the new experience become very real, very important, almost vital. A new mindset in favour of partnership and participation has to be ascertained. If one becomes alert to the new mindset one will begin to live in a new and different atmosphere and try to achieve the goal as planned. The interest behind this book has been to agitate the mind of both community and police about the need to rejuvenate the lost fervor of partnership, to synergize their actions and, plan and work together for a common goal. Unless this realization does not seep in, become the mindset, no honest attempt in the desired area can be made.

For the concept to become a mindset it is necessary to have Conceptual Literacy (CL) of the parties. Conceptual literacy indicates that the knowledge of the concept should precede action. Conceptual literacy increases adaptability to changes. With more situation changing on daily basis, technological changes knocking doorstep, more opportunities and challenges being thrown open, only the conceptual literacy comes to the rescue. It prepares to adapt to changes. Conceptual literacy also helps in strategizing the energy investment. Energy investment strategy (EIS) is a method to optimize the outcome from investment of energy. Energy here includes the efforts put in for planning, developing, implementation, collaboration, evaluation and refurbishing. CL and EIS are complementary to each other.

Acceptance without conviction is a mental impediment and a blockade to implementation. The Law of Belief says: Whatever you believe, with conviction, becomes your reality. A person always acts in a manner consistent with one’s deepest and most intensely held beliefs, whether they are true or not. All ones beliefs are learned and at one time they did not have it.

Without a proper mindset normally the statement coming from field officers in the organization, are like “It is too much hassle”, “I would like to do what I am interested in”, “I am not interested in doing it but I am doing it because my bosses want me to”. In police, the culture developed is to dance to the music of superiors without an attempt to understand the implications. There is lack of conviction at implementation stage and confidence missing about the outcome. Unless a person is motivated to and willing to change, it is hard to change. The attitude required in the job is “work to learn-don’t work for money”. Especially, this illustrates the challenges, dilemmas, fears, perceptions and realities of shifting policing emphasis. This also points to the organizational realities and to the roles that individuals in the organization has to play. This also presents that decentralization of power and having faith in the real executors will energize a routinized police officer and pep him up.

The reason for such attitudinal hassles has been the intuitive approach[1] in policy decisions adopted by seniors. They think that they are the best judge to decide upon the operational intricacies at the ground level without bothering to collect data from field. Even their hierarchical rigidity and attitudinal stubbornness (as described by theory X by Douglas McGregor[2]) gives rise to the communication gap.

Time has come when precision policing techniques (PPT) must be used. The approach towards policing has to be more decentralized and localized. This will help in conceptual literacy of the implementers and service receivers. Quite naturally then the policing activities will fall under the zone of acceptance, which has been a far cry for police actions in the past. The involvement of community in policing activities will enhance once they start identifying their presence in the approach.

It is necessary to understand the cause and effect of community policing. Various variables, which are deterrent to an effective participation of community in policing activities, have to be explored. Conscious effort should be made to deliberate on the relationship between various sections of community with police, the perspective angle and the police organizational and personnel issues.

The purpose of the discussion here is to examine recent and less recent developments in the major policing innovation/experiments dubbed as community policing. It is an effort to make a dent on the mindset of the police and community, both, so that they partner and participate for each other’s benefit.

[1] Prasad, B.V.S. and Selvan, kalai, 2007. Customer-Centric Business Model, An Introduction, Icfai Books, The Icfai University press,

[2] McGregor, Douglas, 1960. The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill Companies,