The issue of order and safety has always been crucial for the U.S. society. Indeed, during the last several decades the question of personal protection was highly promoted by police agencies through community policing with no notion what does this term really means. The U.S. Department of Justice defines it as a philosophy with specific organizational strategies which imply long-term partnership in solving problems in order to raise public safety and decrease the level of crime (Community Policing Defined, n.d.).
Bureau of Justice Assistance presents it in a simpler way: “Community policing is, in essence, a collaboration between the police and the community that identifies and solves community problems” (Understanding Community Policing, n.d.). This policy states that policemen are not anymore the only guardians who catch criminals and maintain law and order. According to the rules of community policing the role of law and order guardian is also divided between all the members of the community they belong. They take responsibility to be active allies in uniting efforts to protect themselves and their neighbors. Such a strategy is effective enough in reinvigorating communities and creating the more vital neighborhood.
The role of an officer in a community policing environment is different. As far as new duties should take into account problems of the neighborhood, the requirements to the police officers also increase. He is not a brave hero ready to resolve community problems and sacrifice his life if needed. He has to be a wise leader, and his pivotal role consists in gathering the community together, instructing them and helping to mobilize resources and support in solving various problems within their competence. His primary duty is to organize a creative partnership where every member is heard with patience, understood with wisdom and put into practice with enthusiasm.
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Implementation of community policing is based on the following principles: “…the police are the public and the public are the police” (Understanding Community Policing, n.d.). The police officer has not to react on the specific situations using rigid and limited regulations as a guideline. From now, thinking outside the box and creativity are welcome. Instead of strict supervision while delegating powers, the police officer has to create prolific cooperation within a community based on values and purposes. Therefore, the responsibilities of the police officer are more expanded and go beyond the strict limits.
The U.S. Department of Justice states: “instead of constantly looking up the bureaucratic chain of command for guidance and assistance, the community police officer looks out toward the problems to be solved, and toward the community’s interest in helping to solve them” (Understanding Community Policing, n.d.).
Besides the duties, the police officer should do in a community policing environment; there are actions he should not do. First of all, community policing implies extensive professional trainings for all officers with no regard to their rank. Thus, the police officer should not demonstrate hierarchical attitude to other members of the community. In addition, new guidelines of solving community problems with applying non-standard methods and approaches do not allow the police officer waste time by conducting routine patrols just because ‘that is how he has always done it’. The police officer should not be egoistic, lazy, incompetent and indifferent to the problems of others.
Considering the issue whether police officers should be held to higher moral and ethical standards than the population they serve, the answer is ‘they should’. There are several reasons and explanations to this approach. First of all, police officers are the responsible officers whom people trust, rely on them in coping community problems and respecting their civil rights. They have rights other citizens do not have like the right to carry the weapon and use it in case of a danger. They have the authority to detain suspicious people and prevent people in public places about any harm.
Moreover, all community members pay taxes from which police officers salary is derived. For this reason many citizens are solitary in the opinion that police officers should be more conscious in their acts and decisions when working on the public eye. At least, no one is allowed to be above the law. Thus, in terms of law, both community members and police officers should be equal.
Considering the specific essence of community policing and the role of the police officer in it, it is clear that the police officer is a leader, a so-called role model. From the psychological and sociological point of view any leader should be held to higher moral and ethical standards than the community he leads. People tend to listen and follow those who are smarter, wiser, and stronger than they are. Higher moral and ethical standards motivate other people to achieve that level. The police officer in the community policing environment is a leader. Leadership consists of two levels: the first is when a leader grows; the second is when he helps grow people around him. The police officer duty is to teach and lead others. Higher moral and ethical standards are key factors if his success. If no, no success is reachable.
- Community Policing Defined. (n.d.). Cops. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/vets-to-cops/e030917193-CP-Defined.pdf
- Community Policing and the Police Officer. (n.d.). Perspectives on Policing. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/139164.pdf
- Understanding Community Policing. (n.d.). Bureau of Justice Assistance. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/commp.pdf