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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Essay on Community Policing

Before the 1990s, there was a general perception among the residents of Chicago that their streets are unsafe.  It was believed that the police are not doing their job to the community and that they are not trustworthy.  In addition, they feel that the local police are not doing anything to respond to their needs.  Police officers, like Office Joe Cannon, are aware that this is the perception of the majority of the public which is frustrating on their part and negatively affects their performance on the job. 

In 1993, a new program was implemented in the City of Chicago.  The program was designed to fight crime.  It is called the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy which is essentially a partnership between police and the community (“What is CAPS?” p.1).  Since the program was implemented, Wesley Skogan, a professor at Northwestern University, has closely monitored the implementation of CAPS.   After asking the 1,500 residents of Chicago about the impact of the CAPS, he found that the result of the implementation was mostly positive (Jonathan Eig, 1996, p.2).  Majority of the residents said that for several years since the implementation of the pilot program they have noticed more police activity.  They also noticed that the minor intrusions by the police on them have been significantly reduced such as the police stopping them while inside their car.  In some locations, the residents stated that they noticed that the police have become less abusive and that the police have become more responsive to the needs of the community.  Majority even said that since its implementation they feel that their streets are safer and they feel a lot safer.

            The CAPS is more than just a program or a project.  It is a new philosophy that is being implemented by the Chicago police.  It is a philosophy in which the police and the community are seen as partners in the accomplishment of the goals of the community.  In the past, when a crime is committed, law enforcement officers rush to the scene of the crime to investigate, gather enough evidence to identify the culprit, track the suspects down, chase them and apprehend them.  Once they are caught, law enforcement officers’ duty was limited to the filing of case against the suspect before the prosecutor’s office presenting to them the accused and the necessary evidence.  The CAPS seeks to do away with the traditional police functions by addressing problem at its very source.

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            According to Joe Cannon, a police officer, the CAPS is more than the mere act of policy officers going on foot.  Under CAPS, local police officers are tasked to get to know their community and the people who live in the community.  They not only report crimes but even incidences which may be indicators of the presence of crime such as abandoned vehicles or neglected children.  He said that since the implementation of this program he has spent more time talking to the people within his jurisdiction and less time arresting them.  He believes that the investment in time has paid off because his relationship with the people is better. 

            Because of this program, other law enforcement officers in Chicago have realized that a law enforcement officer’s task is more than chasing the bad guys and putting them behind bars.  Law enforcement officers call this Community Policing.  It represents a radical shift in law enforcement paradigm.  It is recognized as a more pro-active method of controlling crime by focusing on problem-solving.  Community policing is based on the principle that when police officers mingle with the community by talking to them, interacting with them, a bond of trust and reliance between the police and the public is created.  When this happens the police officer not only becomes visible in the community which effectively prevents crime but they also become familiar with the problems of the community such as drugs or youth violence.  This is a substantial departure from the traditional role of law enforcement officers.

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