BikePatrol

RESOURCES

 

Building Trust with Communities (Matrix Demonstration Project)
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Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office)
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Community Policing Defined (COPS Office)
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What is Community Policing? (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Powerpoint slides)
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What is Problem-Oriented Policing (POP)? (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)
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Understanding Community Policing: A Framework for Action (Bureau of Justice Assistance)
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Race, Police Legitimacy, and Cooperation with the Police (Tom Tyler, National Institute of Justice)
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Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and the Courts (Tom Tyler and Yuen Huo)
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President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Final Report (Office of Community Oriented Policing Services)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Community Policing?

Community policing is perhaps the best known and certainly the most widely adopted police innovation of the past three decades. Indeed, recent research suggests that close to 100 percent of larger agencies claim to have adopted community policing (Reaves, 2015). What exactly adopting community policing entails is less clear. Community policing spans a broad range of programs from neighborhood newsletters and neighborhood substations to foot patrol and neighborhood watch. Neighborhood watch programs vary in their level of police involvement, but police are often important in the initial organization and coordination of watch groups.

 

Community policing definitions typically focus on three components that characterize many programs: some level of community involvement and consultation; decentralization, often increasing discretion to line-level officers; and problem solving (see “Community Policing Defined”). Because community policing is focused on close collaboration with the community and addressing community problems, it has often been seen as an effective way to increase citizen satisfaction and enhance the legitimacy of the police (and the evidence is supportive in this regard, see below).

 

What is Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy?

Police legitimacy is important to consider because of the importance of police trying to maximize their fairness and citizen perceptions of the legitimacy of their actions. Tom Tyler’s research focuses on procedural justice in police-citizen encounters as the key antecedent of legitimacy. Procedural justice, according to Tyler includes four components:

  • Citizens need to participate in the decision process (i.e. be given a voice).
  • Neutrality is a key element of procedural justice. Citizens tend to view a situation as fairer when officers are transparent about why they are resolving a dispute in a particular way.
  • Individuals want to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Citizens are more likely to view an interaction as fair when they trust the motives of the police. Citizens will view the action taken as fairer if the officer shows a genuine concern for the interests of the parties involved.

Survey and observational research generally suggests that when officers incorporate these components of procedural justice into their interactions with citizens and suspects, citizens are more likely to comply with police directives and the law because they see the police as more legitimate. These increases in legitimacy thus have the potential to reduce crime by increasing compliance behavior, although no studies to date have examined this issue directly.  More research, however, is needed on this topic, as no research to date shows that a police intervention focused on increasing procedural justice (e.g., a training) is associated with reduced crime or increased compliance behavior (Nagin & Telep, in progress).

 

The connection between legitimacy perceptions and compliance behavior suggests a possible link between community outreach efforts that increase levels of legitimacy and reduced crime. As Sherman and Eck (2002: 318) note: “The capacity of police legitimacy to prevent crime is something community policing may well be effective at creating.” For example, door-to-door visits by officers seem to be an effective approach for both increasing citizen satisfaction and reducing levels of victimization. Wycoff, Pate, Skogan, and Sherman (1985) found that efforts by police in a target neighborhood in Houston to initiate more positive, informal contacts with citizens led to lower rates of victimization. The program focused on the quality of police-citizen interactions.

 

Aspects of community policing can be combined with other successful interventions in ways that may increase their overall effectiveness. For example, Braga and Weisburd (2010) describe a community-oriented approach to hot spots policing focused on community consultation on the tactics used in hot spots and efforts to ensure that hot spots policing strategies do not damage police-resident relationships. As Braga and Weisburd (2010: 204) note, “Dealing with hot spot locations in a collaborative and transparent way has great potential to improve police-community relations and enhance overall police legitimacy.”

 

Procedural justice and community policing were both emphasized in the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015).  For example, the Task Force recommends that “law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy [see Rahr & Rice, 2015]. Toward that end, police and sheriff’s departments should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with the citizens they serve” (p. 11).

 

In the area of community policing, the Task Force focused in particular on community participation.  The Task Force recommended using strategies that “reinforce the importance of community engagement in managing public safety” (p. 42) and “working with neighborhood residents to co-produce public safety” (p. 45) through problem solving efforts.

Community-Oriented Policing to Reduce Crime, Disorder, and Fear and Increase Satisfaction and Legitimacy Among Citizens  (Charlotte Gill et al., Campbell Collaboration systematic review [link to article in Journal of Experimental Criminology])
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Legitimacy in Policing (Lorraine Mazerolle, Sarah Bennett, Jacqueline Davis, Elise Sargeant, and Matthew Manning, Campbell Collaboration systematic review)
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The Effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch (Trevor Bennett, David Farrington, and Katy Holloway, Campbell Collaboration systematic review)

 

 

What is the Evidence on Community Policing and Procedural Justice?

Community policing and procedural justice are listed under “What’s promising?” on our Review of the Research Evidence. 

 

Gill and colleagues (2014) conducted a Campbell systematic review to examine the impact of community policing on crime and disorder, fear of crime, legitimacy, and citizen satisfaction. Their results suggest a small impact on violent crime, a nonsignificant impact on property crime, and a small effect on fear of crime. Thus, community policing is only weakly related to reducing crime, at least in the short term, which is why we have not listed community policing under “what works?” for reducing crime. Community policing was associated with larger, significant positive benefits for citizen satisfaction, perceived disorder, and police legitimacy.

 

Community policing programs, therefore, may be one way for the police to incorporate principles of procedural justice into their interactions with citizens and as a result improve police-community relations. Based on Tyler’s (2004) process-based model (described above), it could be the case that community policing has a small impact on crime in the short-term, but a more substantial long-term positive relationship through increased levels of legitimacy and satisfaction, although future research is needed on these linkages. These enhanced citizen perceptions of police legitimacy may contribute to increased compliance with the law and reduced crime.  Again, as noted above, these linkages have not been tested in intervention research to date, and so it is difficult to reach any strong conclusions about the relationship between community policing and long-term crime reduction.

 

In a related systematic review, Mazerolle, Bennett, Davis, Sargeant, and Manning (2013) examined police interventions designed to enhance procedural justice and/or increase citizen perceptions of police legitimacy. They focused on interventions that incorporated at least one component of procedural justice (participation, neutrality, dignity/respect, trustworthy motives). Their findings suggest the promise of police efforts to enhance legitimacy, although their review covered a range of studies, most of which included multiple kinds of interventions, making it difficult to disentangle the specific impact of procedural justice. There was evidence that these interventions increased citizen satisfaction, cooperation, and levels of procedural justice. The overall effect of these programs on perceptions of legitimacy was large, but not statistically significant, indicating variability across studies. The impact of these interventions on reducing reoffending was also mixed.

 

While community policing programs are one way to incorporate procedural justice into policing, they are not the only possible approach.  Mazerolle, Antrobus, Bennett, and Tyler (2013), for example, found that even brief procedurally just police-citizen encounters during random breath testing for drunken driving could enhance citizen perceptions of police legitimacy.  Findings here, however, are inconsistent, as a study using a similar intervention in Scotland found positive impact of the procedural justice intervention (MacQueen & Bradford, 2015)

 

Finally, Bennett and colleagues (2008) looked specifically at the effectiveness of neighborhood watch programs and found overall that neighborhood watch is associated with a significant crime reduction, suggesting further crime control benefits for this type of community policing program. Prior narrative reviews of the literature were less supportive of the benefits of neighborhood watch programs, but Bennett et al. found that the programs were associated with a crime reduction of between 16 and 26 percent.

 

Neighborhood Studies from the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix
Not all neighborhood studies are community policing studies. Community policing studies represent 17 of the 46 neighborhood studies in the Matrix.

 

 

Download a full list of studies included in the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix

Community Policing Studies from the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix:

Author
Intervention
Connell et al. (2008) Officer-initiated community policing program associated with a significant reduction in violent and property crimes in the targeted area, but
not in comparable areas in the county
full-circle
M
N
G
P
Giacomazzi (1995) Community crime prevention program leads to overall decrease in crime and increase in resident quality of life full-circle
M
N
F
HP
Jim et al. (2006) Community-oriented policing in a retail shopping center led to reduced perception of gang activity and fear of crime full-circle
M
MP
G
P
Laycock (1991) Burglary declines 62 percent after door-to-door visits to gain community intelligence and increase property marking full-circle
M
N
F
HP
Lindsay & McGillis (1986) Burglary reduced for 18 months after initiation of community policing and neighborhood watch program full-circle
M
N
F
HP
Mazerolle et al. (2003) Beat policing associated with a reduction in overall neighborhood crime rates and a reduction in calls for police service over a long period. full-circle
M
N
G
P
Pate & Skogan (1985b) Program to increase the quantity and quality of police-citizen contacts and to reduce disorder was successful in improving evaluations of police service and in reducing perceived levels of social disorder full-circle
M
N
G
P
Skogan et al. (1995) After 18 monthly police-community meetings, reductions in some crimes and victimization using some measures but not others full-circle
M
N
F
HP
Trojanowicz (1986) Foot patrol areas had fewer crimes than control areas full-circle
M
N
G
P
Tuffin et al. (2006) POP program resulted in positive changes in crime, perceptions of antisocial behavior, and feelings of safety after dark.  full-circle
M
N
G
HP
Wycoff et al. (1985) Door-to-door police visits associated with reduced victimization full-circle
M
N
G
HP
Bennett (1990) Lower socioeconomic status areas that tended to be higher in crime had less surveillance and less effective neighborhood watch programs  empty
M
N
G
HP
Pate et al. (1987) Community block watch has no impact on crime  empty
R
N
G
HP
Pate et al. (1985)(Houston) Monthly newsletter with crime data failed to reduce victimizations of recipients empty
VR
N
G
P
Pate et al. (1985) (Newark) Monthly newsletter with crime data failed to reduce victimizations of recipients empty
VR
N
G
P
Police Foundation (1981) No difference in crime by number of foot patrol officers assigned empty
M
N
G
R
Wycoff & Skogan (1993) No decrease in victimization after increase in police-community meetings in target district empty
M
N
G
HP

 

Result: full-circle =successful intervention; grey-circle = mixed results; empty = nonsignificant finding; = backfireharmful intervention

Rigor: M = moderately rigorous; R = rigorous; VR = very rigorous

X-axis: I = individual; G = group; MP = micro place; N = neighborhood/community; J = jurisdiction

Y-axis: F = focused; G= general

Z-axis: R = reactive, P = proactive, HP = highly proactive

Seattle Police image courtesy of Flickr user Hollywata and used under a Creative Commons license.