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What Is Community Policing?

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.

That's according to the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

But how does community policing work in practice? Since this is a term you have probably heard so many times in the past year, you may be wondering how does it really affect the relationship between a police force and the community?

Proactive Policing

The main focus of community policing is a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to crime control, normally by working closely with a community and creating a more cooperative relationship with citizens. Officers are encouraged to patrol and work in the same area and foster stronger ties with residents in order to identify potential public safety concerns before they become crimes. Earning a community's trust could also aid in gaining relevant information to criminal investigations down the line.

While community policing often entails more face-to-face time with community members, police can also use social networking sites to keep citizens updated on everything from traffic jams to officer shootings. Many police departments have Facebook and Twitter accounts, which can serve to aid both communication and investigations.

Reactive Programs

In some cases, community policing has become mandatory. Recent DOJ investigations into police practices have resulted in consent decrees that requires departments to engage in community policing and even create community police commissions. Many investigations have followed specific incidents of police violence or years of misconduct allegations, and are attempts to repair the alienation between a police force and the local community.

The DOJ has investigated 22 police departments in the last five years, and still has open investigations in major cities like New Orleans and Baltimore. So while community policing encourages a proactive approach, it is often implemented in reaction to federal oversight.

This is just a quick run down of the key points of a term so many people use, but not too many take the time to explain. If you want to learn more, or get your community involved in helping reshape your local police, contact your local authorities to start making a difference.

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