Once More For Community Oriented Policing

The Community Safety Partnership, which is made up of the Watts Gang Task Force and members of the Los Angeles Police Department (including the Chief)..

John Buntin writes in last week’s New York Times Magazine how the Los Angeles Police Department used a good dose of community-oriented policing to get a handle on their gang problem in his article, “What Does It Take to Stop Crips and Bloods From Killing Each Other?”

It turns out that a “soft approach” (community policing) applied to a hard, murderous, almost intractable, lengthy city problem works. The community strategy centered around Cynthia Mendenwall, a 51-year-old mother of four who had lost two sons to gang warfare in Watts, a life-style she was once very familiar with as a high-ranking member of the PJ Crips in the 1980s.

Today, Mendenwall is a member of the Community Safety Partnership, which is made up of the Watts Gang Task Force and members of the Los Angeles Police Department. By building trust and working together, a huge difference has been achieved and it was accomplished by changing the tactics and strategies of the police department and enlisting members of the community in solving this problem..

In the past, the way the L.A.P.D. conducted itself in South Los Angeles was essentially “anti-insurgency” A strategy marked by brutality, suppression and force — the only things the L.A.P.D. thought people in South L.A. understood. They were wrong.

Over the past two years, under a new way, violent crime in L.A. gangland has fallen by more than 60 percent. Drive-by shootings, once a mainstay of gang life and the nightly news, have almost disappeared. One of the primary reasons it happened was because of community partnership and the leadership of L.A.P.D.Chief Charlie Beck.

Connie Rice, a civil rights lawyer worked with Beck in developing a plan to train, certify and deploy gang-intervention workers to the city’s hot spots. He said, “Beck is not the ‘Crash’ officer I met 20 years ago. He transformed himself; for very strategic but also personal reasons he transformed himself.” Among the personal reasons is that two of his three children are in the L.A.P.D. and work South L.A. and the hard-core tactics of the C.R.A.S.H. unit (Community Response Against Street Hoodlums) were not working but provoking more mayhem in the community.

Today’s strategies involve working with schools in neighborhoods with the highest gang presence, systemically identifying the most at-risk children for extra services, hiring  gang-intervention workers, and providing summer activities through its Summer Night Lights programs, which keeps parks and recreation centers open later in high-crime neighborhoods.

In contrast is, of course, is the stop-and-frisk approach in New York. Simply stated, it focuses on deterrence over fairness. The purpose behind stop-and-frisk is to deter youths in high-crime neighborhoods from carrying guns by increasing the likelihood that police will arrest them. The New York approach may be effective theoretically but it comes with a high cost to the community because police must make large numbers of stops in order to make it work. This causes those subjected to these stops  to view the sweeping tactics of the police as unfair. The cost is the loss of police legitimacy in the community.

Criminologist David M. Kennedy puts it succinctly, “There is a direct link between the feeling that police are illegitimate and high levels of violence… When you get into the communities that are the most distressed, the feeling that the police are not legitimate goes up and violence goes up.”

On the other hand, if police can encourage high-crime neighborhoods to comply with the law by making some fairly simple changes to their own behavior: by explaining police actions, by listening to people’s grievances and by demonstrating respect. The effect of this community-oriented strategy can be far more lasting and effective than what has come to be called “shock and awe” policing..

[To see the full article, CLICK HERE.]


  1. Let’s hope the LAPD is committed long term to this new solution when it time to fight against any kind of budget cuts to its community support unit.


  2. Hi Mr. Couper. Have you been following the Hawthorne PD shooting of the dog Max? I won’t the link the video, it’s too graphic and sad. Not only were Mr.Rosbys’ civil rights violated with an illegal arrest, when his dog jumped out of the car he was begging and screaming for them not to shoot his dog. If you watch the video, Officer Salmon the one who killed Max had his gun drawn before the dog was even near. He shot him four times, while Mr Rosby screamed. Salmon was also involved in police brutality incident where the suspect was kicked in the face till his jaw broke while Salmon kicked him in the ribs. We’re raising money pass legislation against the epidemic of police shooting pets. We’re also trying to get Salmon fired and have charges brought against him.

    I made the mistake of looking at the PoliceOne site regarding this here are some of the comments:

    “Maybe the department can buy him a Shotweiler, or a Remington Springer Spaniel”?
    “Stop hounding this man!”

    “I just spit coffee on my keyboard! Too funny” (in reply to the above)
    Good shoot (sic)
    “It was satisfying to see that little sh*t cry in anguish. Maybe next time he’ll mind his own business. Glad the dog is dead”

    All of them agreed with this cowardly act except for one a J.Coulter.

    He said it was a lose/lose situation, they should have left Leon Rosby alone, and it’s another black eye for LE.
    That even law abiding citizens, not just ‘thugs’ are ready to start an all out war on LE.
    Of course he was accused not being a cop, etc.

    I’m sick over this, all of it. ALL over the country are breaking into peoples homes and first thing they do is shoot the animals.
    Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, kittens, I am NOT exaggerating.

    And not one apology from Hawthorne PD, or other LEO. I’ve called a few of them up to let them know how wrong this is and always back up their “brothers in blue” I think one officer was fired in Arizona after he stomped and beat to death a dog which took a half hour to die. 😦

    I give up on them. I try not to hate the police, but with the history of racism, sexism, cruelty to animals,the warrior cop attitude, the fact they can do whatever they want without fear of reprisal, getting away with murder literally, the beating down and suppressing peaceful protests and the Occupy movement? It’s hard not to hate them, and not feel bad when one of them is killed.
    And I do NOT want to feel that way!

    We need more LEO like you, but where are they?


    1. Good police officers are out there, Sharon. It’s just that the negative cop culture sometimes batters them down. Regardless of whether shooting this animal was the right thing to do or not, police departments need to be able to show compassion and some feeling when a pet is killed (let alone a son or daughter!). My book is about changing the old culture into a new, professional, compassionate, competent and improving police function. It takes time and effort and, yes. persistence, but it can be done!


    2. Sharon, in my opinion, you should definitely avoid looking at the comments on PoliceOne. I would say the same for almost any blog (present blog excluded, of course) or online newspaper. Comments sections seem to be the intellectual sewer of the world. The anonymity emboldens people and gives them an excuse to let all their pettiness, egocentrism and hate pour out. Its kind of like a virtual riot.

      PoliceOne is an especially frightening example of this phenomenon, since most of the commenters are supposed to be law enforcement officers (they are screened, I believe). If you look at the comments you are treated to “cops can do no wrong, screw the public” tribalism at its absolute worst. It is not a pretty picture.


  3. http://www.officer.com is another police website that emboldens people (supposely police officers) to let out their worst comments behind the anonymity. I have put so many comments on that website over the years, that now the website owner has software to screen my comments out and other people like me. Many times, when the cops on that website can’t argue with your facts, then they resort to making comments on your spelling, grammar, format, etc. Even in cyberspace, the cops are separating themselves from society.


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