Community Policing in a Small, Changing City


The police department in Columbia Heights, Minn. is a small department, less than 50 sworn officers. It experienced a large in-migration of minority families and they adjusted.

Reading the study below, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not we would know where Ferguson is today if they had made the same kind of reforms. The following quote is from a Columbia Heights officer just after the Ferguson events:

“I would like to think that if we had a situation like where one of our officers was forced to shoot a person and the community had this outrage, I would like to believe that we have enough of a core through these partnerships and these youth outreach programs and community programs that … we’ve got that trust with the majority of the community. … The biggest thing that’s going to make your COP programs successful is building trust. … We work with those community leaders. We work with the businesses. We work with the youth. We work with the minorities. I think that it would be different here.”


The rebirth of community policing: A case study of success
by Deborah S. DeMeester, Donald R. LaMagdeleine and Cari Norton with Lenny Austin, Erik Johnston and Scott Nadeau University of St. Thomas
Minneapolis, MN

Key Points

  • The case of one local police department that faced growing crime rates, low officer morale and decreasing resources as the focus of policing shifted from community policing to reactive policing after 9-11.
  • Six years ago, after redefining community oriented policing for the department in the 21st century, it re-embraced community oriented policing.
  • Today the crime levels are at a 30 year low and a diverse community is highly satisfied with their police despite the lack of diversity on the police force.
  • The schools are over 70% minority students with an average of 80% on free lunch.
  • The qualitative data in this study suggest the philosophy of community oriented policing as embodied by the department is responsible for the success in police/community relations.
  • The change from controlling crime through arrests, enforcement contacts and threats of consequences to focusing on connections and relationship building contacts has helped the officers know and understand the community they serve in new ways.
  • Rather than reacting to crime, true crime prevention has begun in the community.

“In examining the history of community policing in this country, it’s clear that— if we commit ourselves to it—positive change is possible, Improbable—and once unimaginable—advancements are possible. And even the largest and most persistent obstacles can be overcome” — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 2011.

Read the entire 40 page study HERE.

Local news articles HERE and HERE.