What is Community-Oriented Policing? — A Short Tutorial and Story

I fear this most necessary aspect of policing a free society will be lost in the pandemic. You know, other things seemingly become more important than healthy relationships between police and those whom they are to serve — such as diminishing budgets, recruiting problems, and so forth.

So, permit me to run a quick tutorial on “What is Community-Oriented Policing?”

Let’s go back to the beginning — the first public police in a democracy: London, circa 1829 and its organizer Sir Robert Peel who while undertaking this venture crafted Nine Principles. First among them is “the police are the people and the people are the police.”

We, cops and citizens, are in this together.

In fact, I preferred to call this concept “Neighborhood Policing” in my days because my community was so diverse we could not speak of one community but many diverse neighborhoods.

The officers who worked the challenging areas of our city were called Neighborhood Officers. Police and neighborhood residents working together to create and maintain a safe and comfortable place to live and play. A goal that everyone should support.

This, of course, can never work unless both the officer and neighborhood residents TRUST one another. Trust holds the concept together. Policing then becomes more than occupying a community and maintaining order by fear and intimidation.

To emphasis this point, let me tell you a story from Madison where I served as chief of police for over 20 years:

In one of our primary neighborhoods of color, a white police officer was assigned. To best illustrate his work, the following incident occurred during a barbeque celebrating his retirement from the department.

As the neighborhood residents came together there was sound of a dispute a short distance away. Upon hearing this trouble, the officer began to get up from his chair to investigate when one of the matriarchs of the community put her hand on his shoulder and said, “That’s okay, you just stay put and relax, i’ll handle this.” And she did. That’s neighborhood/community policing!

And that, my friends, best illustrates what policing should be.

End of tutorial.