Law Enforcement Officer Todd Walls Shares Insight into Community-Oriented Policing
How law enforcement should embrace communities
Community-oriented policing, also referred to as problem-oriented policing, is not a new phenomenon; however, it is one gaining traction as of late. The concept behind this type of policing, which was first theorized by criminologists, is to change the focus from reaction to proaction, and the way to do this is by focusing on building relationships with the local community in order to prevent crime.
This model of policing holds the shared beliefs that police officers ought to be responsible for managing, understanding, and assessing problems, not simply responding to incidents, and that in order to reduce crime, police officers must work in tandem with the local community. Thus, rather than the traditional notion of law enforcement being all about crime and punishment (emphasis on punishment), community policing takes a proactive, preventative approach to crime that involves three groups: police officers, local government officials, and community leaders. Law enforcement officer and former Chief of Police, Todd Walls, shares his insight into community-oriented policing, the concept behind it and the reason for the recent rise in the movement.
According to Todd Walls, the first step of implementing a community policing program is community partnerships. More specifically, partnerships must be forged between local law enforcement officials and the government and community leaders in the neighborhood. Studies show that cooperation among these three groups is essential if community-oriented policing efforts are to be successful. Only when these relationships are solidified can the community begin to work together to identify, evaluate, and solve problems plaguing the town. This leads us to the second most important aspect of community policing: problem solving.
Todd Walls claims that step two in the process of community policing is problem-solving (hence the movement also being labeled as “problem-oriented policing”). The SARA model of problem-solving is the most commonly used in community policing. This acronym stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment, with each word being a key component of the problem-solving process. Scanning refers to actively seeking out patterns of crime and disorder present in the community. According to Todd Walls, an important aspect of scanning is to identify how both parties — the local law enforcement officers and community leaders — perceive the problem. The analysis phase is when information is collected, from both police reports and people in the community who are affected by the problem, and a cause is identified. From there, they move into the response phase, which is when police officers work with the local community to brainstorm and implement a response that will see long-term effects. The final phase is assessment, with Todd Walls stressing that it is critical to continually assess the real-life impacts of the response in order to define its success.
The Rise of Community-Oriented Policing
Todd Walls claims that the United States government’s billion-dollar investment to hire 100,000 community police officers has been a major impetus for the move towards community-oriented policing. The U.S. Department of Justice and the national Community Policing Consortium have both helped thousands of police departments across the United States to develop actionable strategies for community policing on the local level.
Todd Walls’s Final Thoughts
Community-oriented policing has recently gained traction in an effort to shift towards preventative policing, as opposed to the more classical responsive policing of the past. Problem-oriented policing consists of forging partnerships with your community, and a combination of four major components that work together to create a unified approach. The SARA model of problem-solving is the most commonly used model in community policing, which consists of scanning, analyzing, reacting, and assessment.