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Police: Community Policing - Conclusion

role improving officers neighborhood

Community policing represents a major development in the history of American law enforcement, but the extent to which this approach is a success and dominates contemporary policing still remains a source of debate. At its core, it challenges the traditional concept of the police as crime-fighters by drawing attention to the complexities of the police role and function. Reducing crime remains an important element of police work, but community policing demands that police officers function as community organizers and problem solvers to help reduce citizens' fear of crime and improve the overall quality of neighborhood life. It is unsurprising that such a radical redefinition of policing has encountered some opposition from police officers who are committed to their traditional police role. Nonetheless, the fact that the majority of police departments across the country have implemented some kind of community-oriented policing program is testament to the pervasive influence of this new approach.

Despite widespread support for community policing, it is still prudent to be cautious regarding its potential for improving the state of the country's neighborhoods. It is still unclear whether communities that are poor and socially disorganized, or rapidly developing, can benefit from community policing. If there is not a viable community already in place, how can the police contribute to improving neighborhood life?

Furthermore, it is important not to lose sight of the ethical and legal problems that can emerge as a consequence of this expansion of the police role into the nation's communities. Encouraging officers to foster closer ties with neighborhood residents and granting them greater decisionmaking autonomy increases opportunities for corruption, and raises questions about the limits on government power. There is a danger that the police will serve the interests of powerful community members and/or will use their authority to interfere in the lives of law-abiding citizens who have not requested their service.

Despite these concerns and limitations, it is clear that the philosophical, tactical, and organizational characteristics of community policing have generated a great deal of innovation in how we think about the police and how police work is done. With this creative energy driving us forward, there is every reason to be optimistic about the possibility of improving policing in the decades ahead.

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