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Community-oriented Policing: A Public Management Paradigm Shift in Law Enforcement

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Andrew Vaz
February 27, 2023

As the United States continues to deal with the reveal and aftermath of the Tyre Nichols’ tape, which showed the aforementioned being brutally assaulted by five officers of the Memphis police department, law enforcement agencies are once again under the microscope when it comes to how officers are being trained to react in high-stress situations with the public. Tragically, Tyre Nichols succumbed to his injuries, prompting protests and universal condemnation from a majority of Americans. These five officers were arrested and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. There is a pressing challenge facing public administrators when it comes to developing effective criminal justice policy and its administration.

We have all heard of the ‘blue wall of silence’—the unspoken agreement among law enforcement organizations to not challenge or point out misconduct. Whistleblowing appears to be frowned upon and as such, police officers seem to have an objection to holding their officers accountable for their conduct. When trying to confront these issues of misconduct, it appears officers are at risk of losing their careers and pensions by reporting abuse or corruption among their ranks.

It is incumbent on administers to seek reform within our police departments in order to prevent more citizens from being targeted for harassment, assault and beyond. However, if administrators are going to pursue this endeavor, change must begin at the top of the organization ladder with the heads of the police force. This approach calls for a brand new, public management paradigm shift in law enforcement policy.

Whistleblower Protection

It goes without saying that police officers should be afforded protection from intimidation by leadership when they choose to disclose misconduct within their organization. Law enforcement officers are accountable for the public to whom they serve and protect. Chiefs and police unions should not coerce officers into keeping quiet about problems that affect the agency. It does mean we hold public servants to a higher standard when we disclose misconduct.

Action can be taken by Congress—this could be in the form of extending whistleblower protections to state and local law enforcement agencies. Bi-partisan legislation was introduced in 2022 to extend whistleblower protection for employees working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Taking this action will ensure that there is accountability within law enforcement agencies across the nation. Police officers will come forward about misconduct knowing that their career is not in jeopardy.

Public Management Paradigm Shift

Thomas Kuhn would acknowledge that the current paradigm that exists in American law enforcement is incompatible with the current environment. Kuhn would argue that it is time to introduce a new paradigm that knows how to handle the current societal pressures that exist. First, we need to understand that the current law enforcement paradigm is to act as a deterrent to crime. It is justified through the ‘use of force’ narrative that officers are taught. Officers respond to situations with that ‘use of force’ in preparation of a review of their actions by internal affairs or the courts.

Now, this shift would call for agencies to abandon this ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach to policing. Agencies would no longer train officers to only justify their conduct after doing something wrong but rather ask these officers to think critically about their actions before taking them. While there may be resistance to change, many within these agencies would applaud the new paradigm that would be adopted: community-oriented policing.

Community-Oriented Policing

This paradigm requires officers to live and know the people that reside in the community that they serve. The officer is visible and is apart of the community, such as the pastor of the local church or the schoolteacher. Essentially, there must be reforms completed in personnel hiring and organizational structure. All-in-all, community-oriented policing works to not only make the work police officers do better, but also change the current opinion that the public has towards policing in America. Policing is reactive and untrustworthy; community-oriented policing will make law enforcement assertive and more skilled in handling issues inside a community which the officer will know.

Some agencies are beginning to implement community-oriented measures; however, the resistance to this paradigm shift still remains.


In spite all of the measures presented here, nothing will not be accomplished unless public administrators make it a priority. Tyre Nichols was a citizen who was given a miscarriage of justice and his tragic death could have been prevented. Mr. Nichols is the latest police-involved killing that has taken the national stage. Only a shift in how this nation approaches law enforcement can prevent future murders of citizens, and as such, public administrators need to make criminal justice policy reform a priority.

Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.Sc., M.P.A., MPhil is a doctoral candidate in the public policy and administration program at Walden University. He is a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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One Response to Community-oriented Policing: A Public Management Paradigm Shift in Law Enforcement

  1. Roy McCatty Reply

    February 27, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for this well written article. I look forward to comments from members of the police force, other caring citizens, as well as politicians at at all levels in our nation.

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