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Community Policing: The New Protect and Serve

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

By Bethany Pearson
March 10, 2017

Community policing, as defined by Community Oriented Policing Services, is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues, such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime. In Phoenix, AZ, the police department is working toward a positive police-community partnership using four distinctive steps.

The Northern Arizona University justice studies program wrote a paper on the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) and how they are using a four-step strategy to promote a positive police-community partnership within the city. Population increases as well as growing diversity led the city to try new ways to “protect and serve” the city. In 2015, the Obama Administration created the 21st Century Policing Task Force. This task force created six pillars to identify and create a positive police and community relationship. In these six pillars, the first four solely focus on the community engagement. Community engagement is vital to creating a sense of trust and legitimacy between law enforcement and the community it serves and protects. The PPD created a strategy with deep commitments to community engagement. This strategy has proved to be useful in creating a more peaceful and safe community.

The PPD implemented the use of a commitment to community-based policing, relationship development, transparency and communication, and a positive police image through social media. The use of each of these steps builds a positive police-community relationship. Positive relationships lead to more trust and safety within the community.

Commitment to community policing in the PPD is deep. Community policing requires more than just increased police presence. All PPD officers are trained to work with community members to help identify issues within the community to build trust between the police and the community. As of 2016, the PPD has sponsored about 20 different community programs including School Resource Officers, Safe Business Network and Citizen Police Academy. The sponsorships foster a positive police-community relationship.

This commitment leads into the next step of creating relationships. AL- thumbnail_Persuasive CommunicationThe PPD has a Community Relations Bureau (CRB) committed to continuously build and gain community relationships within the community. For example, PPD Assistant Chief Kurtenbach carves out time in his schedule to meet with all the community leaders he can to make sure those relationships are nurtured. Chief Kurtenbach knows the police and the community are not always going to agree but when there is a positive relationship between them things are significantly more peaceful and safe. The CRB is committed to building relationships with all community groups including religion-based groups.

Community policing and positive relationships between the police and community promote a strong foundation for trust and transparency. Trust and transparency blossom when social media is used correctly. Trust within the community is the goal of the PPD. Trust fosters community engagement, and transparency is what will foster the trust. PPD Public Affairs Bureau Lieutenant Paul Taylor believes transparency is attained through uses of things like an interactive website, body cameras and other social media outlets. The website is used as a learning tool as well as a forum the community can use for communication. PPD listens to the community and uses the knowledge to implement changes needed. Body cameras are used to promote transparency. A test of the use of body cameras enhance the PPD’s willingness to show any video, good or bad, to the community. As of 2016, the PPD implemented a plan to equip all officers with a body camera in the span of three years.

Transparency can also be strengthened using the media. The PPD’s last step in the community engagement plan is positive police image through media. In 2016, Lieutenant Taylor dealt with a situation in which police officers allegedly forced a man to eat marijuana to avoid jail. Lieutenant Taylor took the proactive approach and got ahead of the situation to spin it in a positive light. Taylor shared the story with the media and promised the community justice would be served quickly. The story shows transparency by actively sharing the situation and necessary details with the public before another questionable source does. Sharing the details will promote the sense of transparency to the community which builds the trust.

The Phoenix Police Department exemplifies that trust and safety is not solely due to rules and policies. It requires a great deal of time and energy within the community to show citizens they care and are well-versed in what is going on in the community they swear to protect and serve. Community policing in Phoenix, AZ shares the idea that to protect, law enforcement must submerge itself into all aspects of the community to have the full understanding of changes need to be made.

Author: Bethany Pearson is a recent graduate of the Masters in Public Administration Program at Augusta University. She has a Bachelors in Secondary Education from Drake University. Bethany lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two dogs.

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