What are the benefits of community policing?

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The main benefit of community policing is the relationships that are able to develop between the law enforcement officer(s) and the community he or she is serving. A serious problem in many urban communities involves the lack of an informal or cordial relationship between police and civilians. The hostility or...

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The main benefit of community policing is the relationships that are able to develop between the law enforcement officer(s) and the community he or she is serving. A serious problem in many urban communities involves the lack of an informal or cordial relationship between police and civilians. The hostility or suspicions that often accompany policing that relies on motorized patrols by a shifting array of officers too often results in violence. Officers who are alien to the environments in which they are posted, or who are familiar with the environment but lack cordial relationships with members of the community, are officers who are more likely to encounter hostile or suspicious citizens.

Community policing involves the regular deployment of the same officers in specified communities, with those officers expected to engage informally with the community, as a way of building bridges and minimizing antagonisms that can lead to fatal miscalculations. The more officers engage with the community, the better the relationships they are able to build and the less likely they are to find themselves in dangerous situations. Community policing is important because residents of given neighborhoods are able to get to know the law enforcement officers on a more informal basis, thereby facilitating the development of the kinds of relationships in which problems can be more peacefully resolved or anticipated before they become serious. Officers known to a neighborhood on an informal basis are more likely to recognize problems before they develop, because they are more familiar with the individuals and families and have a better understanding of the social and cultural dynamics of individual neighborhoods.

An ancillary benefit of community policing involves the ability on the part of police officers to develop sources of information on criminal activities. When individual officers are able to build relationships, especially with potentially problematic individuals, they are far more likely to be able to use those relationships to cultivate sources among the citizenry—sources who are well-positioned to know when others among the populace are planning to engage or have engaged in criminal activity and who are willing to confide with the police officer they know.

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I think there are several benefits to community policing.  First of all, putting  police on foot into the areas they serve or even putting a police station in a troubled high rise or public housing complex, brings the officers into the neighborhood where they can get to know the people.  They also can do prevention work to solve problems and head off trouble.  Trust can be built with youth activities planned with the police officers, so that the officers don't become the enemy.  Immigrant populations which so often have a negative relationship with law enforcement in their native lands are reluctant to trust the police here in this country.  Community policing allows a bridge to be built to connect with the immigrant population.  As a volunteer within the jail system, I see only positive benefits coming from community policing.

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