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The questions as to whether community policing complement or compete with traditional policing has been posed within security organs since the inception of community policing initiatives. The fundamental reasons behind this concern are not particularly hard to point out.
Efforts in protection of life and property from internal and external threats demands more than entrenchment of overlapping principles among the various policing initiatives and approaches. In fact, the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks have generated intense desire to develop and enforce proactive policing approaches.
Community policing and Traditional Policing
Despite having come under intense criticisms concerning its principles, mechanisms, and value, a number of indicators as provided in literatures seem point out that community policing complement traditional policing.
According to Friedmann (1992), “the principles of community policing have traditionally emphasized the dimensions of proactive policing, problem-solving, and community partnerships and cooperation.” However, the underlying fact is that both community policing and traditional policing share fundamental elements in efforts to deter and prevent crime. This is because they have overlapping concepts.
Each of the crime deterrence and preventive approaches emphasizes the critical role of information gathering. According to Friedmann (1992), “traditional security policies purport increased and enhanced intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and community policing encourages the identification and analysis of information pertaining to future delinquent behavior.”
In adopting information and intelligence gathering in crime prevention, each adopts proactive approach in crime prevention and management. This means that each values the important ingredient of information gathering as a key construct in creating safe communities.
Furthermore, both community and traditional policing take cognizance of the value of cooperation and information sharing. Whitaker (1980) asserts, “in direct connection with information gathering, each strategy believes effective collaboration will enhance terrorism or crime-related intelligence collection, while also generating improvements within the community itself.”
The attainment of high levels of accuracy in data makes use of flexibility, social capital, trust, and numerous lines of information. In fact, the success of security agencies’ capacity to deter and prevent crime revolves around the close relations and overlapping concepts between community and traditional policing.
The next reason behind the fact that community policing complements traditional policing is that both recognize the need to develop well-structured relationships. “Both policing approaches take keen interests in cooperation that are compatible with standard police practices” (Flynt, & Olin, 2003).
Despite the fact that community policing seems to depart from some traditional approaches in policing such as reactive approaches to crime prevention and management, the fundamental roots in achieving the desired objectives seem to point out that both approaches complement each other, especially in the prevention of new security concerns such as terrorism.
From the above discussions, it is discerned that community policing complements traditional policing and forms the viable path to crime prevention and deterrence. However, this does not mean that it does not compete with traditional policing approaches.
Critics of community policing argue that the effective implementation of community policing demands significant modifications and restructuring of police departments. The underlying fact is that its principles, values and mechanisms all point out the fact that it complements traditional policing approaches.
Flynt, B. & Olin, R. (2003). Community threat assessment: A model for police. In R.L. Kemp (Ed.), Homeland security: Best practices for local government. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association
Friedmann, R. (1992). Community policing: Comparative perspectives and prospects. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
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Whitaker, G. (1980). Coproduction: Citizen participation in service delivery. Public Administrative Review, 40(3): 204-246.