Recent Research: Implementing Community-Oriented Policing

By Maeder, Evelyn | Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services, March 2003 | Go to article overview
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Recent Research: Implementing Community-Oriented Policing


Maeder, Evelyn, Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services


Adams, R.E., Rohe, W.M., Arcury, T.A. (2002). Implementing community-oriented policing: Organizational change and street officer attitudes. Crime & Delinquency, 48, 399-430.

Community-oriented policing (COP) is generally defined as a style of policing that involves the officer patrolling and working consistently in one specific area in an effort to establish a partnership with residents and identify and resolve problems. One important aspect of any COP initiative, as demonstrated by a number of studies, involves the impact that it has on police officer attitudes, perceptions and behaviours. According to Adams, Rohe and Arcury, however, the vast majority of these studies on the impact of COP on officer attitudes and behaviours have been conducted in large cities. Although it may be argued that the basic principles of COP remain the same regardless of the size of the community, there is some evidence that implementation of the initiative should be altered for communities of differing sizes. As such, Adams et al. set forth to investigate the attitudinal and behavioural impact of implementing COP in small to midsize police. These locations provided an opportune sample due to the fact that they all wanted to implement a COP program.

According to the authors of this study, any empirical investigation into the impact of COP on officer attitudes and behaviours must be informed by recognition of three key concepts that separate COP from traditional policing: shared responsibility, prevention, and officer discretion. The concept of shared responsibility revolves around the assumption that both the community and the police are responsible for the protection and well being of an area. As such, it is argued that problems should be solved through a collaborative effort between police officers, community members, and non-profit organizations. The concept of prevention dictates that COP officers attempt to identify and rectify local problems before they become serious crime issues. This includes pinpointing problems before they escalate into a crime and working on community improvement projects. Finally, the concept of officer discretion allows COP officers to consider more creative solutions to problems without necessarily making arrests. As such, officers are encouraged to use their judgment and discretion in order to solve a problem in the manner they deem most effective.

In addition to the above, Adams et al. argue that the successful implementation of community-oriented policing requires two changes. The first is the reorganization of resources away from crime control and toward street patrols as well as increasing officer freedom and reinforcing problem-solving efforts. The second change involves the successful alteration of the traditional role of police officer from crime control to community participant. Research indicates that the successful implementation of these COP changes in larger cities produce favourable outcomes with regard to job satisfaction, motivation, improving relationships with coworkers and citizens, and raising expectations involving community participation in crime prevention.

Based on the above findings for larger cities, Adams et al. attempted to answer a number of questions with regard to the impact of implementing a COP initiative in smaller communities. Specifically, these authors were interested in empirically identifying: (1) the organizational changes made by the police services when making the transition from traditional to communityoriented policing, (2) the impact that these changes had on the officers' behaviour, and (3) the effect of COP on officer attitudes.

The authors sought to answer the above questions through the distribution of self-administered surveys to 285 non-supervisory officers from six small to midsize police services in North Carolina including Asheville, Greensboro, Lumberton, Whiteville, Morehead City, and Forsyth County.

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