Community Policing as the Primary Prevention Strategy for Homeland Security at the Local Law Enforcement Level

By Docobo, Jose | Homeland Security Affairs, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Community Policing as the Primary Prevention Strategy for Homeland Security at the Local Law Enforcement Level


Docobo, Jose, Homeland Security Affairs


Traditionally, local law enforcement has concerned itself primarily with preventing and solving crimes such as burglary, theft, and robbery ? crimes that have an immediate and visible impact on the local community and affect citizen quality of life. In the face of unknown future terrorist threats, however, local law enforcement organizations will have to adapt existing policing strategies to fulfill the requirement of homeland security.

Over the years, law enforcement organizations have sought to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime in communities through the creation of effective partnerships with the community and other public and private-sector resources, the application of problem-solving strategies or tactics, and the transformation of agency organization and culture. In the wake of September 11, 2001, local law enforcement agencies throughout the country find themselves struggling to identify their responsibilities and define their future role in the effort to combat terrorism. The new policing model for terrorism and homeland security must address the areas of crime prevention, intelligence gathering, and information sharing. While these roles are not new to local policing, homeland security at the local level will require a shift in law enforcement's role if police are to ensure the safety and welfare of citizens.

While some have suggested that community policing can fit into the overall national strategy for homeland security, little research specifically identifies community policing strategies and their direct application to the national strategy for homeland security. Many of the objectives of terrorism prevention parallel current law enforcement policies with respect to local crime issues. Because of these similarities, individual, neighborhood, and community crime-prevention strategies should support law enforcement in the fight against terrorism.

Community-oriented Policing

The United States Department of Justice has defined community policing as a philosophy that "focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services that includes aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem-solving, community engagement, and partnerships." 1 Despite varying definitions of community- oriented policing, it is generally agreed that there are three key components to the community policing philosophy. These include the creation of and reliance on effective partnerships with the community and other public/private-sector resources, the application of problem- solving strategies or tactics, and the transformation of police organization and culture to support this philosophical shift. In other words, community policing is not in itself a tactic or strategy, but instead a philosophical approach to how policing is conducted. At its core, community-oriented policing is based on law enforcement and the community joining together to identify and address issues of crime and social disorder.

In a 2002 publication, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing discussed a series of community-oriented policing resources and practices that have a direct application to terrorism deterrence and prevention. These include the use of crime mapping with GIS systems, data collection and analysis protocols, and technologies that may be used as platforms for gathering intelligence to assess terrorism vulnerability. In addition, the community partnerships formed by police in the course of community-oriented problem solving provide a ready framework for engaging citizens in helping police to identify possible threats and implement preparedness plans. 2

Rob Chapman and Matthew C. Scheider, senior analysts at the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), suggest that community policing could play an integral role in homeland security. They contend that by applying the principles of organizational change, problem solving, and external partnerships, community policing can help police to prepare for and prevent terrorist acts, and respond to the fear such threats engender. …

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