Legitimacy Through Policing

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Legitimacy Through Policing

Written By: Chief Steve Dye, Grand Prairie, Texas, Police Department

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This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in community policing by police departments nationwide as part of IACP’s Community Policing: The Next Generation project. The project showcases modern, innovative, and cost-effective solutions to crime problems and public safety issues through collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement and community stakeholders in order to adapt community policing efforts. The project is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Guest blogger: Chief Steve Dye, Grand Prairie, Texas, Police Department

If policing has truly moved from an occupation into a profession then why is overall public trust not in alignment with the advancements in our profession? I suggest a large part of the solution to enhance police legitimacy lies in embedding an effective community policing philosophy into every department. I would offer that community policing should no longer be considered a “type” of policing, but rather the default manner in which all law enforcement agencies should operate. Community policing should be the guiding philosophy in knowing our communities and collaboratively working with all community partners toward jointly identifying long-term solutions to problems and improvement of quality of life. When community policing permeates through every level of a police department, it alleviates the impossible task of having to create relationships in a time of crisis as the lines of communication are already in place when controversial events occur. A healthy community policing agency reflects and signifies the understanding and realization that communities and police departments share the same goals – to live, work, and recreate in a place that is safe and feels safe.

A comprehensive commitment to a community policing philosophy can be the driving force toward effective collaboration resulting in more community members viewing police as legitimate and procedurally just. It can be the method in which we humanize the good men and women of law enforcement through the facilitation of interpersonal relationships with citizens. As a result, the current focus on the future of policing provides a collective chance to reinforce existing levels of police support in many areas while building relationships and improving support in other areas. Optimistically, this is an opportunity for current negativity in some communities to transition from a short-term problem to a long-term chance for law enforcement to solidify professional policing and heighten levels of legitimacy.

Community policing can pave the way to the understanding that crime and quality of life are not “police problems”, but rather a community partnership and responsibility shared by all stakeholders. Community policing succeeds in facilitating joint problem-solving and returning the ownership of neighborhoods back to community members as the primary guardians of the places where they live and work. Through community policing, middle ground can be identified with communities toward jointly addressing improvement in social programs, mental health responses, poor parenting, and poverty in lieu of solely dumping fault at the doorstep of police departments.

Community policing is the mechanism that best develops trust and builds equity in a community to prevent crime, explore new ways of dealing with certain offenders and eliminating perceived unfairness. Through community policing, the police and the community predicate their relationship on being united and not as opposing forces to one another – treating each other with dignity and respect, every interaction, every day.

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