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6: Policing and Policed Community

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    Chapter 6 – Policing and Policed Community

    Key Learning Objectives:

    • Identify the issues and importance of law enforcement department hiring a diverse police force.
    • Explain how a diverse police force provides improved understanding of different cultures and better relations with the community they serve.
    • Be able to explain the issues of racial profiling.
    • Identify how community policing can improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community

    6.1 - Ethnic, Racial and Minority Issues within the Workforce of a Law Enforcement Agency30

    The role of policing has been dynamic since it became a profession in 1829 under Sir Robert Peel in London, England. The relationship between police and citizens in American society is generally understood as a progression from the political era, when police were introduced in American cities in the 1840s to the early 1900s; to the reform era, stretching across the middle part of the 20th century from the 1930s to the 1970s; and then to the community era of modern policing since the 1970s. Williams and Murphy point out the lack of involvement of minorities in policing throughout these different eras. Communities of color were largely powerless during the political era and thus not able to influence police strategy. During the reform era, police strategy was determined largely on the basis of law, although communities of color were generally unprotected. In today's community era of policing, one of the tenets is the requirement for a cohesive community working in partnership with a responsive police department. Williams and Murphy state that this precondition does not prevail in many minority neighborhoods.

    The modern police departments have forums and work closely with racial and ethnic police organizations, including the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, National Asian Peace Officers Association, National Black Police Officers Association, National Latino Peace Officers Association, National Native American Law Enforcement Association, and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. These focused on the relationship between minority citizens and police. Additionally, they focus on addressing concerns of rank and file minority officers.

    6.2 - Recruitment, Retention, and Promotion of a Diverse Work Force31

    Bringing the right type of people into law enforcement is another major aspect of any effort to improve the police profession and address the violence issue. Most discussions of police reform have touched on the importance of recruitment and selection as a long-term strategy for improvement. Although this may be obvious, they are difficult problems in and of themselves and, in addition, also a source of conflict between the police and the community.

    The source of conflict is disagreement over what type of person is best able to handle the responsibilities of a police officer. One continuing debate is the amount and type of education appropriate for a police officer. Another debate involves the police agency's racial make-up. While there is general agreement on the need for a police department to reflect the make-up of the community it serves, there is considerable disagreement on how that balance should be attained. The courts have put to rest some of the physical requirements thought to be important for the police for so many years. But the question of the psychological make-up of an officer--and how it should be measured--has yet to be resolved.

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    Figure 6.1 2019 Cultural Parade by the National Parks Service. Image is in the Public Domain

    Although there is a wide range of opinion on what type of person is best suited to handle the rigors of the job, three factors are considered vital in terms of violence between the police and community. These factors should be incorporated into the overall process of recruiting and selecting police officers:

    • The department should have a ratio of employees of color and national origin that reflects the diversity of the community it serves.
    • Continued emphasis should be placed on bringing into law enforcement people reflecting a variety of college disciplines.
    • Individuals should be psychologically suited to handle the requirements of the job.


    Once an agency decides what type of individual it wants as an officer, it needs to develop a recruitment plan. Many departments limit their recruiting efforts to local newspaper advertisements when positions are open. This method will usually produce a pool of applicants. However, the type of individual sought may not respond to newspaper advertisements.

    image-5.jpeg image-6.jpegFigure 6.2 Agencies often use advertising campaigns to attract new recruits to fill vacancies. Image is in the Public Domain

    Law Enforcement selection criteria is extremely rigid and only 1 or 2 out of every 10 applicants will survive the entire process and be offered a position. According to the California Highway Patrol 90-95% of applicants are not successful in the hiring process. One could also make a convincing argument that recruitment efforts are not very effective if 8 or 9 of 10 applicants cannot survive the recruiting process. Perhaps the effort devoted to processing applicants unsuited to becoming police officers could be redirected to recruiting the right type of applicant. The point here is that the recruiting method should be carefully designed to attract the type of applicant desired.

    Law enforcement agencies use a variety of approaches to recruit applicants. Some send recruiting teams to "career days" on college campuses, while others send recruiters to various cities to look for experienced police officers. Still others concentrate recruiting resources on their immediate geographic area. Many departments have made use of the local news media through feature stories, public service announcements, and Internet job postings. Some have also used business and corporate assistance to develop brochures that provide accurate information about what the department offers. An agency may need to circulate its recruitment announcements using a number of methods, such sending them to a diverse group of community leaders, setting up a table at community meetings, shopping malls, schools, colleges, and community gathering places.

    A factor that has an immense impact but is often not addressed effectively in recruiting plans is the influence of existing members of the police organization. Negative attitudes of individual officers about their job and the department may cause potential applicants to look elsewhere for employment. On the other hand, positive attitudes may exist for the wrong reasons--for example, because the department has an image as a place for "macho," TV-style cops.

    Therefore, it is important that the recruiting plan and its underlying rationale be shared with all employees, so they have a clear understanding of the department's objectives. Employees can serve as excellent recruiters if they know these objectives and appreciate the critical importance of their jobs. Employees can also better discuss some of those issues often put forth as impediments to attracting high quality applicants. For example, they can speak directly to issues such as low pay and the difficulties of shift work. They are in the best position to talk about positive as well as negative aspects of a police career.

    The objective of a recruiting program should be to attract a large enough pool of desirable applicants to fill department vacancies. This does not mean that the only measure of the recruiting effort should be the number of people who complete employment applications. If a department needs a higher ratio of employees from different racial and ethnic groups to reflect the community, and the only people completing applications are not from desired groups or do not meet basic requirements, then the objective is obviously not being met. The recruiting plan must contain relevant and measurable objectives that are monitored to ensure every effort is being made to meet them.


    After an individual has expressed an interest in becoming a police officer, most departments begin a process that involves a series of steps designed to aid in making the selection decision. The selection process continues to receive a great deal of attention. Arbitrary selection standards that were common in the past have been eliminated by courts and other actions. Further research should be conducted by the human resources department of a police department to establish a sound selection process.

    The close examination of this process has underscored its importance. It has also helped focus attention on developing a better understanding of the police officer's job and on including steps that measure whether a candidate has the potential for meeting those requirements. Even with these improvements, a number of selection issues have continued to generate considerable controversy. Two of these, educational requirements and psychological screening, are measures believed to have potential for reducing violence between the police and community. However, these alternatives obviously would take years to change the make-up of a department. In many departments, psychological screening and educational requirements cannot be imposed upon individuals currently employed.

    Educational issues have been a long-standing topic of discussion in law enforcement circles. As early as 1931, the Wickersham Commission report noted the need for higher levels of education. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice recommended in its Police task force report that officers should have a minimum of two years of college and supervisors and administrators should have four years. The National Commission on Police Standards and Goals established a standard in its Police report, published in 1973, that by 1983 a basic entry-level requirement should be a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. It is now thought that a diversity of degrees is preferable to only criminal justice degrees to avoid similarity of thinking among officers and to avoid limiting the broad experience required for an effective law enforcement agency.

    These reports were followed by many other calls for similar requirements, but the reality has been that few departments have actually made any changes in entry-level educational requirements. Many believe that an entry-level requirement of a bachelors' degree would go a long way towards addressing a number of problems in law enforcement, including violence between police and the community. Others recognize the practical challenges of requiring a bachelor’s degree for an entry level police position and suggest other solutions; such as education incentives once an officer is hired to address the violent encounters between police and the community.

    The psychological fitness of police officers is also of major importance in addressing the violence issue. A police officer has considerable discretion in the manner in which day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled. This discretion extends to the use of force. One method to improve the prediction of whether an individual is able to handle police responsibilities is psychological evaluation. Although many departments do not use psychological screening in the selection process, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies has established the following as a mandatory standard for all agencies:

    • An emotional stability and psychological fitness examination of each candidate is conducted, prior to appointment to probationary status, using valid, useful, and nondiscriminatory procedures.
    • Commentary: Law enforcement work is highly stressful and places officers in positions and situations of heavy responsibility. Psychiatric and psychological assessments are needed to screen out candidates who might not be able to carry out their responsibilities or endure the stress of the working conditions.

    The importance that the Commission on Accreditation has placed on this area by making it a mandatory standard is obvious. Emotionally stable law enforcement officers are better equipped to navigate the emotional and psychological challenges which they will face.

    6.3 - Police Knowledge of Cultural Groups32

    The tragic death of Jonathan Ferrell former Florida A&M University football player underscores the tension between culturally diverse citizens and the law enforcement professionals that serve their communities. Throughout, this study the term “culturally diverse” refers to individuals, groups, and communities that represent racial, ethnic, gender, cultural, and sexual orientation-based classifications of citizens. The terms “law enforcement” and “police” are both used to refer to agencies, individuals, and organizations that perform policing duties.

    According to the Associated Press (2014), “police say that Ferrell wrecked his car and went to a nearby house and banged on the door, apparently for help. The resident called police, and three officers responded. Investigators say Kerrick fired 12 shots, 10 of which hit Ferrell. Kerrick was the only officer who fired his gun.” Many have questioned the actions of police officer Randall W. Kerrick and investigators are trying to determine if race played a role in the incident. Jonathan Ferrell was a young African American male, and Randall W. Kerrick is a Caucasian police officer. The implications behind these incident and similar situations are clear for both police officers and citizens. Police officers are expected to effectively serve communities while engaging in safe interactions with citizens from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Citizens expect to receive fair, equitable, and safe law enforcement services from policing organizations without fear of excessive force, racial discrimination, and brutality.

    This is the intersection where cultural competence and law enforcement meet. Law enforcement professionals that possess cultural awareness better understand the needs of citizens and exhibit actions that take into account the cultural context of their interactions with citizens. The Jonathan Ferrell incident illustrates the significance of cultural competency in law enforcement. In this situation it appears that a number of assumptions were made on behalf of the citizens involved in the incident, and on behalf of the officers responding to the scene. First, the citizen who called the police assumed that the young black man banging on her door was attempting to burglarize her home. Second, police responding to a citizens’ call for help lead to assumptions about the intent of Jonathan Ferrell and his actions. Last, Jonathan Ferrell assumed that police officers were responding to the scene to assist him in his disoriented state.

    Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine if the actions of police officers are racially motivated. However, leadership within police departments can enforce policies that promote culturally competent behaviors, and attitudes. All public service professionals should be trained to respond appropriately in cross-cultural situations, this may frequently involve developing increased cultural awareness and sensitivity when dealing with culturally diverse citizens. Policy development in this area is particularly important to assist officers better serve a diverse community.

    Cultural Competency

    Developing the cultural competency of service delivery professionals has existed as a primary emphasis of research in the fields of healthcare, social work, child welfare, and psychology since the 1980’s. Cultural competency is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency or professional and enable that system, agency or professional to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. In the public sector cultural competency is specifically concerned with an organizations commitment to institutionalizing the policies and practices that lead to culturally competent behaviors, and interactions with the public.

    According to Mitchell F. Rice (2008), cultural competency is best operationally defined as the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes. In the Jonathan Ferrell case, the police officer may have acted based upon the standards, polices, and practices currently accepted within the police department. As illustrated by these incident and numerous others, however, such actions make citizens question why excessive force is disproportionately used against people from culturally diverse groups. Unfortunately, for law enforcement agencies and governments throughout the United States these questions make organizations more susceptible to lawsuits, and accusations of racial discrimination.

    This speaks to the importance of developing and institutionalizing culturally competent policies that guide the attitudes and behaviors of police officers interacting with citizens from culturally diverse groups. Institutionalization means that knowledge is formally recognized, documented, and shared in interactive ways with all public service delivery personnel and that five explicit mechanisms and policies are in place that provide for maintaining and expanding on the professional knowledge base about culture, so that the public agency is truly a learning organization. In the organizational setting this form of institutionalization is often represented by organization 1). mission statements, 2) human resource policies, 3). organization goals/strategic plans, 4). public communications, and 5). other formally documented polices. Therefore, organization leaders and law enforcement professionals that recognize the importance of cultural competency can begin assessing internal cultural competency levels by identifying and reviewing the documented policies that currently exist within their organizations.

    Law enforcement professionals encounter individuals living in diverse multicultural communities on a daily basis. As the demographics of these communities increase in culturally diverse populations it becomes significantly important for law enforcement professionals to possess the cultural competency, knowledge, and skills necessary to perform their jobs.


    Think about it . . . Understanding Prejudice

    Understanding is a great way to explore biases and how discrimination looks in the real world. Take this quiz to explore your hidden biases. How did this quiz make you feel? Why?

    6.4 - Racial Profiling33

    The challenge for police in multi-ethnic, liberal, democratic societies is to find the correct balance among the public goods at stake. They must enforce the law but also maintain racial and ethnic peace. These goals are incompatible to some extent. Enforcing the law may disrupt the peace. Keeping the peace may require forgoing opportunities to prevent crime or apprehend criminals.

    The practice of racial profiling illustrates the tradeoff. In the past police defend the practice as an essential law enforcement tool needed to help identify potential drug couriers, terrorists, and other criminal types. More generally, they use race/ethnic appearance as one of several cues to suspect that something is amiss and that an investigation would be appropriate. A black male walking in an all-white neighborhood or in a deserted industrial park late at night, or driving an expensive new car, are common scenarios that traditionally have prompted police inquiries.

    Such interventions undoubtedly prevent some crimes. But they also have high costs. They produce deep resentments and alienation among minorities who are repeatedly stopped and questioned by the police. They divide the community and undermine racial peace. Over time, they build up and explode in race riots or cheers from the black community for people like O.J. Simpson when they beat the system.

    Law enforcement profiling is inappropriate when race or some other sociological factor, such as gender, sexual orientation, or religion is used as the sole criterion for taking law enforcement actions. Profiling that singles out members of the community for no reason other than their race is discriminatory and provides no legitimate basis for police action and has serious consequences. "Whether intentional or unintentional, the application of bias in policing tilts the scales of justice and results in unequal treatment under the law," writes Ronald L. Davis, the author of a study on bias-based policing for the National

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    Figure 6.2 Stop Racial Profiling. Image is used under a CC-BY-NC 2.0 license.

    Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). Allegations of racial profiling and other bias-based policing activities, particularly traffic stops and random searches, have become national issues, as the escalating coverage in the media shows. There have also been legislative proposals at the state and national level addressing racial profiling, along with lawsuits brought by civil rights organizations and the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Racial profiling erodes the necessary trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. There is also the collateral damage of police recruitment of minorities being made more difficult and minorities becoming less willing to participate in the criminal justice process. The use of objective factors indicating potential criminal activity as a basis for making traffic stops may be a legitimate and effective law enforcement tool. However, inappropriate profiling impairs law enforcement's abilities. Furthermore, the use of race as the sole criterion for making traffic stops is legally and morally wrong. Discriminatory traffic stops divide communities and make police and prosecutors' jobs more difficult.

    These measures are a necessary first step, but alone they cannot reduce bias in an organization. Symptoms will resurface and appear in other areas, such as walking stops, the use of force, police misconduct, minority officer recruitment, retention and promotion. Racial profiling is not the standalone problem; it is a symptom of bias-based policing.

    Police departments and communities can avoid debilitating accusations of racial profiling by communicating with each other about police strategy, crime trends, and community concerns. In a response to the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo by New York City police in 1999, George Kelling writes:

    Police increasingly rely on analysis of crime data, mapping and other methods to develop tactics for addressing specific problems. When they discover that guns are the primary instruments of murder in black neighborhoods, is it racial profiling or smart policing to target anti-gun efforts there?”

    Resolutions to these issues are possible, but not easy. They involve balancing individual rights with community interests, effectiveness with costs, and the tradeoffs among important values…Police and neighborhood leaders will have to seek each other out aggressively and honesty!

    6.5 - Community- Based Policing Plans34

    Community policing is a policing approach embraced by some departments and espoused by national law enforcement organizations. It is described as a philosophy, managerial style, and organizational strategy that promotes better police-community partnerships and more proactive problem solving with the community. It can help solve a wide range of community problems and issues involving crime control, crime prevention, officer safety, and the fear of crime.

    Community policing is referred to by several names, most commonly as community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, community problem solving, neighborhood policing, and problem-based policing. Community policing is based on collaboration between police and citizens in a nonthreatening and cooperative spirit. It requires that police listen to citizens, take seriously how citizens perceive problems and issues, and seek to solve problems which have been identified. "A fundamental assumption of the community policing approach is that the community is more likely than the police to recognize and understand its public safety needs," states researchers Vincent J. Webb and Charles M. Katz. Effective community policing can result in enhanced quality of life in neighborhoods, reduction of fear of crime, greater respect for law and order, increased crime control and crime prevention, and greater citizen satisfaction with police services.

    Image result for community policing in the us

    Figure 6.3 Image is in the public domain.


    Pin It! COPS

    Click here for more information on the department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services.

    While community policing continues to evolve, current research shows that it results in improved safety for both residents and police, neighborhood revitalization, positive neighborhood and police morale and confidence, heightened confidence in government institutions, including police, and improved race relations. Community policing has been shown to decrease actual criminal activity and reduced fear of crime. As one resident of Chicago said, "When you have a sense of camaraderie and cooperation between beat officers and community residents you lose the sense of fear." However, law enforcement executives should be aware that "community perceptions of the potential effectiveness of community policing may determine how residents rate the importance of community policing activities carried out by the police," according to Webb and Katz. In fact, they state some community policing activities may be viewed as unimportant to the community, while others, such as investigations of drug and gang-related activities, may have broad community support.

    Reports on public support for community policing has been generally favorable. "In general, the findings show that 'preventative' community policing activities, or those usually considered as having an indirect effect on crime, are regarded by the community as being less important than 'enforcement' activities, or policing activities thought of as having a more direct effect on crime." Police executives may need to explain to communities that community policing programs--like all other policing programs--are enforcement oriented. The difference with community policing programs is an intentional focus on community interaction with the department

    In Madison, Wisconsin, police officers and community volunteers conducted surveys of police activities and police efforts to resolve neighborhood problems. The Madison Police Department found that "as the officers completed the questionnaire with the participants, the respondents gave information to the officers about the quality of life and social order issues whereas the other volunteers who were not officers, those issues rarely emerged." In the Madison interviews, participants reported a wide variety of concerns to police officers:

    …a greater concern that children would be hurt while playing in their neighborhood; less satisfaction with their neighborhood as a place to live; parking, public drinking and intoxication, gang activity and graffiti as more of a problem; drug sales, drug usage, drug addiction, possession of guns and weapons, violence, fighting and assaults all to be more of a problem; more negative assessments of the effectiveness of rental property owners and managers in dealing with neighborhood problems, and of the extent to which residents were organized and committed to improving neighborhood conditions.

    Community policing represents a continuation of the established traditions of policing in the United States. It flows from three essential values:

    • The police department believes that the prevention of crimes is its number one priority.
    • The police department involves the community in the delivery of its services.
    • The police department holds itself accountable to the community it serves.


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    Underlying principles of community policing

    1. Crime prevention is the responsibility of the total community.
    2. The police and the community share ownership, responsibility, and accountability for the prevention of crime.
    3. Police effectiveness is a function of crime control, crime prevention, problem solving, community satisfaction, quality of life, and community engagement.
    4. Mutual trust between the police and the community is essential for effective policing.
    5. Crime prevention must be a flexible, long-term strategy in which the police and community collectively commit to resolving the complex and chronic causes of crime.
    6. Community policing requires knowledge, access, and mobilization of community resources.
    7. Community policing can only succeed when top management police and government officials enthusiastically support its principles and tenets.
    8. Community policing depends on decentralized, community-based participation in decision-making.
    9. Community policing allocates resources and services, based on analysis, identification, and projection of patterns and trends, rather than incidents.
    10. Community policing requires an investment in training with special attention to problem analysis and problem solving, facilitation, community organization; communication, mediation and conflict resolution, resource identification and use, networking and linkages, and cross-cultural competency.


    Think about it . . . "Recognizing Your Own Biases”

    One advantage of a stereotype is that it enables us to respond rapidly to situations because we may have had a similar experience before.

    One disadvantage is that it makes us ignore differences between individuals; therefore, we think things about people that might not be true (i.e. generalize).

    1. Explore these test sites: Harvard – Implicit Bias and UpWorty Prejudice Test. There are multiple tests you can take regarding many types of bias, such as ethnicity, skin tone, body type, ect. Choose 2-3 tests.

    2. Discuss the outcome of the tests.

    • Which tests did you take and why?
    • What surprised you most about the test?
    • Did you feel the test was accurate? Why or why not?
    • Knowing this information, how would you address it when you come into contact with a person with the trait?

    This page titled 6: Policing and Policed Community is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dave Wymore & Tabitha Raber.