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Community Policing a Foundation for Restorative Justice
William Parks, University of South Carolina Spartanburg/Greenville

Posted 2000-08-12

Presentation Description and Purpose

This presentation, to an international group not necessarily involved in or professionally trained in solving social and behavioral problems (Criminal Behavior), is designed to provide an understanding and the implementation of a new approach and radically new method of policing and social (criminal) problem solving. The presentation intends to link Community Policing and Restorative Justice into a fully or partially integrated model. Additional goals: (1) Spread the concept to groups that are most likely to adopt the method if convinced of its value and adaptable to their goals (non-traditional reform of "criminals"). (2) To find support for research into the use of the concepts among non-governmental (private citizen / national level reform) organizations. (3) To gain international students for the University. (4) To gain for USCS/G national recognition for its Criminal Justice (Law Enforcement) Program. (5) To gain national and international recognition for this area of USCS/G Law Enforcement Program.

Community Policing

Community Policing is a new philosophy of policing based on the concept that the Police and citizens working together in creative ways can solve contemporary community problems related to crime, fear of crime, social and physical disorder and general neighborhood conditions. The philosophy is predicated on the belief that achieving these goals requires the Police to develop a new relationship with citizens, allowing them the power to set local police priorities and involving them in efforts to improve the overall quality of life in their community. Community Policing (CP) shifts the focus of police work from handling random crime calls to addressing community concerns.

Community Policing is concerned with health issues, zoning laws, rowdy juveniles, barking dogs, potholes, major and minor crimes; and it is just as important for the officer to attend to victims’ emotional needs as it is to attend to their injuries. Community Policing Officers see themselves as community members and problem solvers, not just crime-fighters or call-answers. They answer (911) calls and make arrests, just as officers have done in the past; but these activities actually are only a small part of the job. They act as innovators, looking beyond individual incidences for new ways to solve problems. They act as a catalyst, involving people in efforts to police themselves. They act as referral specialists, the community’s ombudsman who can link people to the public and private services and who can jog reluctant bureaucracies to do the jobs they are supposed to do. Community Policing rests on the belief that only by working together will people and the police be able to improve citizens’ quality of life.

Restorative Justice

"Restorative Justice" is one of the four original models of dealing with criminals and criminal behavior (acts) along with Retribution, Punishment, and "individualized" Treatment (Rehabilitation). The original "Restorative Justice" model "centered" on treatment of the offender, restoring him to society.

The "new" Restorative Justice model seeks to enable offenders to make amends to their victims and community, enable the offender to return to the community as a productive and repaired fully participating citizen, and protect the public throughout the process.

At a time when the public debate about crime and punishment is largely driven by political leadership embracing the conservative or liberal solutions of the past, restorative justice offers a fundamentally different framework for understanding and responding to crime and victimization. Restorative justice emphasizes the importance of elevating the role of crime victims and community members, holding offenders directly accountable to the people they violate, restoring the losses of the victims and providing a range of opportunities for negotiation and problem solving.

Restorative justice provides an entirely different way of thinking about crime and victimization. Rather than the state being viewed as the primary victim in criminal acts and placing victims and offenders in passive roles, restorative justice recognizes crime as being directed against individual people. It assumes that those most affected by crime should have the opportunity to become actively involved in resolving the conflict. While denouncing criminal behavior, restorative justice emphasizes the need to treat offenders with respect and to reintegrate them into the larger community in ways that can lead to lawful behavior.

Today when "let’s get tough on crime," "lock-em up" and "three strikes and you’re out" are rallying cheers for those justifying the American Criminal Justice System, a different approach to "Fighting Crime" is needed. Either United States society will have to continue to build more prisons, absorb the cost for additional prosecutors, public defenders and courts, or we will need to look at new theories and approaches to our dilemma. As Christians, the latter seems to be appropriate, especially as the theories are viewed in the light of Christian reconciliation and suggestions for improvement are placed within that context.

Because of the existence of sin and brokenness in society, the state has the responsibility to make and enforce laws that protect the innocent and judge the lawbreakers so that order is maintained rather than deteriorating into insecurity and chaos. This gives the state the right to use force against those who break the law, judge them, restrain them against their will, and preserve the order of society. The question is what is the best way for the state to use its force. The choices of answers are: (1) To use the formal operation of the system; the police arrest, a trial is held and punishment is applied, including prison (the traditional system). (2) To use an informal system, "volunteers," religious persons, social workers, "counselors" and community representatives to "advise," counsel," "mediate" and/or "shame" offenders. (3) To use a mixed system of police and the formal process; and police with an informal system. The police are used because of their continuous presence, ability to "control" the traffic to either the formal or informal system, information availability (both in ability to obtain information "investigation" and access to "official" information) vested interest in avoiding and/or resolving "problems"; and the final reason to use the police is the lack of anyone else on a national, state or city/rural level who would be available for the work.

The Methods and Practices of Community Policing

In the beginning of the 1980’s, the idea of community based policing emerged as the dominant direction for thinking about police practice in urban America. It was designed to reunite the police with the community and enable the police to accomplish crime control. It must be remembered that Community Policing (CP) is a philosophy and not a specific tactic. It does contain the ideas of Proactive and decentralized approach, designed to reduce actual crime, fear of crime and social disorder, by involving the "neighborhood" Police Officer in "his" community on a long-term basis. Community Policing has been applied in various forms by police departments in the U. S.: it has differed according to the community needs, politics and resources available. Community Policing goes further than being a mere police-community relations program and it attempts to address crime control through a working partnership with the community. Community institutions such as families, school, churches, neighborhood and merchant associations are seen as key partners with the police in creating a safer secure community.

Differences between Community Policing and Traditional Policing—Community Policing (See Chart at the end of this paper) is a long-term process because it involves fundamental institutional change. CP goes beyond simply implementing foot and bicycle patrols or neighborhood stations (storefronts). It redefines the role of the officer on the street, from crime fighter to problem solver and neighborhood ombudsman. It forces a cultural transformation of the entire department: decentralized organizational structure and changes in recruiting, training, rewards system, evaluation, promotions, operations, patrolling and almost every other activity or program of the department. Additionally, this philosophy asks officers to break away from the bonds of incident-driven policing to seek proactive and non-traditional resolutions to crime and disorder.

Community Policing is often confused with previous reform efforts of the past. There was a program in the 1970’s called the Police-community relations (PCR), which followed the onset of rioting across the nation and the sense that police-minority relations had rapidly deteriorated. Although PCR and community policing share some common elements, they are actually quite different. PCR initiatives were programs that were temporary appendages of, or supplements to, police organizations. These programs were designed to enhance the effectiveness of traditional policing rather than being an alternative approach to delivering basic police services. This program did not entail any major changes in the delivery of police services.

Problem Solving the core of the operational side of Community Policing—Problem Solving is not new. Officers have always tried to solve problems. The difference is that, in the past, officers received little guidance or were told not to become involved in non-police situations. The new routine application of problem solving is new, as is the support from the department to engage in such activities.

Problem solving is premised on two facts: That problem solving can be applied by officers throughout the agency as part of their daily work and that routine problem solving efforts can be effective in reducing or resolving problems. Problem solving is grounded on different principles than Community Policing, but they are complementary. Problem Solving (PS) is a strategy that puts Community Policing (CP) philosophy into practice. PS advocates that police examine the underlying causes of recurring incidents of crime and disorder. The problem solving process helps officers to identify problems, analyzes them completely, develop response strategies and assess the results (SARA).

The framework of problem solving is based on understanding that police must "move" from the past preoccupation with form and process to a more direct concern with substantive problems. Thus, police must be encouraged to conduct an uninhibited search for the most effective response to problems, looking beyond just the criminal justice system to a wide range of alternatives. The Police are a part of society’s attempts to control crime. First, the traditional approach to carrying out this function is through the criminal justice system. There are three traditional methods the police could use to control crime, and each requires the apprehension of criminal offenders. (1) Application of deterrence to frighten potential offenders to keep straight and active offenders to abate their careers. (2) Locking the most active offenders away for prolonged periods to protect citizens. (3) Rehabilitate offenders who have been caught. Much science and practical experience has shown us that none of these provides an acceptable outcome.

The second major concern in the adoption of Community Policing involves the "contact" issue with citizens as a replacement for the police strategies of the past (random patrolling, rapid response and follow-up investigation). The great fear and familiar ghost of the past is that the "local beat" officer will be corrupted by his close relationship with those he is to "watch" (or the current liberal government fear that those who are part of any unpopular group in the community, or neighborhood will be "controlled" and their behavior, because it is not acceptable to the local community, will be suppressed (their exercise of "civil rights" are objectionable). Along with this idea is the generally held belief by police and citizens that the police must arrest someone for the justice system to work, and that only through the "workings" of the justice system (punishment, even if it is only the shame of arrest) can the function of the police be carried out.

A third major concern, especially for the last few years, is the fairness of the police behavior and the operation of police strategies.

There are two methods of judging the fairness of the police. The first is based on legal principles. Police are usually judged to be fair if they follow the rules (due process). If citizens complain about the treatment of the police, then the police defend themselves by claiming that they are simply enforcing the laws and following the procedures laid down by others. (This also creates the problem of police being fearful to NOT follow the procedures and or rules, even when they do not work or are harmful to all.) The second method involves the distribution of resources (response time or presence of officers or patrol cars) or outcome (the amount of crime). Fairness is no longer the simple adherence to due process or numbers of arrest or officers on patrol. Community Policing seeks to build trust and change the perceptions of communities toward the police and of officers toward communities. The principal means for achieving a sense that the police are fair and responsive is through personal contacts. The methods for community engagement vary from the deployment of foot officers to community organizing. Apart from any meaningful impact on the "problems", the central objective of these efforts is to place police in close prolonged contact with the same group of residents. This will close the physical and psychological distance between them. The appropriate measure of the "fairness" of the changes with the move to community policing are the perceptions of various communities served by the police. How the people feel about the police is as critical as any other measure of success for police operations.

Community policing departs from previous styles of policing by the way resources are counted and the methods by which control over officers is exerted. Many of the assets needed to solve problems are outside the traditional boundaries of Police (or government) organizations. These assets are the powers and the resources that other government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, religious organizations & groups and the community itself possessives. Without these resources, the Police will never be able to "handle" the crime in U. S. society (or in any free society). The Police have been unable to handle crime by all measures for the past forty years, except where they have adopted community based programs (see New York City). Until just the past few years, we were not sure that you could have a "real" decline in crime rates across the "board".

Community Policing advocates advance the idea that organized community groups can control crime and improve neighborhood conditions and therefore police should mobilize neighborhood groups and organizations. There are at least seven ways that citizens can help control crime and improve the quality of community life. (1) Watch and report suspicious behavior and other information to the police. (2) Citizens can patrol areas, confront suspicious people and ask them to leave the area or change their behaviors. (3) Citizens can change their own behavior to reduce their chances of becoming victims of crime or contributing to a deterioration of the quality of life in the neighborhood. (4) Citizens can put pressure on others to act: demand more police resources, pressure businesses to change their practices, lobby local government agencies to obtain services, get favorable rulings from regulators and threaten property owners and organizations with civil suits to change behaviors and physical conditions. (5) Citizens can authorize the police to act on their behalf; this will empower officers to act outside the limitations of police procedure/rules to implement improvements and "repairs". (6) Non-profit organizations and religious groups can take possession of individuals and situations that could result in criminal actions and "take corrective action" based on police referral or police request. (7) Private groups, especially organized for the purpose, could act to repair the actions of offenders within the community and correct both them and the conditions they create (Restorative Justice).

Community involvement—Definitions of community policing may vary, but all share the idea that the police and the community must work together to identify problems affecting the community and to develop solutions. This is a radical departure from the era of "professionalism" in policing in which the police claimed a monopoly of the responsibility for crime control and actively discouraged any citizen involvement in police matters. The Professional model of policing also was the professional model of rehabilitation /punishment and the professional model of social reform. Under these models, all activities were the responsibility or under the control of national government or federal courts (the Supreme Court anyway). This model of national action replaced the more familiar community (neighborhood, church, family, social organization) model of the past. Under the national model, "one size fits all" programs and rules were mandated without regard for outcomes or community standards. Community Policing and Restorative Justice share the common characteristics of local action, local solutions, community standards and local control, but most importantly they seek to solve the problems by preventing, reforming and dealing with each individual and each problem as unique.

Comparison of Traditional Policing and Community Policing
Question Traditional Policing Community Policing
Who are the police? A government agency principally responsible for law enforcement. Police are the public and the public are the police: the police officers are those who are paid to give full-time attention to the duties of every citizen.
What is the relation of the police force to other public service departments? Priorities often conflict. The police are one department among many responsible for improving the quality of life.
What is the role of the police? Focusing on solving crimes. A broader problem-solving approach.
How is police efficiency measured? Bv detection and arrest rates. By the absence of crime and disorder.
What is the highest priorities? Crimes that are high value (e.g., bank robberies) and those involving violence. Whatever problems disturb the community most.
What, specifically, do police deal with? Incidents Citizens' problems and concerns.
What determines the effectiveness of police? Response times. Public cooperation
What view do police take of service calls? Deal with them only if there is no real police work to do. Vital function and great opportunity.
What is police professionalism Swift effective response to serious crime. Keeping close to the community.
What kind of intelligence is most important? Crime intelligence (study of particular crimes or series of crimes). Criminal intelligence (information about the activities of individuals or groups).
What is the essential nature of police accountability? Highly centralized; governed by rules, regulations and policy directives; accountable to the law. Emphasis on local accountability to community' needs.
What is the role of headquarters? To provide the necessary rules and policy directives. To preach organizational values.
What is the role of the press liaison department? To keep the "heat" off operational officers so they can get on with the job. To coordinate an essential channel of communication with the community.
How do the police regard prosecutions? As an important goal. As one tool among many
Who do they work for, who is the "boss"? The chief of police, the mayor or the city. The people of the community, or city or citizens.
Who is the "enemy"? Criminals, anybody that gets in the way of doing the job. Those things that cause disorder and/or situations that cause people to commit acts destructive to the community.
What is the role of "citizens"? Report crimes and cooperate with officers by obeying their request and otherwise staying out of the way. Report crimes and other information about the conditions of the community, cooperate with the police, obey orders in criminal matters, and provide aid and assistance when possible. Citizens should provide leadership in determining community standards and actions of priority.