Community Policing and Why It’s Not Working

Community Policing

Warm and fuzzy

Many police executives, writers, authors, Chiefs, P.h.d.’s, and bloggers have written exhaustively on the topic of crime reduction and crime reduction strategies.

Not so much on the topic of how to put bad guys in jail.

This article will piss off a lot of people.

Especially those in power or motivated by politics. The two words are practically synonymous with one another.

The buzz topic these days seems to be centered around community policing and how it is the only solution for the out of control violent crime sweeping our country.

The agency where I work has started a new FTO program (now called PTO or Police Training Officer) specifically geared for community policing and how to apply it as soon as each rookie hits the streets.

Two of the officers who were recently released from this program gave a nice power point presentation to staff and other city officials at a standing room only meeting last week.

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Unfortunately, I was in attendance.

The slides were pretty and the rookies did a good job in telling the staff the problems they have identified in a certain area and the contacts they have made.

Golf clap.

I did the same thing.

Twenty years ago.

Let me illustrate my point.

A few years ago I gave what I thought was a wonderful Christmas present to my oldest son. He gave the obligatory “thanks Dad” and went to opening the remainder of his gifts.

After a few months, lo and behold, what did I find underneath his bed still in the box?

Yep. The same gift, still unopened.

Guess who got the very same gift the very next Christmas?

You can re-name it, re-package it, re-deliver it. At the end of the day it’s the same thing.

Still confused?

A white cow and a brown cow still make the same milk.

Stay focused man

By now you may be scratching your head wondering where I’m going with this.

It’s a legitimate question.

I’m trying my best not to produce another snore-fest article routinely written by my competitors at PoliceOne and Law Enforcement Today.

Or any other cut and paste LEO news site out there.

We spend so much energy and focus on teaching new cops how to be politicians that we are handicapping them in the one area that is most important.

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Being a cop.


Going after bad guys and putting them in jail. For a really long time.

And how do they get there?

By going after the bad guys. The worst of the worst.

More importantly, being trained how to go after bad guys and present solid cases in court that put them away for a long time.

Not running radar on a dead-end street because Mrs. Washington declared it priority one.

And not delegating half of your shift to Mr. Danforth’s house because 6th graders are cutting through his property.

Yes, citizens do play a role in crime fighting and crime prevention.

But a small one.

If we are doing our job, it’s the police who should have the most understanding and picture of what and how a community should be policed to protect property and life.

I mean, that’s why they hired us right?

Different times

We are living in different times.

After Ferguson and other events around the country, many have been tricked into wanting a different style of policing.

Some politicians have even made the absurd declaration that their communities would be better off without police.

That is not a typo. And more than one have stated such non-sense.

As mentioned, our agency has adopted a new post academy training, the PTO model.

It is intended to help the new officer be better equipped at problem solving community issues with a focus on the adult learning model of teaching.

Some officers who have been through the training tell me that one exercise used to illustrate different teaching methods was singing.



I’m not making this up.

Each trainer was given a topic to discuss as if they were teaching it.

One of the models of learning was music.

Other than being terrible singers, some of the students chose to rap about their topic.

(I want everyone to close their eyes right now and just imagine your FTO singing to you about an officer safety issue)

Disclaimer; I have not personally been through PTO training therefore I will not pass judgement on the overall effectiveness of the training.

Only time will tell if it is worth the additional training hours and extra resources required for each new cop to complete this new training method.

The future of policing 

I am an old school cop.

When I was released from field training, I was expected to know my job. This also meant knowing the people and influencers in my district (hmm, does that sound familiar).

There were no cell phones (well the bosses had those ridiculous brick phones but I didn’t own one my first 4 years). This meant that I had to think quick on my feet and problem solve without the security that a cell phone brings.

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I was forced into making decisions in dynamic and sometimes chaotic circumstances.

If a supervisor was needed, I called one. But it had better be for something good.

Looking back, I thank god that, because of technology or the lack of it, I was forced to be self-reliant and make decisions.

Most police and sheriffs departments have been doing some form of community policing for the better part of the last 4 decades.

In reality, community policing (on a micro level) has never gone away.

However, with fewer and fewer good people wanting to be cops these days, it’s hard to realistically make it a priority.

A new beginning

The safety of the officer should always be the priority for the executive staff of every agency in this country.

When the manning levels in uniform patrol are compromised with new and shiny programs that are merely re-gifted Christmas presents, it shows the rank and file cop that you really don’t care about their safety.

Even if those front line cops won’t openly admit it.

And honestly, they shouldn’t have to.

Until manning levels are up to an acceptable level and violent crime levels off, community policing needs to step aside for a more modern, intelligence-led policing model.

If not, this period of policing history, which included ineffective community policing, may be viewed as the cancer that prolonged the suffering of countless crime victims and citizens of this country.

We need to aggressively and ruthlessly go after the two percent who create eighty percent of the dread and suffering in this country.

It needs to start now.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.


  1. I wrote numerous grant for community policing and was our dept go to expert.what gets misunderstood is that many times the best and only appropriate response is aggressive police don’t go to a spa to cure cancer.if you have had success in establishing a rapport with a community they can be your biggest supporters in cleaning out their neighborhood.unfortunately the media and political hacks will turn on you at the first your blog.i just retired after 41 years.

  2. With my unfortunate experience with community policing, the moment I mentioned that it is a joint venture and the citizens in attendance would have to give genuine effort, the room went silent.

  3. But the use of force is ugly looking and scary! It’s hard for promoted up admin and station crew warriors to explain! It’s so much better if those situations are avoided all together! Please note the sarcasm.

  4. I’m a former officer and now a professor with PhD.

    1. The research is pretty straightforward. Community policing does not reduce crime. At all. Even in the 1990s. Meta-analyses have been conducted.

    2. The research is pretty straightforward. Proactive policing reduces crime. Going all the way back to the 1978 San Diego Field Interrogation experiment. Meta-analyses have been conducted.

    Community policing is a political window-dressing, decoration. Some positives can come of it, which is why it is still around. It’s just like D.A.R.E. Most research shows D.A.R.E. doesn’t work, but school boards, teachers know this, but still want the program because it puts an officer in the school — before most SRO programs required it.

    3. The research is pretty straightforward. Intelligence led policing does reduce crime. It’s new and emerging, but not only does it reduce crime, it saves on tax payer monies.

    4. The common sense is straightforward. If you want a reduction in use of force and don’t want to change the culture of people, you need more officers on street to do both proactive policing and add in the window-dressing.

    5. I published an article concerning Ferguson and COPS. Where did all the money go? In the 90s, the Clinton Admin at least put the money up to back up COPS programs. We haven’t seen this in this last push.

    I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, and you don’t have to have a PhD to understand all of this. I’m just providing backup to your argument because we all have to back each other up. It’s an old habit to break.

  5. Chicago has had Community Policing for over 20 years and wasted unknown amounts of money on the program. We can all see how that is working. You can not fix what does not want to be fixed.

  6. You knew that Community Policing was a dead horse in Chicago when they stopped giving overtime for the POs and Sergeants to attend meetings.

  7. I am a retired police chief and over the course of my 43 years in law enforcement have seen a lot of “new”, “innovative”, and politically correct policing philosophies. The only one that has a real impact on crime is aggressively putting bad guys in jail…period. Community policing programs generally are all about “feeling good” which has little to do with citizens being safer. Police Chiefs, instead of letting liberal federal programs and federal money drive what they do need to look at what most effectively reduces crime in their communities. Re-defining criminal statutes and going to coffee with the community doesn’t. Taking burglars, drug dealers and other criminals off the streets is what reduces crime.

  8. True community policing is serving the honest citizens by putting bad guys in jail.

    When criminals resist, it gets ugly, but you don’t stop doing the job because of a few loud protesters.

  9. All I can say is based on 30 years of on the streets. Community Policing is in my humble opinion a total waste of money and time. I believe it is one of the contributing factors in line of duty deaths. So many officers today don’t have any idea of how to police but are more concerned with hurting someone’s feelings more concerned with holding hands with the thugs and having a sing along. Are my methods today considered antiquated – absolutely- did it keep me alive out there – absolutely and sometimes the adage if it’s not broke it should have been left alone do hold true.

  10. You said it right . Unfortunately, in Chicago, Community Policing became a hiding ground for those who didn’t to work the streets and for the kids, wives, and squeezes of the bosses. That led to nowhere.

  11. Policing in general has been diminished to doing what society sees as politically correct. Law Enforcement has morphed into delayed decision making which causes loss of life or serious injury to officers. The days of true enforcement is gone. I was fortunate to retire and now look back at how many good decisions I made which put many bad guys away. When we were told to clean up the streets we did. When bad guys fought us or ran from us they knew not to do it again. We dealt with generations of bad guys and gals. When I left I was arresting grand children of bad guys who were kids when I first dealt with them. My prayers go out to the new breed of cops. They definitely don’t have the discretionary we had. We can thank community policing for that!

  12. I’m a retired schoolteacher who got in trouble for disciplining the kids. The two percent of students who caused the most dread among teachers and students were not disciplined effectively, and reveled in their reign of terror. I wish you had been our principal.

  13. I agree that Community Policing as a singular approach is not wholly effective, however neither is intelligence led policing. What is needed is a multi pronged coordinated approach which encompasses those two elements and more. If law enforcement in a community is perceived as overly aggressive, without the buy in of the communities they are serving, the push back will greatly limit their results. This will result in the community closing itself off to officers instead of embracing them. Going back to the broken window theory and approaching neighborhoods via those who the residents already look to for guidance to give law enforcement their support in cleaning up the neighborhood sets the foundation for success. Once those leaders support efforts they will communicate to their communities that the policing efforts are good. Engaging public works, code enforcement, fire rescue, and others in the positive efforts will begin the repair process. Along side of this a multi faceted law enforcement approach of engaging the good 98%, and ensuring they feel safe to do so, and eliminating the bad 2% will further close the wound. This also requires strong and consistent presecutorial support. Finally maintaining those standards once achieved by remaining engaged with the community will continue the effort’s success. You can’t throw a band aid on it and walk away. You must always provide the care to maintain a healthy environment.

  14. I was working a Tactical unit in the Westside of Chicago and was ordered to attend a Community Policing meeting over 20yrs ago. All it turned out to be was a beef fest against the Police with no relevant info about crime in the neighborhood.I also remember that when Chicago started it, some major Cities were giving it up ,because they considered it a failure. Fairly Old retired guy.

  15. I am the mother of a police officer and a 26 years in educator. Singing? Seriously? Sure it works – if one is teaching preschoolers the alphabet or 2nd graders multiplication tables. Or even middle schoolers the constitution. Otherwise, it’s asinine, condescending and insulting in an adult situation. Let’s face it, a cops real job is to deal with all the dark and ugly that the rest of us want to pristinely pretend doesnt really exist!

  16. As a recently retired Canadian police officer with 26yrs service I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed here. When I first started there was a lot of, shall we say, “flexibility” when making decisions on the streets. There were lots of arrests and for the most part a level of satisfaction in the job. Not many years later the Community Policing model was thrust upon us. There was a collective groan amongst the street level cops who could presciently project the future outcome of this obviously political BS. All this occurred within just a few years of the agency I worked for having changed its name from Force to Service. That was the first step in ‘tiptoeing through the tulips’. The CP model flourished with the rank chasers eating the stuff up and regurgitating it to all who would listen (as long as the listener could help their career). Respect for the police and the job they do started its long, slow, decline. Of course, many other handcuffing policies were implemented over the ensuing years – more recently the necessity to ‘ask permission’ of that suspicious person you found on the street for the completion of a contact card. Good effing grief.
    I’m glad I’m out. Happy that I survived the political crap that is eating the police profession from the inside out. I was never a rank chaser. I feel sorry for the rookies and the communities they serve. It seems no street cop wants that job anymore and I can’t entirely blame them. There needs to be a whole paradigm shift in management or this will just get worse.

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