Control and Flexibility in Policing
Police discretion is a necessary element of the policing activity. Many situations which officers encounter on a daily basis require judgment and appropriate decision-making. To reduce the possibility of unlawful actions, possible decisions are codified in policing policies. However, the diversity and complexity of social and legal environment characteristic for law enforcement inevitably creates situations where existing policies are ineffective, not explicitly recognizable, or do not apply at all. This results in situations where excessive discretion creates a possibility of a regulation breach. On the other hand, extensive policies remove the possibility of appropriate reaction in unusual settings.
To balance this uncertainty, policies need to be formulated with several aspects in mind. First, the policies which are designed with the intention to increase flexibility need to emphasize education and training. In this way, the officers who are working in the field will have previous experience of dealing with similar situations and will thus be able to assess the situation correctly and make an appropriate decision. Naturally, training must be adjusted to social and cultural conditions of a police institution to actualize the knowledge. Such approach must also be mirrored by the hiring policies of police departments.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the correct decision making depends on the level of intelligence of an officer as well as the acquired competence (Eitle, D’Alessio, & Stolzenberg, 2014). Thus, the policy must include an opportunity to assess and control both factors as well as offer a possibility to improve on the latter via educational means. Finally, the policies in question should include transparent and comprehensive metrics which could be used to assess the appropriateness of decision-making and formulate meaningful recommendations on how to improve the situation in case the outcome does not meet the level suggested by the policymakers.
Crime control policing is a strategy that is loosely defined by the focus on efficiency of police interventions. This is most often done by allocating additional resources and conceiving more appropriate tactics to address a specific issue. The ultimate goal of crime control policing is a setting where the perpetrators are discouraged by the introduced interventions and, therefore, cease unlawful activity. Such direct approach creates a solid and easy-to-apply framework but is often criticized for targeting the effect rather than the cause of crime. Community-oriented policing is an attempt to address this criticism. It views discrepancies and inadequacies in a social environment as a cause for criminal activities and addresses them rather than the outcomes.
Thus, community-oriented policing involves identifying biggest concerns of the community and attempting to prioritize them. As a part of this strategy, partnerships are sought with various organizations, such as schools, healthcare institutions, and government agencies to provide for additional support. Such approach allegedly creates a safer environment, which was proven by several community-based initiatives (Gill, Weisburd, Telep, Vitter, & Bennett, 2014), although the complexity of operations in question does not allow for exact measurement of its role in overall success. In addition, community-based policies are thought to improve the psychological climate between law enforcement and the community. Finally, the problem-oriented policing emphasizes systematic approach and addresses the root of the problem.
It commonly includes identification and analysis of the issue followed by designing an intervention, implementing it, and assessing the result. Admittedly, upon closer inspection this approach reveals several similarities with the previously discussed ones – crime control policing also relies heavily on analysis and systematic assessment while community-based approach targets the cause of criminal activity. Conversely, problem-oriented policing often addresses social reasons behind crimes. Thus, we can conclude that community-based policing is expected to address the community concerns of the community. However, the reduction in crime and improvement in public safety are observed as a result of any of the said strategies (or, more precisely, their combination). Thus, their role in the two said outcomes remains largely speculative.
Eitle, D., D’Alessio, S. J., & Stolzenberg, L. (2014). The effect of organizational and environmental factors on police misconduct. Police Quarterly, 17(2), 103-126.
Gill, C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., Vitter, Z., & Bennett, T. (2014). Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 10(4), 399-428.