Police departments are under increasing pressure to produce positive results to make the streets safe to walk and free of crime. Meeting these demands has produced new strategic consequences for police departments. According to noted criminologist George Kelling, “the main consequence is that police strategy shifts from a reactive and inherently passive model to a preventive interventionist model” (Kelling 1999). This new mandate changes the way police go about their business. Two models that have developed in response to this pressure to change and that have gained popularity since the middle 1980s are community-oriented policing (COP) and problem-oriented policing (POP).
COP started gaining acceptance as an alternative to traditional policing models beginning in the 1980s. The growing acceptance of COP helped set the stage for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which articulated the goal of putting 100,000 additional community police on the street (Greene 2000). Where traditional policing prioritizes crime control and order maintenance, two of the three main functions of the police over the past 150 years, COP places a greater emphasis on the third core function, service provision or crime prevention activities (Greene 2000; Zhao, He, and Lovrich 2003).
At the heart of COP is a redefinition of the relationship between the police and the community, so that the two collaborate to identify and solve community problems. In this relationship, the community becomes a “co-producer” of public safety (Skolnick and Bayley 1988). COP is not a single coherent program; rather, it can encompass a variety of programs or strategies that rest on the assumption that policing must involve the community. Still, there are numerous elements frequently associated with COP programs, including at least these six:
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