By Christopher Moraff.
For law enforcement agencies across the nation, 2015 has been a year of intense soul searching. Faced with a mandate to adopt a new mindset of civilian engagement that is often at odds with existing practices and procedures, police officials scrambling for a foothold have found a comfortable fit in the familiar language of community policing.
Unfortunately, two decades of marginal success demonstrate that community policing as usual is ill equipped to effect lasting change in an environment marred by entrenched feelings of mutual mistrust. But there may be a tool, dubbed “RespectStat” (it’s a twist on the oft-touted and also controversial numbers-focused CompStat program pioneered by the NYPD), that could be useful in building trust.
A consensus among policing experts is that an overemphasis on crime reduction has led to the subversion of other important goals of community-oriented policing, such as establishing positive relations with constituents. Yet quantifiable measures to evaluate how policing practices impact community perceptions are lacking, even though social scientists have a pretty good idea what contributes to positive engagements with police — including a perception among civilians that they are being treated with fairness, courtesy and respect. The disconnect, says Dennis Rosenbaum, a leading community policing researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is that there’s legacy of misunderstanding about what citizens want out of their police.
“For decades all [departments] kept was crime data, because officials thought that that’s all the public cared about,” he says. “We now understand that the public cares about the process of policing even more so than the outcome. They care about crime and disorder, but they also care about how they’re being treated.”