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Community Policing
A Practical Security Strategy

Razzak Raza

Since the inception of the London Metropolitan Police in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, the history of policing has experienced several new approaches. But perhaps the most creative approach is community policing. Though the concept began taking root in the 1970s it drew global attention in 1990s when the US Department of Justice established the office of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in 1994 to render federal assistance for community policing approaches to the states and regional police departments.

Community policing programmes take many different forms. Some emphasise disorder and quality-of-life issues, while others focus on serious crime. Some primarily address drug-related crime. It is, therefore, fairly difficult to define community policing in a single sentence. The Community Oriented Policing Services defines community policing as "a policing philosophy that promotes and supports organisational strategies to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem solving tactics and police community partnership".

In a community policing approach, the police need to work closely with the public as one of the partners of the community. This philosophy opposes the "inward-looking bureaucracy" that is traditionally common across the globe. The basic idea is that it tries to establish a rapport of trust and a sort of interdependence between the police and the public.

Sir Robert Peel founded the base-stone of modern policing. His famous nine points are the basic guidelines for every police department. His 7th point states, "Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives the reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."

Though community partnership is an essential characteristic of Robert Peel's nine points, he did not clarify that developing the quality of citizens' lives would be his central theme. His standard of evaluating police performance was "absence of crime and disorder".

The Bangladesh police have been experimenting with the philosophy of community policing for ages. But no effective strategies have yet been followed. The Police Reform Programme (PRP) has been working for massive reform in the police system of Bangladesh. However, its focus is in the structural and attitudinal change of the countries colonial police set up. The idea of community policing might be addressed later on. But some of the police high-ups are quite enthusiastic about community policing activities.

Changing the attitudes of the police is a prerequisite for community policing which involves both the police and public to maintain security

Earlier in Bangladesh, community policing was viewed as an act of organising community members of the crime-affected locality to patrol the streets along with the police at night. Owner groups of the huts, bazaars and business institutions were encouraged to form patrol committees to perform night patrol on shifts. Some dacoity- prone rural areas also came under the night patrol style community policing.

This kind of community policing is practiced under the patronisation and directives of the Officers-in-Charge of the local police stations. The performance of an Officer-in-Charge of a police station is evaluated mainly upon his effective control over crime against property. An armed robbery is considered more grievous offence than the murder of few people due to personal or gang enmity. So, the Officer-in-Charge of a police station tries heart and soul to deter armed robbery and also forces the community members of the vulnerable area to help out in street patrol. Meanwhile, other forms of crime remain ignored.

In the traditional strategy of crime control, police never address the roots of criminal activities. At the same time the police have no mechanism and authority to eliminate the causes of crimes. As community policing is a new philosophy, it demands a positive shift from traditional policing attitudes. But this is perhaps easily said than done. Human beings are traditionally reluctant to change and once they are organised in a certain way, it is tough to reorganise them.

Community policing requires loosening the string of command and control and decentralising the decision-making process. The rank and file officers should be given enough leverage to single out community problems, analyse them and find out reasonable solutions. Community policing encourages the use of non-law enforcement resources within a law enforcement agency. Volunteerism involves active citizen participation with their law enforcement agency.

Tactically community policing takes proactive and preventive action and address the root causes of crimes and disorders. Police officers, community members and other public and private organisations work together to solve the problems in a community. As community members are viewed as partners by the police, both of them have to shoulder equal responsibilities in problem solving. The prerequisite of implementing community policing is the change in the attitudes of both police and the public. Therefore training on community policing is needed for the police officers as well as the community members.

In the US, under the COPS project, intensive training is imparted to the police officers on community policing. There are several Regional Community Policing Training Institutes where police officers, as well as, the community members are being trained. COPS has developed Problem Oriented Guides for Police Series by a group of highly respected researchers. These publications provide a wealth of information for detectives and patrol officers on current practices and innovations to deal with old and new problems.

In Bangladesh, though community policing has become a buzzword nowadays, the real phase of community policing is yet to be started. The existing police establishment never encourages the participation of the community in police works. The Bangladesh Police, with their present law, rules and regulations is an immensely bureaucratic organisation. So, inserting a decentralised philosophy of community policing is nearly impossible. To make room for community participation, the Bangladesh Police must change their existing police act.

The rank and file officers of Bangladesh police are trained in an academy where not an iota of community policing is taught. The training manual of Bangladesh Police Academy has remained unaltered since 1912. Police officers of subordinate ranks getting involved into community policing only because their superior officers want them to do it. But without wholehearted devotion, community policing will be only the individual boss's idea that will die as soon as the boss departs.

It must be understood that community policing is not a programme of only the police department but the whole community. So community mobilisation is one of the major tasks to be carried out. In reality the Bangladeshi approach of community policing is exclusively a police activity. Neither the Government nor the non-government forces except the police are engaged in community policing.

Special funds are needed to materialise the concept. The funds must come from the development budget. Additional police officers as well as non-police experts must be appointed. Police have an acute shortage of human resources. They can hardly perform their routine works with these resources. The community policing programme demands extra manpower, so fresh recruitment of officer is needed. However, canceling LPR (leave prior to retirement) of able-bodied experienced police persons, the number of officers could be augmented. Besides this, retired police officers of commendable quality could be appointed on contract basis for this purpose.

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