There are benefits to both the traditional model of policing and the community policing model. The traditional model of policing, with a focus on process, compliance and technical aspects has done much for policing, including the use of fingerprints to identify criminals, standardized methods and training and response protocols. The traditional policing model also has a divided mentality of police versus crime. This can become complicated, especially for communities that have traditionally not had a good relationship to police.
Community policing became popular near the end of the twentieth century in response to the general unhappiness with the traditional policing model (Rosenbaum & Lurigio 1994). The Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 provided funding as well as the basis for community policing (Zhao et. al. 2014). In general many believe it is a way to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve and this can contribute to a reduction in social order (Ibid.). Community policing is different because it is less reacting to crimes and rather providing a presence in the community through foot patrol and smaller satellite offices (Rosenbaum & Lurigio 1994). That is not to say that community policing automatically results in better relationships or outcomes. The factors involved in citizen perceptions of police are complicated and multidimensional (Schafer et. al. 2003).

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The community policing model is more effective because it increases the perception of community safety and it does not do so with an imbalance of power, as the traditional policing model does. Particularly in minority communities there is a history of negative perceptions of policing. This creates an “us and them” mentality. This is avoided when the police are seen as part of the community. It also makes the police less intimidating, meaning that citizens are more likely to engage and assist when necessary in solving crimes and increasing safety.

  • Rosenbaum, D. P., & Lurigio, A. J. (1994). An inside look at community policing reform: Definitions, organizational changes, and evaluation findings. Crime & Delinquency, 40(3), 299-314.
  • Schafer, J. A., Huebner, B. M., & Bynum, T. S. (2003). Citizen perceptions of police services: Race, neighborhood context, and community policing. Police Quarterly, 6(4), 440-468.
  • Zhao, J., Scheider, M. C., & Thurman, Q. C. (2014). Community Policing: Is it Soft on Crime?. Controversies in Policing, 41.