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Community policing is central to any conversation about the role of community in law and criminal justice. The term has become ubiquitous among law-enforcement practitioners and scholars. Many police departments have integrated or are in the process of integrating some form of community policing into their enforcement strategies. Consequently, much debate has sparked over whether community policing is superior to more traditional, reactive law-enforcement techniques.
Although this debate over community policing is critical, this Essay explores a different issue, one not frequently addressed in the scholarship on the subject. I focus on what police themselves think about community policing. One might think that if certain forms of police action have both community support and an impact on crime, the police would be eager to adopt such practices. But what if they are not? I will explore this question here.
To address the question, I will examine survey data collected from police officers in Chicago's highest-crime police district. The officers were surveyed after the Eleventh District's police were involved in facilitating a community-wide prayer vigil—an undoubtedly atypical practice that, nonetheless, might properly be categorized as community policing. All of the police officers in the district were surveyed. Over half of the surveyed officers agreed that it was good for the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") to be involved in organizing community events like the prayer vigil. A great many of them agreed with statements consistent with the conclusion that the collaboration between area churches and police that resulted in the prayer vigil is good for the community and makes the officers feel better about their jobs.
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