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Community Policing Essay Sample

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Community Policing Essay Sample

Poor communication is responsible for the effectiveness of community policing. The article used for part 1 is titled _Overcoming barriers to communication between police and socially disadvantage neighborhoods: a critical theory of community policing,_ by author Stephen Schneider_._ Research on his theory is conducted in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, where community policing is needed the most. Primary research was established in the East Vancouver neighborhood, Mount Pleasant, because of “its disadvantaged nature and the presence of both community policing programs and practices” (Schneider, 1999:349). Immigrants and minorities were the main residence. The research was qualitative and was centered on participant observation. Schneider held a voluntary position for the Mount Pleasant Crime Prevention Office and worked closely with the Vancouver Police Department.

These two working environments helped him observe the communicative obstacles between police and residents. He states: “community crime prevention is premised on the belief that for neighborhoods to promote community safety, action must be pursued through a collective effort” (Schneider, 1999:352). This is only able to occur if there is a good relationship between the police and the community, which must happen through good communication. The theory suggests that this is difficult to achieve in a socially disadvantaged neighborhood.

Firstly, without proper communication between the police and the community, frustration occurs. This hinders individuals in the community who are trying to prevent crime. This frustration can result in two different scenarios. The first is a hopelessness that the individual’s efforts lead to little police action so, “they refuse to participate any longer in community crime prevention activities” (Schneider, 1999:350). The second scenario is an increased anti-crime persona, where the individuals try to take crime reduction into their own hands. This type of activism creates more problems than solutions and is unwanted by the police. Both of these scenarios “impede positive community crime prevention behaviour” (Schneider, 1999:354). The lack of two-way communication monopolizes information and power for the police. They keep all the valuable information on crime to themselves, instead of communicating their knowledge to the concerned residents. To help solve these problems, Schneider interprets the main factors involved in communication difficulties.

The greatest challenge of communication between socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and police is the language barrier. Many residents in Mount Pleasant are immigrants and therefore have poor English skills. The police also lack non-English language skills. This inhibits their ability to properly communicate their worries or problems with the police. It also brings about fear, unwillingness and misunderstandings to residents. Thos who want to help are discouraged when they cannot explain themselves to the police. Both the police and the community must make a conjoined effort to learn the opposite parties language in order to prevent crime.

Immigrants also lack trust when dealing with governments. “Dealing with the government seems to be the last thing they want to do… they come from areas where they are not democratic societies, where the power of the police has been overbearing and sometimes controlling” (Schneider, 1999:351). To these individuals, the police were feared and distrusted. They resist getting involved in crime prevention programs because of these feelings toward the police. Even cultural differences can affect an individual’s willingness to cooperate with the police. For example, in Chinese culture respect can be read through body language, which determines an individual’s participation with the police. Schneider observed a case where a non-Chinese man refused to cooperate with an investigating officer because the officer maintained eye contact with the man’s English translator instead of him (1990:354). Simple misunderstandings like this inhibit the efficiency of community policing.

These problems threaten community-policing programs through lack of communication, difference of primary languages and insufficient understandings of cultures. “The failure of community policing theories and programs in poor neighborhoods begins with its incorrect assumption that society is pluralistic and that all communities have similar problems, needs, and access to political and economic resources” (Schneider, 1999:361). With a highly concentrated group of disadvantaged minorities living in a community, normal police practices do not work. By pointing out the problems, Schneider enables the system to change its ideas of policing in different environments.

 Critique and Theoretical Advance

Schneider’s theory of community policing is too dependent on micro influences. He only looks at the weak social interaction between residents in the community and the police. While communication is one of the major problems with community policing, it is not the only one. I want to look on a more macro level, with problems imbedded in ecological, economic, historical, political and social influences. Peter St. Jean’s article _Explaining Strained Community-Police Relations in a Racially and Ethnically Homogeneous Community: Grand Bay, Dominica_ supports my theory. His study consisted of 7 months of ethnographic research during 1996.

While Schneider blames lack of communication and willingness from the community on racial and cultural differences, I believe poverty and unemployment play a greater role. Community members who are unemployed generally blame their problems on the government and authoritative figures. These feelings of blame then turn into acts of disobedience and even violence against the police. “Although the police were not regarded as responsible for creating employment in the village, their ability to maintain a good relationship with the residents was affected by social pressures that were derived from inadequate means to generate legitimate income” (St. Jean, 2008:14). Poverty and unemployment make residents find alternative ways of income.

Many of these ways is through illegal activities such as drug dealing and prostitution, lifestyles that aims to repel the police as much as possible. The study in Dominica shows the obvious fact that cultural difference is not always such a great factor in community policing. In the town that the participant observation research was conducted in, 95% of the people had similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Even with same race and background, community policing was not working.

Another argument that Schneider makes is that immigrants are wary of police because they do not know what to expect from them. They are afraid from their past experiences, where they used to live. However, I believe that this theory works better with people who are familiar with the area. People moving to a new community will actively engage with authority to try and become associated with them. It is the people who have lived in a certain area for years that come to distrust the police, people who have been let down on multiple occasions by the authority and no longer believe them to be any help. In the community of Grand Bay, there is a history of uprising and resistance of the community. It is up to the police to disband these types of uprisings and when they occur, they must do so with brutal tactics and violence. The people in Grand Bay do not forget these resistances against the police and hold grudges for generations. “The police working in Grand Bay will not be liked because of a long history of resistance here. After what happened in 1974 [a major uprising], young people seems to have a pride in saying that they do not like the police” (St. Jean, 200:15). This way of thinking only furthers the gap between police and community.

Social issues such as migration and substance abuse also play a strong role in community policing. The community is primarily skewed towards the young and old. “Seventy-two percent of the Grand Bay’s population comprises unemployed senior citizens and school-aged unemployed children and teenagers” (St. Jean, 2008:15). This is because people tend to migrate elsewhere when they are old enough and financially independent. When this happens, young children are left behind with older relatives and little money and guidance. With this type of upbringing the individual usually resorts to drugs and crime.

This develops a whole age group that opposes the police and their authority. Illiteracy, jealousy, and drug dependence were also identified by residents as social issues that indirectly affected community-police relations” (St. Jean, 2008:16). This theory contradicts Schneider’s, who believes people migrating into a community worsens their relationships with police. I believe the opposite, that the migration of certain people out of a community will have the same effects. The people migrating out are usually more educated and obey the law. With these people gone, the only ones children look up to are those committing crimes and doing drugs, resisting police.

Lastly, politics creates a relationship between communities and police. Schneider fails to mention anything about this in his theories. If politics have no interest in a certain community, they will not provide effort into fixing its problems. If the community does not show interest in politics, politics will not show interest in the community. “We do not get a lot of support here…It seems that Grand Bay is always resisting and I believe this is a part of why police are being sent to Grand Bay as punishment” (St. Jean, 2008:16). Instead of trying to help Grand Bay’s current community, the police try and subdue it. The community is given less funding because they are less of a priority than others.

News Article

The article I looked at is from The Arizona Republic titled _Poor justice on Arizona Indian reservations allows crime to run rampant,_ by Dennis Wagner. The article talks about the troubles of creating justice in Indian reservations. It talks about the problems of communication, the frustration it can cause within the community and the differences of culture. These three examples help outline Schneider’s theory of overcoming barriers of communication between communities and the police.

Frustration within the community occurs with the lack of action against crimes. Even serious crimes like rape and murder are unsolved. “Native American leaders have criticized the federal justice system on tribal lands, complaining that investigations of major crimes against Indians are often cursory” (Wagner: 2010). However, the blame cannot be placed solely on the justice system. It is also the people’s unwillingness to help authority figures. They are used to getting no help from the justice systems for years, so they no longer feel obligated to help out the authorities. “Even when FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents refer cases to U.S. attorneys for prosecution, matters often get dropped for a lack of evidence” (Wagner: 2010).

This shows the communities unwillingness to participate in community crime prevention activities. Another cause of the frustration of lack of communication is vigilantism. The article uses the example of a reserve where FBI agents do not travel and no BIA agents are stationed. Because of this, there are many different cases of murder and assault. This is because the members of the community are taking justice into their own hands, and punishing criminals themselves. The police need to show that they are getting results to stop people from doing this. If they prove to the community that they are reliable, the community will help them out.

The reserves lack trust when dealing with the police. This is because of the high crime rate on reserves, which the police almost seem unable to help. It is Native women who suffer the most, and are therefore less likely to help the police. This is because they are so scared and helpless. “Women suffer from violent crime at a rate 2 ½ times the national average. More than one-third are raped during their lifetimes” (Wagner: 2010). The lives these women live are horrible because their rights are treated like second-class citizens. Because of their brutal living conditions, they will not cooperate with police. There are two classifications of those against community policing. Those who are use to not getting help and no longer wish to receive it, and those who are too frightened by their culture to try and receive help. The community is used to having crime as a part of their culture. “Stuff that happens in Indian country, if it occurred in any town or city of this country, people would be up in arms. But they don’t care” (Wagner: 2010). This cultural ideology must change in order for community policing to have an effect on crime.

There are some aspects of the article that show improvements being implemented into community policing of the Indian reserves. U.S. president Barack Obama promised that he aims to fix this backwards justice system on reserves. He suggests ways to further the two way communication process between authorities and tribal leaders, to give the Indian community more power over criminals and to develop their culture. These ideas will help bridge the gap of community and police.

To halt frustration based on communication, the police and justice system must be the ones to initiate a change, considering they have the most power. The government “appointed Native Americans to key posts and ordered Cabinet secretaries to conduct listening session with tribal leaders” (Wagner: 2010). This will gain authorities respect in the eyes of the community, because they are listening to what the people need and want. The community will realize that they are able to receive help from the police, and will start helping instead of hindering.

The next way to further relationships between community and police is to give the community more power and control of themselves. Instead of having to take crime into their own hands and become a type of vigilante, certain community members gain the power to arrest and convict people. “Promoted to increase authority of Indian police and allow Native courts to issue felony sentences of up to three years” (Wagner: 2010). Now they are able to convict people themselves and are able to do police work on their own. This also builds trust within the community because members know and respect the people upholding the law.

Finally, Obama wants “attorneys to visit Indian country regularly to meet with tribal leaders and develop operational plans” (Wagner: 2010). By having the attorneys visit the reserves, it shows community respect and honor. Also, working together gives the community a chance to give knowledge on what type of actions will work most effectively in their homes.

Theoretical Advance continued

Already using Schneider’s theories of micro community policing, I will now use St. Jean’s macro theories to further develop the news article. As a reminder, he looks at the ecological, economic, historical, political and social influences that determine different problems with community policing. The reserves where these Natives live are given characteristics such as: “traumatic poverty, substance abuse, unemployment, disease and extreme suicide rates” (Wagner: 2010). These factors all contribute to the relationship between community and police.

Ecological and environmental factors keep the reserves more secluded thanaverage towns or cities. This makes jurisdiction difficult to  determine by the police. When an authority is brought in for an investigation, he is looked at as an outsider. The community will not trust him and therefore will not cooperate, leading to bad community policing. This is why there must be a known authority figure to mediate between the two groups. When a community member who is familiar with the environment is able to join forces with the police who have the proper resources to fight crime, much more is accomplished. It becomes community policing at its best.

The economic factors play an even greater role in determining stable relationships. Reserves are very poor, with little resources in fighting crime. So many crimes are unsolved because there is not a proper investigation, or the people investigating lack the skills. “The problem is that crimes are not investigated thoroughly…we need more money” (Wagner: 2010). For a change to occur, the reservations need to be given specific training that will help them deal with the most occurring crimes. Once people living in these communities have the proper equipment to deal with these crimes, they will become more involved because they will realize they are actually making a difference. More people will become involved in policing and crime will be reduced.

Historical factors are one of the biggest reasons why reservations are skeptical of engaging in community policing. Governments have never worried about what happens on reservation ground, as long as it does not affect their land. The Indians have felt apart from normal society because of this reason. They gain a feeling of hopelessness and loneliness when they realize that they are portrayed as lesser people who do not deserve help. The system used to protect Indians from crime does not work. “This is a system that has been in place since the late 1880s, and it’s not working. The idea that the federal government should be responsible for crimes in Indian country is something that has to be changed” (Wagner: 2010). To change this, the government needs to support them and pay more attention to the Indian reserves. Obama requested $449 million for tribal public safety programs and more FBI and BIA (Wagner). He realizes the reservations should not be deprived of primary resources because they are socially disadvantaged. Instead, he must help them so they can contribute more to society.

Social issues like drug dependence and poverty provide a rift between community and police. Living in poverty causes people to regret those with money. Drugs provide an escape fro their real life. The Indians who are constantly getting high make sure that they are uncooperative with any type of authority. They only think about themselves, about when they get their next high, and do not wish to associate themselves with authority. This will cause them to be unhelpful and unwilling when talking to the police. People with drug dependence will try and force their ideologies onto everyone around them. Consequently, the community does not communicate with police. “Distrust and limited communication between federal and tribal investigators have so hindered the execution of justice on reservations that crime can run rampant” (Wagner: 2010). However, if the tribal investigators are given more power and authority, the community will respect and cooperate with him. Those with substance abuse will learn to fear the tribal investigator’s power and control.


Schneider, Stephen. “Overcoming barriers to communication between police and socially disadvantage neighborhoods: a critical theory of community policing.” _Crime, Law and Social Change._ 30:4:347-377

St. Jean, Peter. 2008. “Explaining Strained Community-Police Relations in a Racially and Ethnically Homogeneous Community: Grand Bay, Dominica.” _Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice._ 5:2:1-27

Wagner, Dennis. 2010. “Poor justice on Arizona Indian reservations allows crime to run rampant.” _The Arizona Republic._

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