New Models of Participation and Expertise in the United States and Europe
Edited by Thierry Delpeuch and Jacqueline E. Ross
Chapter 2: Beat meetings, responsiveness to the community, and police effectiveness in Chicago
While no longer a new discussion, the question of how police can increase their effectiveness by involving the community remains an open one. Earlier eras of policing did not address it at all. The definition of ‘professionalism’ in the era concluding in the mid-1980s excluded incorporating ‘extralegal’ factors in police operations. Reformers then feared the legacy of the previous period, one in which the external influences that counted promoted political favoritism and corruption in the ranks and at the management level. The emergence of community policing, which was to define the tail end of the 20th century, challenged this view. Instead, police were called upon to welcome public input and even active involvement in the business of their organizations. At the most practical level, this was billed as a tactic for obtaining new, useful operational intelligence. More strategically, the formation of ‘partnerships’ with community groups, nonprofit agencies, and even other branches of local government, was seen as a route for increasing police effectiveness at responding to this new citizen input. Up one more level of thinking, community policing was seen as a mechanism for rebuilding police legitimacy in poor and minority communities in particular and more broadly among voters and taxpayers, who were noticing how expensive the police had become. From the outset, an important issue was just how to incorporate citizen input effectively. Around the country, police have experimented with a variety of mechanisms for gathering community input and for ensuring that it actually translates into concrete action. The organizational arrangements that have emerged include conducting surveys of the public, forming headquarters or district-level citizens’ advisory committees, holding regular consultations with organizations that can claim to represent particular communities, and meetings with the general public. Since no police chief wants to be seen without something she can point to and call ‘community policing’ when their mayor inquires, these arrangements are ubiquitous.
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