In the Aftermath: Does Community Policing Require Follow-up?

Commissioner Bardimages
Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr.
WESTBOROUGH, MA July 30, 2018  The growth of the Community Policing model has brought about impressive changes in the way in which police and citizens interact. The Community Policing model brings police officers out of their cruisers and into the neighborhoods.  Its primary goal was to
reduce crime through improved relationships between citizens and law enforcement
personnel. It is not a new policing strategy and was first introduced in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr.  is shown below in a July 10 video where he was reading to a community group of children. His vitae indicates that Bard has earned a Doctorate in Public Administration from Valdosta State University. He has a B.A. in Criminal Justice. Bard has previously been appointed to serve as the Co-Chair of current Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s transition team for Public Safety and a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) for the Community College of Philadelphia.
When the Community policing model was first introduced it was assumed that greater visibility of police officers on foot patrol would reduce the fear of crime among citizens and enhance cooperation and trust between the police and those they are sworn to protect and serve. Officers throughout the Boston, MA area regularly can be seen on bicycle patrol. I have encountered Watertown Police officers on bike patrol on the Charles River trail and found them both helpful and friendly.
Police officers were given greater autonomy and discretion when handing citizen complaints and investigating crimes as the community policing model evolved. The cop on the beat got to know people in the neighborhoods he patrolled, business leaders, and many of the
local “players.”
Given the greater expectation for improved police – civilian encounters using the community police model it has become apparent that with enhanced trust and cooperationthat a bridge be built of transparency, fairness, and decentralized leadership. This must evolve to include greater appreciation for the needs of individual communities and those most in need of support.
“By almost any measure, Massachusetts has lost the leadership role it once had in
mental health care”  Boston Globe Series
      Police officers slowly bought in to the model and gradually saw the fruits of their efforts by developing relationships and understanding of individual differences among the frequent flyers.
The scope of community policing in the 21 st century extends the role of police officers to
include frequent encounters with emotional imbalance, mental illness and substance
abuse.
     There are inherent problems with any notion that police officers will return to the scene of bad domestic calls where there may have been a violent arrest only days before. This stems from the adversarial model that exists in most law enforcement agencies where follow-up to criminal activity is rarely conducted by front line officers. Many departments delegate follow-up investigations to detectives or in rare case civilian
personnel and sometimes mental health advocates. This schism lacks fundamental adherence to the community policing mantra of building relationships and trust between the police and its citizenry.
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2 thoughts on “In the Aftermath: Does Community Policing Require Follow-up?

  1. I like your thoughts here a lot, but the title might not quite fit.

    1. The trust relationship is with the individual officer not with the institution. So it doesn’t extend to other people doing follow-up, unless the trusted individual is present to link them. The same is true in a variety of business settings — people like the guy who sells or fixes things, not necessarily the company for which he works.
    2. Follow-up is not a question. Rather, when and by whom. Hence the concern with the title.

  2. Mr Crain I suspect you are right about the title. It is a bit vague but my point was that following serious incidents of domestic violence – once the dust clears as far back as 2012, I asked the officers I supervised to return to the homes where calls for service were received. Why? As a community policing strategy when the crisis has passed and people are entering the honeymoon phase of the cycle of abuse. People are capable of great change at times of crisis and the expectation was that by making a follow-up in the aftermath of an incident “change” and trust may be established. In doing so, a family may be kept off police radar and the trajectory of the abuse cycle may be derailed. I think research holds this to be valid although I got push back from officers who believed they were far too busy to return to the scene of a prior domestic.

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