Dealing with crime problems faced by the urban poor is a key challenge for the next generation of community-policing officers, Bernard Melekian, new director of the U.S. Justice Department's COPS office, said today in New York. Local police must work harder at building relationships with residents of high-crime areas where many of the officers do not live, Melekian, former police chief of Pasadena, Ca., told the opening session of the fifth annual H. F. Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Melekian lamented that despite the fact that “statistically, cities are much safer,” opinion polling shows that Americans still fear crime. As COPS director, Melekian said he would work to make sure “we are funding the right things,” including whether effective anticrime programs are “sustainable” and replicable in other places, not overly dependent on one police chief's leadership. What Americans most care about in police performance is whether line officers treat their problems seriously, Melekian said. An advocate of “values-oriented policing,” he said officers should be asking themselves not “can I do this, but should I do this?”