Community Policing Called ‘Ineffective’ at Building Trust, Reducing Crime in Global South

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Mexican police officer by J.K. via Flickr

An international team of nearly 30 researchers conducted extensive studies in six countries in the Southern Hemisphere, looking to see if instituting community policing would improve trust in law enforcement or reduce crime.

At the end of their study which examined 516 separate policing jurisdictions impacting 9 million people, the researchers concluded that the community policing methodology didn’t help with either issue, PHYS org details. 

The full study, published in the Science journal, described how police brutality has been a growing international concern in the past few years in particular, seeing how high-profile instances have brought the issue to the attention of the globe. 

Now, with the inception of modern policing and the calls for police reform, many countries have taken different approaches to engagement with communities. 

See Also: Will Community Policing Make a Comeback?

To that end, community policing has become a staple in the police-reform dialogue, defined as the methodology of police spending more time among the people they serve and their local communities, with the goal of knowing and growing with the individuals they’re meant to keep safe, and to learn more about the unique problems each neighborhood has to cooperate with keeping the peace. 

In this latest study effort, the researchers wondered how this method would work in different countries, specifically in areas with low income and varied crime histories and relationships with law enforcement, according to the study.

Community Policing in the Global South

To really understand the impact of community policing under the outlined circumstances, the researchers set up field locations in Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Uganda. Each field study required coordinated efforts with local police, community members and leaders alike to create this enforcement method, and track the results.

Across the continents, the 26 researchers randomly assigned areas to either new community policing practices, or to a control group behavior that was unchanged to what the neighborhoods are used to. 

The new practices included foot patrols where the officers were asked to get to know the community and identify concerns, engage in town halls, create a reporting hotline for call or text messages to report crimes and police abuse, as well as implement problem-solving strategies to address unique neighborhood concerns. 

The researchers estimate their interventions impacted 9 million people in 516 treated areas over the course of the study.

At the end of the research, 18,382 citizens and 874 police officers were surveyed, and the crime data from each area was obtained. They then set out to measure whether or not community policing increased citizen trust in police, increased citizen-police cooperation, and reduced crime.

In contexts with limited incentives and resources to change, the results of our coordinated experiments deliver a clear message,” the authors began in their conclusion.

“Community policing does not, at least immediately and on its own, lead to major improvements in citizen-police relations or reductions in crime,” they concluded. “Societies may need to implement structural changes first for incremental police reforms such as community policing to succeed.”

The full paper can be accessed here. 

Additional Reading: Feds Announce $33M in Grants for Community Policing

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