The Community Policing and Technical Assistance Era | National Police Foundation

The Community Policing and Technical Assistance Era

Advances in Science and Practice (The 1990s and 2000s)

Community Policing

In 1991, the Police Foundation assisted the attorney general of New Jersey in evaluating its joint program with the Newark Police Department, “Project Homestead,” to implement community policing to reduce drug crime. While the results showed no significant reduction in crime, there was improved police visibility and a significant improvement in residents’ perceptions and attitudes about neighborhood conditions and the police, underscoring the important role of community policing.

Nevertheless, highly publicized incidents of police misconduct and real or perceived use of excessive force by police have contributed to most of the country’s urban riots. In the aftermath of the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, the Police Foundation’s president and former chairman played a role in the work of the Christopher Commission, which examined the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). They led a team of investigators to examine how the LAPD prepared for and responded to the civil disorder that followed the acquittal of four officers accused in the King beating. After this experience in Los Angeles, the Police Foundation convened a national conference on civil disorders. Participants, including police practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and community organizations, were asked to consider the dynamics of civil disorder.

Also in 1991, following the civil disorder in the Crown Heights section of New York City, the Police Foundation was asked by the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to assist it in establishing the criteria to evaluate the police response, to advise the state on the application of standards, to evaluate departmental training, and to assist in developing the final report.

The Police Foundation also conducted the first nationwide survey of community policing implementation and shared understandings of its operational definition among law enforcement agencies in 1993.  With a renewed focus on evaluating performance, the Police Foundation conducted an experimental study in Houston, Texas, entitled Evaluating Patrol Officer Performance Under Community Policing:  The Houston Experience (Wycoff & Oettmeier, 1993). Subsequently, in 1994, Police Foundation researchers examined first-line supervision in the community-policing context in order to ensure that supervisors carried out their roles consistent with community policing.

Because excessive use of force and abuse of authority can undermine community policing, the Police Foundation continued its research into this area. For example, in 1993, we conducted a national survey on use of force, which created a baseline for future analysis of this critical issue.  In a national survey on police abuse of authority in 2001, we found that despite strong support for norms that recognize the boundaries of police authority, a majority of officers noted that it is not unusual for police to ignore improper conduct by their fellow officers. Respondents believed that training and education programs are effective means of preventing police from abusing their authority. They also maintained that their own department takes a “tough stand” on the issue of police abuse. Further, respondents supported core principles of community policing, believing that it reduces or has no impact on the potential for police abuse of authority. A majority of African-American respondents believed that police treat whites better than African-Americans and other minorities and that police officers are more likely to use physical force against minorities or the poor. Few white police officers shared these views.

While research continued, we also engaged in training and technical assistance in the area of community policing.  During the period of 1993–2007, the Police Foundation and with four other, national, law enforcement organizations combined their energies and resources in the Community Policing Consortium (CPC). This effort was an unprecedented, collaborative program to provide training and technical assistance in community policing to law enforcement agencies and communities across the United States. As part of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), the CPC worked to institutionalize community policing nationwide. Police Foundation training under the CPC’s personnel administration module helped law enforcement executives develop a workforce with the vision and skills to implement community policing. We also developed modules on organizational change and strategic planning to provide law enforcement officers, government officials, and community leaders with information and insight about managing change in the transition to community policing. One of the Police Foundation’s specialties was strategic planning.  This key aspect of building metrics for evaluating police and organizational performance, and a method that involves engagement of the community in goal setting, was designed to allow communities to construct a “road map” for developing and implementing a strategic plan.

An innovative program sponsored by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, joined the Police Foundation in partnership with the Atlantic City Police Department (ACPD) to encourage its officers to move back to the city. By the mid-1990s, residence requirements had been lifted for police in many U.S. cities, but it was believed that in Atlantic City, increasing the number of sworn personnel living in that small city could enhance community policing. The CRDA provided funding for the Police Foundation and ACPD to design an officer residency program. The “3-2-1” program offered low interest loans and loan forgiveness terms for officers who would live in low, moderate, and severely distressed areas of the city in exchange for community-oriented policing efforts.  About two-dozen officers participated in the program, and the Police Foundation developed and implemented training in community policing for those officers. This was not the first or last time the Police Foundation provided training in community policing.

The Police Foundation has continued to provide training and resources for community policing.  For example, we developed a three-week curriculum designed to improve the delivery of police services in Trinidad and Tobago. The training content was based in community policing and strategic planning as a management approach. Other international training sites have included Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Jamaica, the Police Foundation was onsite for a year-long effort on community policing. More recently, a similar project on behalf of the U.S. Department of State brought 20 Liberian National Police (LNP) trainers and supervisors to the United States for a similar time period. These officers received a range of community policing and ethics courses developed by the Police Foundation at the Commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania police academies, and the LNP participated in observations, interviews, and ride-alongs with numerous local police departments in both states.

Through the community-policing movement, it has become clear that community members depend on their law enforcement officers to protect them from crime, but they also expect to receive fair and lawful treatment themselves. Often the communities most in need of effective policing because of high crime rates are the very communities most distrustful of the police. This work in institutionalizing community policing has led to more recent emphasis on police legitimacy and procedural justice in police–community interactions and a greater need for and reliance on technology to support community policing.

These efforts have continued into recent Police Foundation work.  For example, the Police Foundation has promoted the integration of problem analysis—the process of conducting in-depth, systematic analysis and assessment of crime problems at the local level—into modern police practices and conducted nationwide training in problem analysis and crime analysis, under the direction of Rachel Boba, PhD, an internationally recognized expert in problem analysis.


Technical Assistance

The Police Foundation, in addition to providing training in the United States and abroad, has conducted numerous management and operational reviews of law enforcement agency policies and practices to enhance the delivery of services by identifying strengths and opportunities for improvement.  These have been conducted in agencies small and large (e.g., Atlantic City, New Jersey; Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; Detroit, Michigan; Tampa, Florida; the Delaware River Port Authority Police; and Wilmington, Delaware, to name a few).  Training and technical assistance services have extended to thousands of law enforcement personnel and over 1,600 law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, municipal officials, community organizations, social service agencies, healthcare providers, and educational institutions across the United States and abroad.


Links Among Police and the Rule of Law

As part of its role in administering the national Community Policing Consortium, the Police Foundation developed a process to assist U.S. attorneys in each of the nation’s 94 federal judicial districts to bring together community stakeholders and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce gun violence. The process was designed to (1) engage local stakeholders to launch gun violence reduction initiatives; (2) extend the capacity of existing initiatives by mobilizing community resources and support; (3) develop immediate solutions through collaborative problem solving; and (4) sustain gun violence reduction efforts.

Richmond, Virginia’s, successful gun violence reduction program, Project Exile, which began in 1997, became a building block for Project Safe Neighborhoods, the massive federal initiative for combating gun violence in the United States. The Police Foundation developed and convened a series of symposiums across the country that brought law enforcement personnel and prosecutors together to learn from the architects of Project Exile about factors that were critical to the program’s success in Richmond.



Police Foundation research has also had a profound effect on how police respond to victims of violence and abuse. A study in Detroit and Kansas City showed the importance of threats as predictors of domestic violence, and, in the first scientifically controlled test of the effects of arrest for any crime, the Minneapolis domestic violence experiment  found that arrest was the most effective way to prevent further violence. This collaborative project with the City of Richmond, Virginia, evaluated the deployment of teams of police officers and social workers in response to domestic violence calls, and a recent project sought to further expand our knowledge of how to best structure this type of intervention.  Police Foundation research has also explored ways to enhance the multidisciplinary response to child abuse in order to lessen the trauma to victims. A current study, which is examining the risk factors and protective behaviors associated with abuse of the elderly, is attempting to explain any differences between victims who have had contact with police and those who have not.

The Police Foundation has been a pioneer in developing cooperative and coordinated action between child protective and law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to child maltreatment in the United States. Twenty years ago, in collaboration with the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, we produced the first guide on the role of law enforcement in community-wide efforts to fight child abuse and neglect. The guide was widely used by law enforcement agencies across the country as a reference for patrol officers and as the basis for administrative planning and multidisciplinary training. Following that effort, in collaboration with the ABA National Legal Resource Center for Child Advocacy and Protection and the American Public Welfare Association, we produced an implementation guide to assist communities and local agencies develop multidisciplinary responses to child sexual abuse. A later study, done in collaboration with the American Public Welfare Association, sought ways to improve joint law enforcement and child protective service agency investigations of child abuse.

Other Police Foundation collaborations have focused on improving the multidisciplinary response to victims of crime, including victims of domestic violence. In Richmond, Virginia, the Police Foundation worked with the police department and the department of social services to evaluate and improve a program whereby social workers accompanied police officers in responding to domestic violence incidents to comfort and assist victims. Working with the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) and the Philadelphia Police Department, the foundation helped develop collaborative community partnerships and protocols to improve the police response to stalking. In another joint project with the NCVC, we helped develop a set of tools designed to help police organizations prevent repeat victimization and respond effectively to victims of crime. The Police Foundation also worked with the NCVC and the Redlands, California, Police Department to improve the effectiveness of second responder programs and hopefully prevent repeat victimization.

Recognizing the potential for crime victims to strengthen crime prevention and problem-solving efforts in community policing, another joint project with the NCVC sought to develop models for integrating crime victims and victims’ organizations into community-policing activities. To illustrate the role that victims and victim organizations can play, we developed a set of tools designed to help police organizations prevent repeat victimization and respond effectively to victims of crime. The model policy on preventing repeat victimization provides a blueprint for how police organizations could begin to integrate the prevention of repeat victimization into general operations. The guidance recommends a collaborative problem-solving approach between police and victims, and then illustrates how that approach can be used in response to domestic violence, residential burglary, and automobile theft.

A Police Foundation study in Chicago examined if and how risk factors and protective behaviors affect the course of abuse over time and the role of police in intervening with elderly victims of domestic abuse or neglect. The findings suggest that intervention by police officers trained to deal with the elderly and domestic abuse victims can lead to increased engagement in protective behaviors and ultimately reductions in the number of frequently occurring forms of abuse.