This appeared in the LA Daily News, on Sunday, December 9, 2001:
to LAPD: Collaborate, don't dictate
by Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
While real community policing is flourishing both nationally and
internationally, in Los Angeles it is faltering.
Until mid-1997, Los Angeles was fast becoming an internationally
recognized leader in community policing. The successful police community
partnerships of France and Germany were modeled after the senior
lead officers and other programs of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Then, newly appointed Chief Bernard C. Parks pulled the plug on
community policing and replaced it with beefed-up patrols and an
invisible barrier of aloofness between officers and the neighborhoods
-- "Institutional policing," in his words.
Since that time, Los Angeles has fallen behind major cities throughout
the United States and Europe. While innovative and successful new
partnership programs are appearing almost daily in cities and counties
across the country and abroad, Los Angeles languishes in stubborn
resistance. We need to catch up.
Several years ago, our firm and its associates launched a continuing
study of community policing and how it is applied throughout Europe
and the U.S. We saw how it was developed and implemented at the
LAPD, and studied its applications at other police agencies at home
and abroad. We have seen what works.
In our surveys, we have found community policing to be a sound,
practical philosophy. The US Department of Justice, Community Oriented
Policing Service, defines it as "... policing designed to reduce
crime and disorder in communities by fostering trust, respect, and
collaboration between police officers and citizens."
Police agencies interpret this definition differently to suit the
needs of their particular communities. Varied as they are, central
to all of the programs is the police-community partnership, with
a shared goal of improving safety.
Community policing succeeds best where it has the full and constant
support of top police management. For example, in Palermo, Italy
-- population roughly 700,000 -- gang-related homicides dropped
from over 200 per year in the mid-1990s to 11 in 1999 and nine in
2000. This drop in crime came only after the introduction of real
community policing aimed at the socioeconomic roots of gang violence.
Zurich, Switzerland, introduced police/social service/troubleshooter
outreach teams in May 2000. At present, drug addiction and homelessness
in downtown areas has been reduced by more than 58 percent. All
major crime categories are continuing a steady downward trend.
In the United States as in Europe, community policing boasts a proven
track record of promoting social justice. Where it flourishes, it
significantly reduces complaints of police abuse or brutality. In
fact, community policing wins highest marks -- 84 percent approval
in Chicago -- in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn advocates community policing as
the way to tear down social and language barriers and to create
secure neighborhoods citywide.
The key to success, as we found in our 12-nation study, is engaging
the community as an equal partner, not as a passive recipient of
policing. It begins with a policy of coordination, training and
planning between the police and other agencies. It requires a managerial
culture of openness and active encouragement of rank-and-file police
leadership and initiative. Without these elements, we have found,
community policing will not have the tools it needs to succeed.
In Los Angeles today, examples of community policing are few and
isolated from the mainstream of LAPD structure. Even these existing
programs are threatened:
Senior Lead Officer program was recently reinstated over the
strenuous efforts of LAPD management to block it during a four-year
debacle. Even now, SLO reactivation is falling behind schedule
and deployment is showing signs of faltering.
The CLEAR (Community Law Enforcement And Recovery) team, probably
the only extant interagency community policing program in Los
Angeles, is being threatened with extinction as funding sources
disappear. CLEAR has a proven success rate in combating gang
violence by mobilizing social resources in an outreach partnership
with police. We not only need to save CLEAR, we should expand
In Boyle Heights, resident activism, diligent research and a year
of inspired planning recently produced a user-friendly program of
community policing. It will feature bilingual, two-officer teams
working with community groups to reduce gang involvement and lower
crime rates. It is embarrassing that the LAPD is the passive partner
in this project, entering the picture only after the neighborhood
At present, Los Angeles communities are often seen as merely a resource
to help the police do their jobs as tradition dictates. But to join
the ranks of the progressive and successful cities, LAPD management
must change its policy from emergency response alone to a more proactive,
This will result in increased trust in, and respect for, the police.
Coupled with neighborhood contribution -- an extremely important
component to community policing -- the reward is success in the
form of lower crime rates and safer neighborhoods, fewer homeless
and mentally ill on the streets, and fewer young people entering
The old model of policing features a semi-militaristic and hierarchic
structure, rigid codes of discipline, oppressive directives and
arbitrary lines of accountability. Recent studies commissioned by
the US Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing
Services show that community policing does not thrive under those
Structure and discipline are essential to maintaining an organized
police force. When taken to extremes, however, these factors destroy
initiatives toward power sharing, joint problem-solving and mutual
responsibility -- all characteristics necessary for successful community
policing. In police labor relations, the old model leads to adversarial
grievances and continuing tensions.
The problem with community policing in Los Angeles is that the police
management does not possess the characteristics necessary for the
reinstitution of community policing.
To change this, we need a call from residents to bring it back,
a clear citywide mandate for its expansion, and a firm commitment
from LAPD management for its permanent implementation.
Join us in the call to bring community policing back to Los Angeles,
Properly implemented, community policing benefits all residents.
It lowers crime rates and builds confidence throughout the city.
It empowers neighborhoods, especially minority and disadvantaged
neighborhoods, to unite and to innovate.
The role of community policing is more critical than ever in the
nation's fight against terrorism. Its proven track record can assist
by mobilizing neighborhoods' cooperation in providing human intelligence
and information resources.
Los Angeles is more than four years behind in rolling out new and
successful community policing programs. Let's catch up with police
forces everywhere that practice real community partnerships. It's
hard work, but it's also the road Los Angeles needs to travel.
--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human
rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe.
They are consultants and authors on international policing, social
policy and human rights.
additional information or a complete list of references, contact: