This appeared in the LA Daily News, on Sunday, January 20, 2002:
brass should trust officers, public
by Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
Los Angeles Police Department top management is demonstrating that
it doesn't trust citizens enough to give them a meaningful voice in
Instead, it is commissioning studies -- one at a time -- on isolated
topics such as use of force or encounters with the mentally ill.
One such study, announced in late December, will commence in March
or April of this year. It will review "community-oriented-policing
training models that take into account cultural diversity." The Request
for Proposals (tender for bids) describing the project repeats that
phrase several times, but neither defines nor explains its purpose
enough to elicit a serious bid from consultants. If it were draft
legislation, it would surely be void for vagueness.
That study -- whatever its aims -- could tie up the issue of community
policing until October or November. In the meantime, the process of
appointing (or reappointing) a police chief will be over.
Small wonder, then, that some deem it just another tactic on the part
of the LAPD command to remove the issue from the scrutiny of Mayor
James Hahn and the Police Commission responsible for the appointment
of a chief. Los Angeles doesn't need more piecemeal studies, samples
or local "trial models" of community policing programs. Instead, the
city needs to launch a broad spectrum of police-citizen partnerships
Across the United States, communities of all sizes and ethnic diversities
have shown that they can do the job. We too can handle community policing.
It is up to LAPD top management to start the ball rolling.
First, it must wholeheartedly embrace the police-citizen partnership
philosophy. It must then roll out a number of citywide community policing
programs, introducing them to community groups and government agencies.
It must staff them with motivated, specially trained, rank-and-file
officers in interagency outreach teams.
Then, Los Angeles neighborhoods will rise to the occasion and will
participate just as hundreds of communities have done nationwide.
There is a vast and growing body of knowledge and practical experience
on community policing, freely available to the LAPD. Police forces
everywhere in the United States and Europe are proud to share their
data and cumulative expertise with newcomers. LAPD officials should
be utilizing it quickly. They only need to ask.
For starts, there is much to learn next door at the Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's Department practices community
policing in its many forms, and the resulting know-how is considerable.
Also, it operates one of the 20 federally funded Regional Community
Policing Institutes. It has the added advantage of sharing the sheer
sprawling size and ethnic diversity of Greater Los Angeles.
Some examples of the sheriff's progressive partnership efforts include:
Transition Unit: Located at Twin Towers Correctional Facility,
this unit offers more than 40 rehabilitation and counseling
programs to prepare inmates for their release and to fight recidivism.
Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives: One of the
nation's more successful youth programs, VIDA creates strong
and close bonds with young people to prevent gang entry and
delinquency. It features community service, "youth links" counseling
services for families, behavioral modification and career guidance.
Community mobilization: Local sheriff's stations offer popular
Neighborhood Watch clubs, Community Academies, Civilian Volunteer
Program, Volunteers on Patrol and many others.
Homeless Public Safety Center: Now in advanced planning, this
will be a homeless access and dwelling center located in downtown
Los Angeles, and represents a commitment to solving urban problems
through community policing. Housing up to 200 homeless people
and couples, the center will provide interagency outreach and
close cooperation with medical, dental and mental health services,
drug and alcohol rehab programs, job training and career guidance,
and transitional housing.
models the LAPD might emulate are widespread and well known.
Here are some examples of successful programs in other cities:
Diego recently celebrated its eighth anniversary of community
policing. Among its successful ventures is the permanent Use
of Force Task Force made up of 71 community members and 66 police
officers. The proactive Homeless Outreach Teams, another example
of partnering, consist of two police officers, a county social
worker, a psychiatric emergency response team clinician and
a project manager.
Buffalo, N.Y., police introduced the "Fix the City" program
that became a rallying cry for community-based initiatives in
partnership with businesses and neighborhoods. Taking a cue
from the "Distressed Neighborhoods" program of the US Department
of Justice office for Community Oriented Policing Services,
Buffalo police and citizens have reduced crime in the most-affected
areas by 25 percent to 50 percent over a six-month period.
Chicago last year marked its seventh year of community policing
with an interim report that showed increasing satisfaction with
-- and participation in -- citizen partnership operations, especially
in minority neighborhoods. Recorded crime declined most sharply
in African-American communities. Robbery was down 47 percent,
auto theft dropped by 33 percent, rape was reduced by 33 percent
and burglary dropped by 31 percent.
Now, while crime is rising in Los Angeles, Chicago is maintaining
crime rates that are dramatically lower than they were before the
introduction of community policing.
In a large number of smaller cities, police forces made the necessary
transition from a reactive hierarchy to a proactive partnership.
In all cases, the impetus came from the top. The process requires
the active and enthusiastic support of the chief and command staff.
These police forces have shown that it pays to trust the citizens
to share information and decision-making powers. While gearing up
for permanent, long-term community policing, they created opportunities
for proactive police management.
LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks is curiously silent on the subject of
community policing as applied to solving the urgent and devastating
problems of low morale and growing vacancies.
A number of major studies, many of them commissioned by the Department
of Justice, show beyond dispute that community policing creates
high morale among the rank-and-file officers. It boosts recruitment
and attracts top young talent to the force.
Sheriff Lee Baca credits community policing with helping him recruit
3,000 new deputies in three years, 25 percent of whom are women
-- nearly double the national average. Chief Parks, or his successor,
should study those figures seriously.
It is clearly important to encourage officer initiative and leadership,
and to recognize the enormous potential of rank-and-file officers
as a valuable source of information and wisdom to effect change.
Officers can handle community policing, if top management will only
trust them to do so.
Making the model work will require a cultural change within the
LAPD, one that trusts both officers and citizens to "handle" community
policing. Cities throughout the United States and Europe have done
it, and Los Angeles can do it. Let Mayor Hahn and the Police Commission
know how urgently we need community policing, and demand it citywide.
We, the people, can handle it.
--- 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: