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Community Policing

April 13, 2009

Does community-policing work?  In a word, yes, with the right type of commitment. And that is precisely what is going on in Ontario even as you read this – an increased commitment to practicing the tenets of community policing. It’s no longer about just responding to a call on a case-by-case basis. It’s about taking a look at the larger picture.

At one point in time, policing used to be done in high crime areas with two officers who rode together in their cruiser and only got out when they needed to respond to a call. Years ago the prevailing attitude was just to get the job done, period. The people didn’t always count back then. They do now, as it’s the people who make up a community as a whole that dictate the nature of the crime you will encounter on the streets.

The whole community is in essence responsible for all of its members including the good, bad, ugly, poor and rich. Every one of those members is a human being with hopes, dreams, goals and problems to solve to reach their goals. Despite the fact that some of the people you will deal with may be challenged in a variety of ways, they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

This is applicable even when the call you are responding to happens to be a domestic where the woman has been beaten to a pulp. The instant reaction may be to arrest the perp, take the woman to the hospital and call social services to pick up any children. While this may be part of what needs to be done, the larger part of the picture is assisting the woman, when she is ready; to find the help she needs to break away from her abuser.

This isn’t a cut and dried situation and treating it like one will cause more harm than good. Community policing is about knowing what “other” resources are needed in situations like this and demonstrating the sensitivity to offer this kind of alternative assistance. It’s about finding a battered women’s shelter for the night, about letting the woman know about safe houses for her and her children and about treating her with dignity.

If this means you provisionally play the role of a psychologist for a short period of time, then so be it. It’s part and parcel of the empathic approach to community policing that is transforming the way the general public regard police officers.

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