Community Policing is much more than:
- an easy way to add personnel,
- 'new-wave' officer-friendly type policing, or
- a special strategy for special circumstances.
Taking the above, one at a time, COPS is far from an easy way to add personnel; rather, it will be a hardship for an agency interested only in that facet. More and more guidelines will be placed on agencies receiving these funds. With future funding depending on past track records, a COPS grant not properly implemented may actually cause an agency to lose money over the long run.
Are COPS officers supposed to be officer-friendly types? Not hardly. Are they 'new-wave' liberal quiche-eaters? Even less so. In the very beginnings of modern policing, starting with Sir Robert Peale in London, officers took responsibility for an area's welfare and worked with the people to improve it, rather than imposing a set of law enforcement perceptions on them. The COPS concept is bringing that back. A COPS officer has to be quicker, internally tougher and more responsive than what is commonly practiced in today's fairly rigid military-based law enforcement organization.
COPS policing is a philosophy, a way of life for an organization. A law enforcement agency either supports and welcomes community involvement/direction of activities or it doesn't; there's very little middle ground. An officer trying to practice community-oriented policing in a 'traditional' agency is headed down the long rocky road of frustration, burnout and failure. Sometimes equally difficult for an agency to implement is developing a sense of 'partnership' within the agency, itself. Participation and contribution by all officers in policy-making, structure, and direction is essential. The military command structure prevents and stymies true community policing, since goals and direction should be coming from the community via the COPS officers.
In Cattaraugus County, we have the benefit of excellent support of our management and legislature for community-oriented policing. For example, our COPS officers have the flexibility to adjust their work schedules, permitting them to attend community functions or respond to circumstances outside their usual shifts. We continue to explore new opportunities to serve some of our far-flung communities with programs like bike patrols, assisting in schools, sponsoring sports activities and assistance to senior citizens.