When discussing crime and public safety, we often hear that “law enforcement cannot do this alone.” What does this mean? If law enforcement can’t protect the public by itself, how do we do it? One answer is through community partnerships and community policing. The Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing – the COPS Office – defines community policing as a “philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systemic use of partnerships and problem solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.” Police-public partnerships and problem-solving are core elements of community policing.

Most recently, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recognized that “mutual trust and cooperation, two key components of community policing, are vital to protecting residents” from crime. This “mutual trust and cooperation” can be developed, in part, through partnerships with the community.

5 Reasons Police-Community Partnerships Are Valuable

A partnership can be defined in many ways, but essentially, it is a cooperative relationship between two or more organizations to achieve a common goal. Effective community partnerships are essential to a police department’s and community’s efforts to address crime. Partnerships between police and community can:

  1. Increase organizational accountability. Partners have the ability to hold each other accountable by reporting to each other and establishing performance measures and programmatic controls.
  2. Reduce fragmentation and duplication. When people and organizations work together, they can ensure that their efforts are coordinated and resources are used more effectively.
  3. Increase awareness of public safety strategies. This transparency can lead to more trust in the community. When community members know what the police department’s strategies are, they are more likely to cooperate with the police, report crime and even participate in implementing those strategies.
  4. Strengthen organizations. As organizations work together to solve problems, they leverage each other’s strength and become more effective.
  5. Permanently alter the way of doing business. As partners work together to address issues and begin to see successes, they realize that engaging in partnerships is an efficient and effective way to address different types of issues and problems.

What Should Police Agencies Do?

Developing and maintaining effective police-community partnerships is not easy – it takes a lot of work and patience – but the benefits of effective partnerships greatly outweigh the costs. To get started, law enforcement agencies can look to the recommendations associated with Pillar 4 of the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on Community Policing, “Community Policing and Crime Reduction.”