In the early days, before the emergence of police departments, it was the sole responsibility of all able bodied people to watch over the community at night, which contributed to effective community policing at the times. The members of the night watch would raise an alarm in the event that there was a crisis or intruders in the community. But due to the developments in the early 20th century, like the rise of more efficient means of transport, it promoted the idea of police officers not living in the same places in which they guarded (Rebecca, 2014). This eventually led to the breakdown of the existing good community and police relations, and contributing to the rise of poor relations.
Causes of poor police – community relations
In order to come up with effective strategies to build positive community relations between the police and the community, it is important to identify some of the causes of the poor relations between both parties. The police departments have difficulties in interacting with the communities they serve because of various reasons. Many of these reasons are associated with the fact that police departments have contrasting opinions about the community, poor communications, and different concerns about the nature of social control in an unrestricted society. The other fact is that the police deal with the community in different levels, either individually, as a group or organization, or under political influences (Braga et all, 2014). There is always peaceful coexistence between the police and the community if the law enforcement agencies represent the interests of the communities in which they serve. But there is discontent and civil unrest if the police are out of sync with the required opinions.
It is also evident that different communities view the police differently, and that they have varying thinking of the precedence and purposes of the law implementation and criminal justice. Some of the major contributions to the poor police-community relations include poor cooperation, discriminations against one’s race, color, one’s status in the society, the fear of the police, violence and high rates of corruption among the staff in the police department. The other factors include the socialization by the parents to their children about the negative police habits which lead to distrust and fear of the police by the growing generations. It also leads to hostilities by the communities towards the police officers (Miller & Brasswell, 2014). Adding on that is the decreased confidence in the services offered by the police officers. Reduced community and police interactions can easily lead to one developing negative attitudes towards each other, for example, the police might not trust the information provided by the citizens concerning increased crime rates, or the citizens might not trust the services provided by the police while trying to solve the problems.
The presence of bad, corrupt and violent police officers in the department might lead to the assumption that all police officers are not competent and do not follow the law while performing their duties. Other issues include the fact that some veteran officers or other officials in the government would rather not deal with a specific community because of their minority status. This is evident in Courtelaney Pass case, whereby a white councilman responds to the sergeant policeman about how he would not care of what happens to the immigrants in that state just because they were not eligible to vote (Peak & Glensor, 2011). The other contributing factor is that the police and the residents have dissimilar perspectives on the causes of crimes and how they can be solved.
Importance of police – community relations
Existence of good relations between the police and the community enables the community to have a clear and better understanding of the concerns of the public, especially those concerning crimes. The citizens on the other hand will be more willing to report any crime incidents to the police, provide necessary information to the law enforcement agencies that can be used as foundations for solving the crimes, they will be willing to act as witnesses and participate in jury trials. This will encourage the police officers to be more proactive in trying to prevent crimes and minimize the impacts that could be caused by the crimes (Gorman, 2011). It also averts the notion by the general public that the services offered by the police are just the mechanisms for collection of intelligence from the community and not for providing security and safety.
In situations where there is poor police and community relations, the police lack basic understanding of the problems existing in the community, more so on those communities that experience high crime rates , poverty and homelessness. The communities on the other hand view the police as forces that provide them with more harm than good. Under such circumstances, the police officers provide a reactive response to the problems in the community. This situation is evident in Courtelaney Pass, elaborated in the disappearance of Kayla, and the response provided by the police was not in any way pleasing and not in accordance to the law it was not documented. The investigations about the cause of her death were not better as well (Rebecca, 2014). This shows that the existing relations between the community and the police were very poor.
Solutions to improve the poor police – community relations
The many factors that contributed to the rise of poor police and community relations prompted the police department to institute reforms in the sector. One of the most appropriate solutions is the integration of human relations movement into law implementation. This emphasized that the police act beyond their required responsibilities of enforcing the law and interact constructively with the communities they serve.
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