Given the difficulties in trying to establish a clear definition of Community Oriented Policing, it may be more helpful to identify several assumptions regarding the endeavor of accomplishing the police mission. This would include the goals of community oriented and problem oriented policing.
COP versus Traditional Policing
Traditional policing activities and community policing objectives are not mutually exclusive. Law enforcement agencies must simultaneously deal with the concepts of public safety and public perceptions. Public safety involves the traditional concepts of protecting life and property, preventing crime, apprehending criminals, regulating traffic, and maintaining order. Public perceptions relate to the citizen's concerns regarding quality of life, fear of crime, and their opinion of the agency.
The Role of the Police
Reliance solely upon traditional enforcement responses to crime is insufficient and ineffective. It is also unrealistic for the police to attempt to solve all of society’s problems. Police agencies must focus their efforts on the tasks for which they are best equipped. Generally, investigation, enforcement, and crime prevention are the functions used by law enforcement to deal with public safety. These efforts, however, must reflect the concerns and needs of the citizens that the agency is obligated to serve and protect. The broad law enforcement mission involves three distinct categories of activities:
1. Conventional law enforcement duties and responsibilities.
2. Police responses specific to community problems and needs.
3. Police input and support for community-based programs to address other needs.
The Relationship between the Police and the Public
Traditionally, law enforcement has maintained a somewhat independent relationship with the citizens. The police generally decide what crime problems are important and what to do about them. Some views of community policing would have police involved in a dependent relationship with the public where the police agency would be responsible for solving almost every community problem. The ideal is for the police and the public to be interdependent where each understands the other's needs and concerns. The police listen to and respond to the concerns of the citizens consistent with their mission and the community understands what the police mission is and the constraints under which the police operate. Building this type of relationship between officers and citizens involves an ongoing process of changing attitudes and developing skills, especially within the police agency.
Enhancing the Effectiveness of Special Tactics Units
Emphasis on Gangs, Youth and Violent Crime
The public, criminal justice professionals, and the media continue to express concerns about gangs, juvenile criminals, and violent crime. The persons who belong to gangs and commit violent street crimes also create fear and concern in communities. Police responses to community concerns and to street level criminal activity are interrelated. The most effective approach to these problems will be a broad based effort, capable of focusing on all aspects of the street crime problem rather than a number of specialized programs, each independently focused and operated. Focusing on gangs and related youth violence problem is a critical part of responding to street level crime and community safety. Suppression alone will not adequately address the complex problems of juvenile crime and gangs. The police must work cooperatively with the entire community to provide the components of prevention, intervention, and suppression in order to respond to youth at risk and those involved in criminal activity and gangs.