🔎Facty Friday Edition #99: Does community policing work?

This 99th edition of Facty Friday examines whether community policing strategies, which aim to improve relationships between police and the communities they work in, lead to better relationships and better policing in communities. 


Community policing did not build citizen trust or reduce crime in six countries

Community policing, which aims to make police more responsive to communities in which they work, has shown promise, although mostly in the Global North. A team of 26 researchers tested community policing strategies in six global south countries: Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Uganda. Across all six countries, the researchers found that community policing did not increase citizen trust in police nor did it decrease crime. They identified three barriers to successful community policing: 1) Police did not consistently prioritize community policing, 2) Police rotations removed motivated officers and decreased connection with communities, 3) A lack of resources prevented well-meaning police officers from acting on community concerns. The researchers suggest that structural reforms may be necessary either as a pre-requisite or alongside community policing approaches.


Community policing can increase repression of marginalized groups

A central principle of community policing is that making police more accountable to the communities will lead to fairer and more responsive policing. However, using the example of Community Security Councils in São Paolo, Brazil, researchers found that Community Security Councils were composed mostly of local elites, who jealously guarded their power to speak directly with police, and who encouraged police to take harsh measures against local undesirables, thus undermining their human rights. The researchers note that democratizing policing through community engagement may therefore exacerbate rather than resolve unjust policing practices. This finding emphasizes the importance of full representation and respect of minorities in community policing institutions to ensure that justice is shared by all citizens.

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