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Community-oriented policing: success insurance strategies.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are implementing community-oriented policing (COP) philosophies. When they do, everyone from politicians to the press sings their praises, emphasizing the remarkable results COP programs often obtain. These well-meaning cheerleaders often downplay or fail to mention the obstacles that invariably surface when organizational change takes place in one of the most resistant-to-change establishments in existence: the law enforcement agency. Law enforcement agencies making the transition to community-oriented policing need tried-and-true methods for overcoming such hurdles before they weaken their esprit de corps and simultaneously undercut the chief executive officer's (CEO) managerial effectiveness. The country is littered with CEOs and failed attempts to transform law enforcement agencies from traditional to community policing.

With proper planning, however, law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve can enjoy the fruits of COP without becoming embroiled in problems. The Whiteville, North Carolina, Police Department's (WPD) move to COP encounted only mild opposition. The key to the department's successful adoption of COP rested in the chief's implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) and other techniques. The resulting positive organizational culture provided the fertile ground necessary for COP to take root and blossom.

After successfully implementing community policing throughout the department, WPD's command-level officers adapted the lessons they learned into "COP Success Insurance Strategies." Interspersed throughout this article, these strategies can serve as a primer for other departments instituting COP.


Whiteville is a small southern city located in Columbus County in the southeastern section of the state. Its 5,600 residents are 65.5 percent white, 33.1 percent African American, 1.1 percent Native American, and .5 percent Hispanic. The city depends on agriculture, mainly tobacco, for its major source of income. Personal incomes vary widely, and approximately 26.5 percent of the population lives in poverty. Several federally subsidized projects provide housing for economically disadvantaged residents and low-income senior citizens.

As the county seat and because other, more metropolitan cities are some distance away, Whiteville hosts nearly 10,000 to 20,000 people per day, who come to shop or to obtain services. Indeed, the city is an extremely busy municipality.

The Whiteville Police Department consists of 26 sworn officers, 10 auxiliary officers, and 4 civilians. The department is composed of the patrol services, investigative services, narcotics, and accreditation divisions. Patrol services comprises teams devoted to animal control, community services, and community policing.

The impetus for the move to community policing came from both inside and outside the department. Whiteville's current chief took the helm of a department that was rife with dissention and animosity. Teamwork and morale had reached record lows. The chief saw COP as a long-term strategy for solving some of these internal problems. In addition, several officers who had worked for other departments pushed for a change in the department's traditional policing practices. Other officers had heard about COP from peers in departments that already had implemented the philosophy.

Outside the department, members of the community encouraged the WPD to move toward any type of effort that would form a partnership between the police and the community. Although residents did not know the term "community-oriented policing," they wanted a more visible police presence in their neighborhoods and a better relationship between citizens and the police. Thus, the chief viewed COP not only as a means of solving internal problems but also as a way to address the needs of the city's residents.


Several key elements contributed to WPD's successful COP implementation. The most prominent factor was creating the appropriate organizational culture - i.e., values, beliefs, and behaviors - to empower employees and help them understand the importance of customer satisfaction and, in turn, deliver quality services.

Positive Organizational Culture

To avoid the havoc and diminished morale that COP sometimes creates in agencies, the chief introduced officers to COP slowly. During the first year, the chief did not introduce any COP practices. Instead, he placed primary emphasis on building a healthy foundation from which to institute COP principles. Officers wrote their own personal mission statements and developed personal goals.(1) The chief also instituted TQM principles, which played an equally important role in establishing a positive culture throughout the agency.

The TQM philosophy has three basic elements: teamwork, participative management, and continuous improvement in quality and productivity. Initially, officers need to accept the values, beliefs, and behaviors that lead to customer satisfaction and quality improvement. Once this is achieved, the goal of delivering law enforcement services in a manner that satisfies the needs and priorities of customers is much more likely to become a reality. Such a victory comes from empowerment, a force that energizes employees to take personal interest and responsibility in achieving the agency's goals because they realize that they genuinely have a say in how things get accomplished.

Though an experienced TQM and COP instructor, the chief purposely did not train any employees. Doing so might have short-circuited the implementation process and caused employees to believe that they would be labeled troublemakers if they questioned any of the program's tenets or processes. Instead, the chief worked with experienced TQM instructors from the local community college to develop a comprehensive training program tailored to the unique needs of the department.

Mission Statement

Applying the TQM team approach, the chief appointed a mission statement team. Within a month, the team had drafted a mission statement that all department employees reviewed and voted to accept. It then became the guiding philosophy of the department. Because everyone had a hand in developing the mission statement, it took on an aura of a constitution by which all members of the department loyally and wholeheartedly abide. Today, it sits proudly and conspicuously in the lobby of the department and the squad room. It also is printed in every employee manual.

Transition Team

With the TQM training and mission statement completed, the department developed a transition team, consisting of the chief and five other officers. The officers, who were selected by the chief, had expressed interest in COP. This team represented the think tank, the guiding light that looked at the overall picture and formulated the agency's approach to instituting community-oriented policing.

To ensure that the team carried out this endeavor effectively, each member received training in the evolution of COP, its benefits (e.g., lower crime rates, reduced fear of crime, and, ultimately, an enhanced quality of life in neighborhoods), and implementation strategies. After acquiring this training, members of the transition team worked to develop approaches to initiate community policing in Whiteville.

Because the team consisted of representatives with diverse experience and training, a synergistic effect occurred, and the department's COP effort began to blossom. The team made numerous judicious recommendations for tailoring COP to the unique needs of Whiteville. Today, the team continues to provide an invaluable resource by fine-tuning the department's current methods and determining the most appropriate means of infusing additional programs into the COP network.

CEO Support

CEOs need to commit themselves to COP over the long term. Despite an outpouring of federal and state money to support community policing programs, CEOs should not view COP as a short-term strategy to increase funding. In addition, setbacks, whether intentional or inadvertent, may hamper the COP effort. When setbacks occur, the CEO must personally and immediately develop the appropriate courses of action to ensure that COP remains on target.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #1: CEOs should do first things first. They should develop a positive organizational culture before implementing COP.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #2: CEOs should resist the inclination to have in-house personnel conduct the TQM training. Instead, they should enlist the assistance of instructors from the local community college or other local educators proficient in TQM.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #3: CEOs should appoint a team to develop a mission statement, allowing all employees to 1) review the proposals, 2) provide input, and 3) vote for their choice.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #4: CEOs must commit completely to the COP endeavor. They should not consider COP a short-term solution to budget woes. Additionally, especially in the early stages of COP, the CEO must remain alert for setbacks in the effort and take immediate corrective action.


COP officially began in Whiteville in July 1994 as a target-specific approach, with the establishment of the West-Side COP Team and the opening of Substation-West in a federally subsidized low-income housing complex in an area of the city designated West-Beat. Initially, the chief assigned a team of two officers to this area known for its high crime rate and frequent service calls.

WPD originally planned to use its experience from West-Beat operations to expand COP into the east-side 2 years. However, the West-Side COP Team caused a massive displacement of crime to the east side of the city. Additionally, numerous upper-class subdivisions (with low crime rates) on the east side soon became jealous. They, too, wanted to receive the special attention from the community policing officers. By the end of the year, only 5 months after establishing the West-Side COP Team, the transition team accelerated the conversion to COP on the east side.

East-Beat emerged as a second target-specific area. Another federally subsidized apartment complex housed the newly formed Substation-East. The city then had two target-specific areas with one community policing officer assigned to each substation. A community policing sergeant supervised these officers.

Soon, downtown merchants became aware of the program. They envied the attention and additional police activity on the east and west sides of town. To satisfy business owners, the community policing sergeant also covered the business district, becoming its personal community policing officer. The sergeant solved problems and developed partnerships in the business district. He worked closely with the chamber of commerce, and when the WPD established a downtown substation in December 1996, it was located within the chamber of commerce office.

Although COP began with a targeted approach, in January 1996, it evolved into a departmentwide, citywide effort. All patrol officers were assigned designated neighborhoods with the responsibility to conduct the full range of COP activities. Consequently, all patrol officers and sergeants now are considered community policing officers.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #5: Upon introducing COP to any target-specific area, CEOs should prepare to have crime displaced to other sections of the community.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #6: CEOs eventually should target even those areas experiencing little crime, whose residents want the extra attention community policing delivers. Depending on the pressure exerted by residents in other sections of the city, implementation may need to be expedited.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #7: CEOs should not neglect neighborhood business districts. Though they need to be modified somewhat, COP principles work there, as well.

Community Involvement

The department introduced COP to citizens in several ways. First, and most important, officers began working with residents to organize community watch programs. Because they provide a link between officers and residents, community watch groups became a part of the department's hierarchy. These groups also work with WPD in prioritizing and seeking solutions to problems identified by residents.

Organizing community watch programs is not difficult. Once citizens hear about the programs and learn they will have a hand in setting police priorities and allocating police services, they usually respond enthusiastically.

While most citizens embrace community watch groups, officers should not be surprised when attendance at meetings drops once problems diminish in that neighborhood. Experience suggests that people initially may meet monthly, but quickly go to quarterly meetings. The drop in attendance and the reduced meeting schedule does not mean that COP has failed. Rather, it reflects successful problem solving and satisfaction with police services.

Because the WPD considers community watch one of the most important factors for ensuring the success of COP, the chief designed a form to help officers successfully kick off community watch programs. As a checklist, the form prompts officers to take the necessary steps before and during the first, most important meeting. The form proved so valuable that the department uses it as a teaching tool at area COP conferences.

The department also used a survey to introduce COP to residents. Rather than adopting a long, complicated survey, which might have confused or unreasonably consumed citizens' time, the West-Side COP Team asked residents only three questions:

1) What crime-related problems have you experienced in your neighborhood?

2) As police officers, how can we improve conditions in your neighborhood?

3) Of the problems you mentioned in Question 1, please place them in order of priority - with the most serious at the top of the list.

As other research shows, residents tended to list quality-of-life issues - such as speeding, loitering, littering, creating disturbances, and using and selling drugs - rather than criminal activity such as burglaries or muggings.

Spreading the word to community residents can be vital to the successful introduction of COP. The local newspapers and radio and television stations eagerly covered the department's COP-related activities.

Finally, leadership councils can help build community support and avenues of funding for COP. Comprised of citizens, business owners, elected officials, representatives from public service and other key agencies, the media, and the police, the council sets priorities and goals for the police department. Whiteville's leadership council meets quarterly and has proven effective in developing the necessary community partnerships and providing invaluable feedback to the department.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #8: CEOs should implement COP incrementally and slowly.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #9: Community watch groups represent a key component to a successful COP effort. CEOs should ensure that all community policing officers know how to initiate a community watch program. A checklist will aid the process.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #10: Community policing officers must survey their assigned neighborhoods to determine their customers' needs and priorities. They should use the KISS principle for survey questions: keep it short and simple.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #11: CEOs should establish a leadership council that includes citizens, elected officials, and other key members of the community. The council should meet regularly to set priorities and provide feedback.

Beat Assignment System

When WPD implemented community policing departmentwide and citywide in January 1996, all officers received assignments to a particular sector of the city using a beat assignment system. Their sector became their neighborhood. The CEO advised community policing officers that unless reassigned for promotion or lateral transfer to another division, they could expect to remain assigned to their neighborhoods for a minimum of 2 years. This assignment of specific areas of responsibility represented another hurdle of paramount importance to the successful initiation of COP.

Officers received frequent reminders that 1) they had received the necessary training to implement COP; 2) they would be provided with time away from their patrol vehicles; 3) they would receive support from their immediate leader, up through the chain of command to the chief; and 4) they should expend about one-third of their time on crime prevention and COP activities, such as introducing themselves to residents, organizing and attending community watch meetings, and working with residents to identify and solve problems.

WPD officers had two key concerns with the beat assignment system: 1) what consequences would they face if they strayed from their assigned beats and 2) how would they patrol their neighborhoods and still find the tithe to meet with residents and complete the other problem-solving activities required by COP? Such questions have merit and create such upheavals that many agencies eventually abandon community policing, the CEO, or both.

The first concern reminded the chief of his early days as a deputy sheriff, when he had to obtain permission from the dispatcher to drive even a few blocks outside of his assigned zone. Rather than empowering him and his fellow officers, this policy conveyed the message that the department did not trust them to do their jobs in the manner they thought best. Thus, the chief adopted a more prudent approach with his own officers, allowing them latitude to leave their assigned areas, but with one caveat: at evaluation time, officers would have to demonstrate positive results. Officers who perennially meandered into more "interesting" zones of the jurisdiction might pay the price if they showed unacceptable results, for example, a lack of community watch organizations, minimal visitations, and other precoordinated indicators, all of which reveal that the officer did not focus enough energy or time to the assigned neighborhood.

The second concern - finding the time to conduct COP activities - troubled both line officers and their supervisors. Yet, all officers experience uncommitted time during their shifts, when calls for service ebb. Face-to-face visits should take place at reasonable hours during such uncommitted times. Attending community watch meetings and the like requires special coordination between officers and their supervisors; nevertheless, attendance at such meetings usually can be preplanned and service calls covered by another team member. Officers also should schedule visits that are convenient for residents. Few people would welcome an officer knocking on their door early on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Police agencies should attempt to allocate their resources using the "one-third workload principle:"(2) one-third devoted to calls for service, one-third for administrative work (writing reports, servicing patrol vehicles, etc.), and the final, most important third devoted to crime prevention, including COP activities. Agencies whose officers spend half of their time consumed with service calls already have started out on the wrong note; COP will not be instituted effectively in these organizations without a reappraisal of the organizational structure. Most likely, the agency suffers from a lack of people power and needs more officers on the street. In such cases, the CEO's only option may be to approach the city manager and the legislators who control the department's purse strings. Without an up-front commitment, such an agency will never foster an effective COP effort.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #12: Beat assignments are important to community policing success. Still, CEOs should give their community policing officers reasonable leeway regarding straying from their assigned neighborhoods. However, officers who take advantage of this wide latitude of personal responsibility should receive an objective evaluation that matches the level of their contribution to the COP effort.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #13: COP is labor-intensive. If officers do not have any uncommitted time to conduct COP operations, the department should defer implementing COP until officers can sustain the one-third workload principle.


CEOs planning to introduce COP into their departments should be aware of several additional concerns. They revolve around two resources most often in short supply in law enforcement agencies: money and people.

Financial Support for COP

Initially, 75 percent of the funding to cover the costs of Whiteville's two community policing officers came from a North Carolina Crime Control and Public Safety grant. Although the state grant expired in June 1996, the city assumed full funding of the two positions.

The CEO must understand, up front, that grants eventually expire, leaving the department with two alternatives: 1) continue COP by having the jurisdiction absorb the entire expenditure; 2) terminate the COP effort - at least with the human resources funded by the grant. While the first option may be the most desirable, in some jurisdictions, CEOs who launch their COP efforts with grants believe that only personnel funded by the grant should take part in the overall COP effort. Thus, COP ends when the grant money runs out - even when the undertaking proved successful. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs all too frequently.

Yet, while COP may start with a target-specific approach using only one or two officers, the true essence of community-oriented policing is a departmentwide philosophy, where all officers conduct the full spectrum of COP activities. The CEO must commit to this goal if organizational and funding difficulties are to be overcome.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #14: Funding generally emerges as seed money to help an agency develop a foundation for a wide-ranging, comprehensive purpose. Using funding to implement COP in a specific area as a supplement to traditional policing efforts is prudent; however, COP should evolve into a departmentwide and citywide approach, where all officers perform as team players guided by the precepts of the COP philosophy.

Recruitment and Selection of Community Policing Officers

Whiteville's first community policing officers volunteered for the positions; they had expressed interest in participating in this new form of policing. As strong supporters of COP, they seemed to be the best candidates for the job. Volunteers, however, do not necessarily make the best community policing officers. In fact, both of WPD's original COP officers left before serving 1 year in their assignments. One officer left for a position with another department. The other officer asked to return to traditional patrol duty after only 2 months. He eventually left the department to work for another agency.

Each loss of these COP "pioneers" represented a setback. Not only did the department lose key COP advocates, but high turnover made it difficult for officers to establish rapport with residents. In addition, the need to order new bicycle uniforms and other sized-to- fit equipment for the officers' replacements placed a financial strain on the department.

To overcome these obstacles, the department revamped its recruiting procedures. Recruiting for community policing officers must contain several key components. First, officers must have the social interaction and problem-solving skills to identify neighborhood problems effectively and work with residents to solve those problems. To this end, the department thoroughly interviews applicants using the COP philosophy as a central theme. Specifically, candidates are asked how they would solve certain community problems, such as burglaries or drug dealing.

Applicants who offer only traditional policing responses, e.g., more arrests or sweeps through the area, are less likely to be hired. Potential community policing officers must search for more fundamental causes of neighborhood problems and develop proactive, creative approaches to solve them.

Second, effective recruitment weeds out unsuitable COP officers. Research into COP indicates that community policing officers should have 2-3 years' experience as line officers because experienced officers usually have worked any Rambo-like tendencies out of their systems. In contrast, new recruits often select policing as a career because they like the idea of arresting the bad guys.

However, due to a limited labor market and attractive salaries in neighboring jurisdictions, WPD was extremely young in terms of overall years of experience. Thus, the textbook solution of 2-3 years' experience, though solid advice, must give way to the real world of what Whiteville and other similar departments face.

Therefore, if experienced personnel are not available to assume COP officer positions, the CEO must choose from the pool of recruits entering the department. In this case, a thorough screening process will separate those who can communicate clearly, solve problems, and interact well with people from those who enter police work for the exclusive purposes of "putting people in jail," "purging the world of violence," and other such narrow-minded views held by some police officer candidates.

Third, the CEO apprises all recruits that the department was built on a COP foundation, and all officers are expected to adhere to its philosophy. After completing the department's Basic COP Proficiency Training and field training with an assigned field training officer, the recruit is assigned a COP beat.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #15: CEOs must recruit those candidates with the right qualities to work COP. Granted, candidates need to be physically and mentally fit, but they also should be able to solve problems, communicate with people, and seek out resources in the absence of close supervision. Above all, applicants and newly hired officers must understand the department's allegiance to COP.

COP Training

WPD provides two levels of COP proficiency training: basic and advanced. The basic level consists of a classroom presentation, 4-6 hours of on-the-job training with a COP officer, 1 hour of bicycle training, a written test, and an interview with the COP team leader. Officers who complete the basic course know how to make introductory visits, network with community members, and solve problems using the SARA model.(2)

After achieving basic proficiency, nonsupervisory personnel move to the advanced level. This training consists of two North Carolina Justice Academy (NCJA) courses: Introduction to COP and Problem Solving for Community Officers (2 days each). Supervisory personnel obtain advanced training from NCJA's 2-day COP Course for Leadership Personnel, which focuses on leadership styles, TQM, and COP support.

Officers who complete all of the training requirements receive a green tab for the basic level and a green tab with gold trim for the advanced level. Officers wear the tabs proudly on their uniforms to show that they have successfully completed COP training.

Initially, Whiteville's community policing officers each attended several premier COP courses conducted by the state and federal government, where they learned state-of-the-art COP principles and techniques. The balance of the officers continued to use the traditional policing model and naturally were apprehensive about visiting residents, coordinating meetings, and solving problems in an assigned area.

As part of their goals for the subsequent year, these officers received the option of completing the basic training course. Surprisingly, every line officer and sergeant in the department made this training one of their personal goals for the year. In retrospect, this may have been the result of the department's commitment to TQM and the formal recognition officers receive after completing COP training. Once the department made the transition to a departmentwide approach to COP, Basic COP Proficiency Training became mandatory for all recruits.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #16: CEOs should provide all officers and their supervisors at least rudimentary in-service COP training until they can attend a formal police academy course.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #17: Officers should receive rewards for their participation in this new philosophy of policing.

Performance Evaluation

The dynamic nature of community policing requires that agencies regularly evaluate their programs and personnel from top to bottom. In Whiteville, the command staff meets monthly to review its progress on the previous month's goals and to set new ones. Command staff members do the same with team leaders, who, in turn, meet with line officers.

This approach proves rewarding in two respects. First, neglecting a neighborhood creates disharmony in that community. Reviewing the progress and effectiveness of the police response and modifying it when necessary minimizes complaints from customers. Second, community policing officers sometimes procrastinate when developing partnerships and kicking off community watch meetings. Monthly meetings with supervisors do not allow officers to neglect these vital activities.

Either positive or negative ratings from monthly progress reviews should apply toward annual performance appraisals. WPD community policing officers use a variety of in-house forms and checklists to document their COP activities. These then form the basis to evaluate the officers' performance. The officers' annual appraisal lists goals for the subsequent year that include developing a community watch in their zones, solving problems, and several other COP activities.

Disciplinary Problems

The department had difficulty with one COP officer who did not achieve his COP goals. For example, one of the officer's monthly goals was to introduce himself to 40 residents on his beat, spend about 10 minutes with each resident, and use a visitation form to guide the encounter. Instead, he made all 40 contacts on the last two days of the month. These contacts could not have lasted longer than a minute or two, which was unsatisfactory. In addition, instead of working with residents to solve problems in his assigned neighborhood, the officer spent time issuing volumes of traffic citations and warnings to motorists outside his assigned area.

Neither counseling nor disciplinary action worked. Just as he was about to be fired, the officer quit to join a department that emphasized a more traditional policing style. This situation reflects another challenge to implementation: the leadership of community policing officers. Even though there may be little organized backlash against COP, it can be difficult to motivate every officer to follow the COP philosophy.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #18: In addition to the traditional annual or semiannual performance appraisal, the CEO should meet monthly with key personnel to establish and monitor goals. Postponing regular progress reviews may deteriorate any positive achievements or may put the COP effort gravely behind schedule.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #19: Overall, the department's performance evaluation system must coincide with the goals of the agency's COP endeavor. Officers who meet their goals should be recognized on their appraisals. Officers who continually falter, assuming they have received proper training (including remedial training), support, resources, and time, should receive ratings commensurate with such marginal performance.

* COP Success Insurance Strategy #20: Officers who receive the necessary support, training, time, and resources and still fail to attain acceptable COP objectives should receive progressive discipline. However, officers who achieve planned objectives should be recognized and rewarded.


The Whiteville Police Department's successful COP endeavors earned the department the North Carolina Governor's Award for Excellence in Community-Oriented Policing in 1996 and 1997. Additionally, the department serves as a teaching model for the North Carolina Justice Academy and has been selected, along with six other state agencies, to provide input in a major state research study to develop a comprehensive primer for effectively developing COP. These honors cap off the intrinsic rewards that come from tackling a major task and completing it well.


The Whiteville Police Department moved slowly from a traditional policing model to a community-oriented approach. First, the department built a positive organizational culture and implemented Total Quality Management principles. From this foundation, two WPD officers instituted community policing in one inner-city neighborhood. This methodical, targeted approach allowed WPD to integrate community policing successfully throughout the department and the city.

Though COP often is viewed as a silver bullet, capable of reducing crime, the fear of crime, and neighborhood disorder and decay, CEOs must remain acutely attuned to the unique adverse side effects that sometimes flow from the implementation of this new philosophy of policing. COP Success Insurance Strategies can help CEOs triumph over the pitfalls and successfully merge community policing into their agencies.


1 See Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly, Effective People (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1989).

2 International Association of Chiefs of Police, Operational Issues in the Small Law Enforcement Agency (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1990), 156.

3 One of several problem-solving models, the SARA model comprises scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. See John E. Eck and William Spelman, Problem-Oriented Policing in Newport News (Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1987).
COPYRIGHT 1997 Federal Bureau of Investigation
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Author:Adams, Richard E.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Dec 1, 1997
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