As the new police chief of the Greenfield Police Department, you expected some resistance from officers during the transition from a crime fighting philosophy to a community policing philosophy. Several veteran officers oppose the change. Most younger officers are willing to try community policing and enjoy interacting with the community. Unfortunately, they worry about being rejected by the veteran officers. Most younger officers do not want to buck the prevailing police culture and informal hierarchy.
Officer Blake, a senior officer and vocal opponent of community policing, is an informal department leader. You decide to ride along with him on a patrol shift. He’s an honest guy who tells you exactly what is on his mind. Officer Blake was the department shooting champion and unhappy with the cutbacks in firearms training. He thinks the old way of doing things was working just fine. They kept people in line, and the crime rates reflected it. He tells you that community policing is social work, not police work, and that his job is making arrests and keeping the streets safe.
As you listen to Officer Blake, he patrols a park where a group of young Asian men are gathered. He drives by slowly and stares at them. They look down, not making eye contact. Officer Blake looks at you and says, “I don’t trust those guys. They’re up to something.” Officer Blake drives through the parking lot and back past the young men. “I always make sure they know I’m watching them.” The young men begin playing soccer.
Officer Blake’s next stop is Ruby’s Bar and Grill. Several other squads are parked in front of the building. You learn this is their regular break location and that coffee is free, food is half price and a booth is reserved for cops.
• How would you encourage the new officers’ enthusiasm for community policing and help them buck the prevailing culture?
• Is Officer Blake a good candidate to be a mentor for a new officer?
• Officer Blake is clearly entrenched in the crime fighting mode of law enforcement. How does this contribute to community policing or does it contribute to community policing at all?
• How would his encounter with the young men in the park affect your department’s public image?
• Isolating police officers in squad cars creates a barrier to good communications and can thwart cultural awareness. How could an emphasis on community policing have changed this encounter?
• As a new chief attempting to implement a community policing strategy, how would you address the issue of gratuities?