Letter to Community Policing Friends
. . . defining Community Policing


Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

International Human Rights Law and Policy
email to:


Toward a Clear Definition of Community Policing

July 27, 2002

To: Interim Chief Martin Pomeroy, Los Angeles Police Department
Commander James McDonnell, Special Assistant to the Chief
The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners
Mayor James K. Hahn

Dear Friends,

This letter addresses the formulation of a working definition of community policing. Chief Pomeroy has requested that Commander McDonnell initiate a consensus-based process to define the component parts of the Community Policing philosophy in order to unify the City of Los Angeles as to its contents.

Accordingly, Commander McDonnell has proposed a working definition of Community Policing. We have reviewed it, and applaud Jim McDonnell's draftsmanship for its outstanding precision and very high informative value.

We have also researched and written on this topic in the fairly recent past. Please allow us to add the text and background that has evolved over the past ten years of Community Policing throughout the United States and Europe. In 1997, The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, United States Department of Justice, decided to issue guidelines on the key elements of Community Policing, in order to ensure uniformity of measurement of results nationwide. This is in recognition of the rapidly growing body of knowledge being produced by Community Policing, by police forces, government agencies, research foundations and consultants, and universities.

Accordingly, this is the DOJ definition:

"Community Policing is a policing philosophy designed to reduce crime and disorder in communities by fostering trust, respect, and collaboration between police officers and citizens."

The definition was supported by a number of identifiable hallmarks or components aimed at securing a common understanding of the meaning of Community Policing. The hallmarks include the following:

Partnership building among police, citizens, and other institutions;

Problem-oriented strategies for eliminating the root causes of crime and disorder;

Emphasis on proactive crime control and prevention;

Development of police organizations responsive to community concerns;

Recognition that public concerns other than crime may also be important for promoting trust;

Active collaboration and teamwork with education, health, housing, business, charities and others dedicated to community well-being. (1)

Adherence to those clearly inclusive hallmarks can aid in articulating and planning Community Policing programs, and enable police departments everywhere to match their designs and success records against the norms or standards established nationally.

Clearly, it is necessary to agree on definitions of terms and concepts, especially when addressing Community Policing in manuals, training curriculum, research documents, studies, surveys, and standard usage in communications, whether intradepartmental or external.

Also, it will be necessary to adopt uniform definitions and concepts in order to provide for objective measurement of effectiveness. We have already addressed the Board of Police Commissioners on the subject of the "New Era of Accountability" we now face. Community Policing, as precisely defined, should feature prominently in every facet of 21st Century Policing, throughout recruitment, training, deployment, labor relations, and neighborhood partnerships. Projects, partnerships, and specialized units will require constant feedback and empirical data supporting outcome conclusions.

We will need, increasingly, to measure what works and how well it works.

To that end, there can be no substitute for a clear and uniform definition of terms. To illustrate, three major recent studies all measure the crime-reduction impact of specialized, innovative Community Policing programs and units on a year-to-year, continuing basis. All use the same definitions of terms to ensure reliability of results. (2)

A single, standardized definition of terms will further ensure that LAPD policies will not fall subject to semantic distortions or manipulations in the foreseeable future.

Our goal should be to build a statistically meaningful database that will inform future organizational changes. It is fast becoming more important to measure the effects of specific crime prevention or intervention units and their impact on crime rates by category, type of enforcement effort, and geographic area.

We will also need to calculate the impact of C-PAB and other local community-police partnerships on crime reduction. We will need to analyze and calibrate extensive comparative data on recruitment, training and deployment techniques nationwide and, indeed, internationally, as they evolve.

In our own studies as in the other surveys mentioned, the collective experience of policing leaders, government agencies, experts and community leaders was nearly unanimous: Narrowly focused teams, targeted toward reducing specific activities, are the most effective means of combating violence and homicides in the community. These include intensive or high-impact targeting of gang areas and hot spots; combing for illegal firearms possession by criminals; intervening where domestic abuse/violence patterns are known; proactively targeting repeat offenders; and operating intensive programs to reduce recidivism. (3)

In those efforts, close interagency cooperation and constant neighborhood involvement are both components that are essential to verifiable success. All participants must be able to communicate using the same terminology and denotations of concepts.

For all the foregoing purposes, we recommend the adoption of a foundation of standardized word usage to permit LAPD to benefit fully from the professional body of knowledge about Community Policing now available.

Thank you for your kind attention and for this opportunity to contribute to the continuing dialogue on Community Policing in Los Angeles.

Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur........................ Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

Los Angeles, California
Genoa, Italy

July 27, 2002



(1). Nicholl, Caroline G., Community Policing, Community Justice and Restorative Justice: Exploring the Links for the Delivery of a Balanced Approach to Public Safety, Washington, DC, United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, December 2000, pages 24-30.

(2). Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) Survey, "Community Policing in Local Police Departments", Washington, DC, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, February 2001, NCJ 184794, at p.3; University of Nebraska Study, A National Evaluation of the Effect of COPS Grants on Crime from 1994 through 1999, Jihong "Solomon" Zhao, Ph.D., COPS Study: University of Nebraska, January 2002; Muhlhausen, David B., Do Community Oriented Policing Services Grants Affect Violent Crime Rates? The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC, June 2001.

(3). See Jones, Arthur, and Robin Wiseman, Community Policing in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department: Opposition to 2002-03 Reductions in Funding, Study Presented to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, May 21, 2002.


--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones

323 / 653-0276