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by Peter Moskos

September 5, 2008

You can't arrest your way out of problems in a neighborhood

"You can't arrest your way out of problems in a neighborhood," the sheriff said. Communication between the community and law enforcement, Bradshaw said, is crucial.

It's my favorite line. I've said it a bunch myself. You can arrest your way out of some problems, but not drug problems in a drug neighborhood.

There's a piece about community policing in Florida. Sounds like a great idea. Community policing is a great idea in theory. Of course the real question is will it work reducing crime. Usually community policing is just lip service. As a philosophy of a whole department, I don't believe community policing exists. I'd love to be proven wrong.


Anonymous said...

I don't believe anyone could prove you wrong on that one. Generally police departments, and the politicians that dictate their actions (call my crazy but I think citizens should have more say on the strategies used by their police) focus on numbers (arrests, tickets, and asset forfeiture $$$)and high profile actions that draw press coverage. The day to day hardwork and the development of a true working relationship between the citizens and the police just isn't sexy enough for our ADD-afflicted nation, I'm afraid.

I have a related question: I am currently involved in the hiring process for the police dept. at a large midwestern university. Through the research I've done, and through my current work experience I have come to believe that authentic community policing initiatives (crime prevention and analysis, educational programs, foot/bike patrols etc.) work better in the campus setting. This is part of my motivation for applying to this agency. Actually, the career paths available seem to be as good as they would be in a traditional p.d., and I don't think I'd get sucked into too much drug war bullshit. Do you think I'm on the right track with this or am I being too optimistic?

PCM said...

Dave, I think being school police is a great police job.

The only downside is psychological, in that in many ways it isn't "real" police work. Or at least what many consider "real" police work. But the police work that is "real" (in quotes) often isn't fun work.

So as long as you're not insecure about the fact that you won't be arresting lots of bad guys, "real" police may look down on you a bit (but deep down they'll be jealous), and you you won't be having to prove you're tough all time, you'll be fine.

And for a smart police officer, just like you think, in many ways you will have a chance to do better police work than a cop like me could do (just answering radio calls in the ghetto).

Of course college students take drugs too. And I imagine you'll have lots off B.S. with the legal drinking age. But I do think you're on the right track.

The pay is good, the working conditions are better. And the ebb of flow of the school year will give your job some variety. Plus, you get to watch lots of beautiful women. Do it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement Peter. Currently I work as a non-sworn healthcare security officer at a large hospital, so I am already familiar with the psychological issues you mention. I especially like dealing with the morons that think that I can't "do anything" because I am not carrying a firearm. Sometimes, magically, these highly productive citizens leave the campus in cuffs and discover otherwise.

At the university DPS I am testing with, the "non-sworn" label (stigma?) would disappear, of course. And I think these days, campus law enforcement is so closely connected to other public safety agencies in the community that the tension will be minimal. I think it will be worth a shot, because the idea of being a "ghetto cop" these days does not sound like a good option at all. Perhaps, at 30, I'm already too old for that shit.