Community Policing: The "gap" theory
"TAC COM" otherwise known as "Verbal Judo," teaches three crucial "Field Contact Techniques":
1. All calls should be handled quickly, effectively and efficiently, or "QEE."
2. All contacts by officers should be handled in such a way as to "develop a pair of eyes," and
3. All field contacts should obey the closure principle of "leaving people better than you found them at their worst!"
[See my earlier articles on these subjects]
But how do we convince officers to handle calls this well? How do we really sell Community Policing to the hard-nosed street officer who has already developed a cynical attitude towards the concept? So many of the well intentioned, community policing programs do not work, costly though they be!
I think I know why.
The cement of the Community Policing programs, whether they be DARE, Civilian Academies, School Resource Officers, Horses or dogs--what-have you-- is quality contact!
The ultimate Community Policeman is not the DARE officer or the SRO, but the deep-night patrol officer working the mean streets. If those officers do not treat people with dignity and REspect, then all the efforts of others will be seen as ironic, if not a lie.
Remember, the 12-year-old in the class listening to the DARE officer preach "community togetherness and anti-drugs" may have witnessed just nights before his mother or dad or uncles or friends being disrespected by beat officers! How many times can an officer insult someone's mother or father before he/she turns the child against all cops? Once, where I come from!
Community policing can only work where officers handle people with dignity and REspect. Teach officers this cornerstone principle first, or all programs suffer!
So, how do we convince officers to make such contact?
First, teach them truth of the "90-10 Principle" of the community.
Stated simply, in the worst areas of American cities…if you really think about it..90 percent of all the people in those communities are good, hard-working, decent folk trying to grind out a living of quiet desperation and dignity with their fingernails, often with little or no help.
Ten percent are the murderers, drug dealers and other criminal scum that need to be taken off the streets!
If you do not believe that, walk a beat in such an area, with little or no back-up and a defective radio! You will soon learn the names of everyone on your beat and you will care about them, or you won't survive!
The problem with police work, of course, is that too often, 90 percent of our contacts are with those 10 percent, so it warps and distorts our view of the community. We easily become cynical and we tend to "go to war" against those communities rather than taking on a protective role.
Perhaps this explains why we are most hated where we are most needed…which is the great tragedy of modern police work.
The people in affluent, successful America do not want a police presence, except indirectly. The people who need us bar their windows and hope for the best. They fear the gang bangers and the drive by shooters, but they fear us--the police--as much, perhaps more, and they typically "see nothing, hear nothing, and know nothing" when crimes occur. People mistreated do not give intelligence to those who mistreat them.
If these communities truly saw us as protectors and Peace Warriors, they would be working in concert with us to take the bad guys out!
There truly is a growing "gap" between the police and the community in too many areas of this country. So how can we get officers to care? Explain to them that the "Gap" is the playground for the crook! The "problem officer"--the one making adversarial contacts--is the crook's best friend! When he insults and irritates the public he serves, he blinds and deafens them.
People handled this way never see anything and never help the police.
As it stands now in too many places, Mrs. Jones looks through her basement window and sees a drug sale going on outside in the alley behind he apartment. She knows better than to call the POlice. She knows what happens...they blast in, flood the area, harass everyone in sight, miss the drug dealer, and then knock on her door for information. She then gets fire bombed the next night! Nope, she's not going to put herself through that. She has learned.
The day that Mrs. Jones can call the Peace Warriors, know they will flood the area and treat her people with great dignity and REspect, actually nail the dealer and contact her discretely and indirectly--if at all--is the day the crooks are in deep trouble!
As the "GAP" closes, it closes on the crook, leaving him nowhere to ply his trade. The better we treat our people, the more problems the bad guys have. People should feel safer because we are on patrol, safer because we are there to protect them from the wolves, safer because of our very presence!
Peace officers who believe this to be their mission do not burn out from cynicism. They accurately see themselves as warrior protectors and work in concert with the very communities they serve. The Gap is no more, and the crook's power is erased!