Citizen perspectives on community policing : an examination of theories, philosophy and principles at work
The purpose of this naturalistic qualitative inquiry was to develop a more complete understanding of the process of implementing community policing from the citizen participants' perspective. While an abundance of literature exists on the topic of community policing, with the exception of several survey and evaluation efforts, little examination of this topic has been conducted that devoted exclusive attention to citizen participation in this style of policing. It was citizen participant descriptions that formed the basis for this examination. The present study also examined the theoretical support for community policing by comparing the citizen descriptions of this concept to the component parts of critical social science (Fay, 1987), normative sponsorship theory (Sower, et al., 1957) and community education for development (Compton & McClusky, 1980).A purposive sample was utilized to examine this topic. This sample was composed of citizens (N = 71) from Fort Wayne, Indiana and Fort Worth, Texas who had participated with their respective municipal police departments in implementing community policing. The community policing efforts in these cities had been in existence since the early to mid 1990s. The sample was composed of citizens that came from different geographic areas of their respective cities, and who had spent at least one year working with assigned police officers and community groups. A questioning route was developed and participants were interviewed in focus group settings. Data analysis identified seven themes from the transcribed interviews. These themes were: (a) partners; (b) community education; (c) neighborhood associations; (d) involvement with government; (e) problem solving; (f) frustration with the city administration and (g) communication and managing community policing.The research found that relatively successful community policing efforts rely upon structured neighborhoods, ample community education, an emphasis on problem solving, open communication and strong support from the upper levels of municipal government. Many of these findings were supported by the literature in the field. Additionally, the theories purported to support community policing were found to confirm the citizens' experiences in these cities.