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Understanding Community Policing as an Innovation: Patterns of Adoption
Article Type: Perspectives on policing From: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, Volume 34, Issue 1
Melissa Schafer Morabito,Crime & Delinquency,2010,pp. 564-587,Vol. 56
Community policing is said to be one of the most dramatic changes to American policing. This philosophy is designed to incorporate the community as an equal partner in the co-production of community safety. The term philosophy is specifically chosen because community policing is said to be a malleable concept to be implemented according to community needs, rather than a rigid strategy to be applied uniformly, regardless of context. Regardless, there is a set of core elements that should be present in any agency that purports to be practicing the philosophy. These include the use of a problem solving orientation, collaboration with community stakeholders, and organizational change to facilitate community policing. Unfortunately, not all agencies have chosen to implement community policing through a departmental shift in philosophy, but rather on an ad-hoc basis. Morabito (2010) attempts to explain this variation in implementation beyond the argument that the large-scale availability of federal funding for departments who adopt the approach encourages many departments to incorporate the philosophy in an ad hoc manner.
To explain this variation, Morabito (2010) applies a theoretical framework found in the innovations literature. This framework identifies three sets of factors that should predict community policing adoption:
organizational structure; and
The first, and most diffuse, of these concepts, community characteristics, includes a variety of predicted relationships. It predicts that concentrated disadvantage should be negatively related to community policing adoption. While the innovation should not be costly in and of itself, it does require a whole scale change to organizational structures, and thus additional resources. The theory also predicts that concentrated political power should aid community policing adoption. Governmental bodies with a single decision-making authority figure, such as a city manager, should be better able to move towards innovation as less able oppositional figures will be present. Similarly, citizen involvement should impede adoption because it introduces more influential individuals who may be opposed to the innovation. Finally, higher levels of violent crime should hamper adoption due to the increased requirements placed on officers’ time to handle citizen calls, with less time allowed for additional community policing activities.
The second and third sets of concepts, organizational characteristics and organizational commitment also propose additional predictions. Those organizational characteristics that should aid the adoption of community policing are a formalized organization and larger agency size. A more formalized organization (one which places higher emphasis on rules and procedures) should aid implementation through its ability to repress dissent. Conversely, larger agencies should be able to implement more easily due to easier incorporation of new ideas and practices, and greater resources. Somewhat more obvious, organizational commitment should predict increased adoption. Those departments that offer community policing training and incorporate a community policing plan should increase implementation rates.
To test the theory, Morabito (2010) uses measures of the concepts found in the 1997 and 2000 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Surveys, the 1997 Uniform Crime Reports, City/County Databook, and the 1990 US Census. The resulting multivariate analyses of these data found only centralization of political power, agency size, and organizational commitment to predict community policing adoption. Morabito (2010) finds it curious that centralization of political power is the only predictive community variable, and posits that the availability of federal funding may have rendered the other concepts moot. Morabito (2010) also finds the significance of agency size to illuminate the difficulty of small agencies to implement police innovations; however, it might also demonstrate the inapplicability of community policing to agencies whose populace is too geographically separated for the innovation to be appropriate.
P. Colin BolgerUniversity of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA