How police officers can work with the community to increase safety

When communities and law enforcement officers come together and collaborate, they can increase the safety of neighborhoods. Police officers face a lot of challenges every day and many of these challenges are related to societal issues. Prioritizing partnerships with communities can help create a change that will help police officers as well as the general public. There have been a lot of calls for police reform throughout the country in the last few years. This is usually due to the divide between law enforcement and citizens. When citizens are provided with more information about policing procedures and policies, it increases their awareness. Inviting community feedback can also bridge this divide. Empowering citizens increases trust in law enforcement.

If you are thinking about a career change and are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, learning more about community policing can help you. Many police organizations implement outreach programs and community policing initiatives to partner with citizens. This is an effective way to learn more about the specific challenges faced by different communities and to create customized solutions.

Community policing initiatives 

According to the COPS Office, for any community policing efforts to be effective, it needs three essential components:

  • Organizational transformation
  • Community partnerships
  • Problem-solving

Community policing creates partnerships in the community to help reduce crime. Community partnerships can be very powerful and are often used by police officers to delegate responsibilities to other organizations and professionals who are experts in their fields. Doing this ensures that the responsibility for reducing crime does not rest solely on police officers. Law enforcement departments are often burdened with a lot of responsibilities. They may not always have the resources or tools needed to achieve all their goals. Communities can step in and help bring change to their neighborhoods. Below are the most basic steps to follow to successfully start a community policing program:

Create a vision 

For law enforcement to work successfully with citizens, they need to reach an understanding and have a vision. Citizens must be able to trust law enforcement to be able to work with them. Police officers should also try to have an open mind and must be willing to consider differing points of view to reach an understanding. These professionals also need to be able to resolve conflicts effectively. They should have a deep understanding of the common issues faced by communities and try to resolve them.

Share responsibilities 

Ultimately, the goal of community policing is to share responsibility with the community. Police officers should supplement the efforts of communities instead of being the primary resource for safety. Law enforcement and the community should partner with each other to serve the community and empower community members so they can prevent, report and solve crime in their neighborhoods.

Create ambassadors

When police officers are open and transparent about their practices and when they invite community members to participate, they build trust. Many organizations conduct experimental workshops where citizens play the roles of executives, supervisors and commanders. They set the vision, direction and strategies to achieve their goals. This provides citizens with a deep understanding of the processes and operation of law enforcement departments. There are many other programs that are used by law enforcement agencies to provide communities with the opportunity to understand the way law enforcement organizations operate. Such programs invite open commentary, discussions and feedback from the public. These programs are designed to help create mutual understanding.

Change in perspective 

The goal of community policing is to create a change in perspective. Communities should be able to take action to make a real change and treat law enforcement as a supportive resource. On the other hand, law enforcement officers and leaders must understand that they are not solely responsible for the law. They must think of themselves as active participants in the overall effort to reduce crime in communities. These efforts make the burdens lighter and enhance collaboration. Ultimately, this leads to a reduction in crime, trust in law enforcement and improved quality of life within communities. This reduction in responsibility will also increase the psychological, mental and physical well-being of police officers. It will reduce their burnout and turnover rates. This improves the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement agencies.

Establishing strong relationships with communities 

One of the biggest obstacles faced by police officers is building trust. When you study law in Canada through Wilfrid Laurier University, you will be able to learn critical skills that will help you build trust and strengthen your relationship with communities. There are several important components that are required to build strong relationships so you can respond to the unique needs of each neighborhood. Here are a few critical components needed to build trust:


One of the best ways to gain the trust of communities is by being transparent. Law enforcement agencies should invite citizens from the community to participate in events and workshops that will help them understand what they are looking for when hiring new police officers. Communities should also be aware of how police departments operate, and the procedures to follow during various situations. Communities should have a better understanding of how organizations operate, and why they do things a certain way. When there is transparency about law enforcement policies, it is easier to build trust. Relevant information can be shared with communities in various ways, including through workshops, events and online.


Law enforcement officers need to be open-minded. They must be willing to understand differing points of view. Without understanding the point of view of others, it is not possible to serve communities effectively. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for police officers to take the time to actively listen to the challenges faced by communities. Listening sessions are often used by various departments to provide the community with a platform to discuss their complaints, ideas and concerns. Sessions can be conducted virtually, in schools or in community centers. When police officers take the time to listen to community members, they feel validated. This also allows police officers to make changes to resolve the most pressing needs of their community.

Reduce bias 

Police officers should take steps to improve their cultural competency and reduce bias. Officers should receive training on cultural competency, implicit bias and diversity. Communities today often include a variety of ethnic and racial cultures, so it is crucial for police officers to have an understanding of different cultural norms. This allows them to effectively communicate with different groups. When officers are provided with the right training, they are motivated to implement these unbiased behaviors.

Internal diversity 

Law enforcement agencies also need to provide officers with growth opportunities and promote diversity within their organizations. Officers need to spend a lot of time addressing requests from communities. Agencies need to recruit personnel and diversify their departments by demographics and race. They should also promote diverse processes in departments. Existing police officers should be provided with opportunities for professional development and training. This helps agencies retain officers. Higher education should be incentivized to motivate officers to be more productive. Police departments also need to ensure that their recruitment efforts are fair and transparent. With an internal environment of respect and fairness, officers will also be motivated to mirror these qualities when they interact with the community.

Be open about challenges faced 

Police agencies need to be open about the challenges they face on the job. Negative police incidents can have a huge impact on relationships with communities. An act of misconduct by an officer can damage the reputation of the law enforcement agency, reduce trust and generate negative attention. Agencies need to acknowledge past injustices faced by minorities and be willing to own up to mistakes. When they do not discount negative experiences and strive to do better, it helps build trust with communities. The feelings of a lot of people towards police are affected by a lack of acknowledgment of past injustices. Even though those injustices may have happened many years ago and officers today are not responsible for them, police officers should be aware of the history and must understand how it affects people’s trust in police.

In minority communities, a lot of mistrust of police is due to police tactics and strategies in place. Many of these tactics may raise issues surrounding the use of force and racial bias. Police agencies must have interventions in place to deal with such incidents immediately in front of community members. Having a strong internal investigation department is also an effective way to build trust with the community.


It is important for law enforcement officers to participate in communities, to be visible and to know their communities well. Most people do not interact with officers unless they need help and may have a negative view of the police. If their only interaction with the police is when they have been a victim, it can lead to a negative perspective. It is important for police officers to interact with residents of their community on a regular basis to establish trust and reduce bias against police officers. When officers take time to understand and become familiar with residents, it helps overcome stereotypes and personal barriers. It also helps officers gain a better understanding of the challenges they face. It helps them recognize which citizens are law-abiding.


When citizens approach police officers for assistance, officers should take the time to follow up with them later to check if they need anything else. Agencies should also be open to receiving feedback from communities to understand how they are doing. Survey services often provide online surveys to gather feedback. Community meetings are also an effective way to collect feedback. It is important for agencies to have a clear understanding of how communities perceive their performance. This will help them change their tactics and policies to serve communities better. Without feedback, police officers will find it challenging to understand what they are doing well and what they need to improve.

Within organizations, it is important for policing leaders to provide feedback to their officers and celebrate their success. Recognition can be a big motivator as everyone likes to be acknowledged for their good work. Having regular recognition awards for staff is a great way to keep officers motivated. This will encourage others to work harder to serve their communities and to contribute to a healthy, crime-free community.


Training is a major factor when it comes to building trust with the community. Police departments should have community training programs that can train new officers on how to build trust with communities. Training programs can form a strong foundation to ensure the success of community policing programs. When officers know exactly what to do, and have the tools to do their jobs better, it will be easier for them to improve their performance. Training programs can be scenario-based so officers know exactly what to do in different scenarios. Officers can be trained to be transparent, receptive and neutral during their contact with the community. This will convey their positive motives to the community. Police officers can also spend time meeting different community members so they can learn how to communicate effectively with them. With early training, agencies can create a culture of positive encounters with the community.

Law enforcement officers are limited by the time and resources they have access to. With so many challenges along the way, it is not uncommon for officers to burnout and face mental and psychological issues. To address safety problems, they need help from the community. To win the trust of the community and invite them to be active participants in public safety, it is important for agencies to change their approach. They must incorporate community policing in their organizations to do this effectively. Through community policing, a positive relationship can be established between the community and the police. They can work together to prevent crime, solve safety problems and improve the quality of life within neighborhoods. This leads to relationships built on trust that can benefit everyone in society.

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