Policing versus Law Enforcement: Part 2

August 1, 2011

Effective Policing

In Part 1 we discussed the environment of policing and examined the limitations that we create for ourselves when we limit our paradigm of the profession to law enforcement.  The actual number of folks who are incarcerated for committing offenses represents a shockingly small percentage and our level of control is extremely limited.  This is important because it means that we cannot provide the quality of life that our community expects of us through enforcement alone.   We need to effectively execute other strategies to accomplish our Mission.

In Part 2 we will examine one of the other basic strategies that we should use in concert with enforcement; prevention.

Therefore, those who win every battle are not really skillful – those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.

Master Sun, The Art of War

Prevention is the most preferable of the strategies because the community never experiences the negative effect of the crime that you prevented.  It is also the most difficult to quantify in terms of the ways that we typically measure performance and, as result, neglected.  Many in the culture view prevention as not being ‘real policing’ because we fail to recognize its contribution to our overall Mission.  Another roadblock to prevention is its complexity.  It demands that we think like our opponents and seize the initiative from them – ‘to render them helpless without fighting.’  Viewed from this perspective, prevention is a challenge worthy of the best of us.

Be the Expert

For prevention to be a viable tool in your toolbox you have to be the expert.  You need to be in the mind of your opponent and see what they see in terms of opportunity and weakness in you.  We get into our opponent’s mind by actively gathering intelligence.  Simply stated, talk to people.  When given the opportunity to interview suspects gain an understanding of how they commit their crimes and what they see that made them believe they would be successful.  Talk to people in the community.  They know whats going on and a little rapport and demonstration of caring will go a long way toward having people regularly share information that will make you more effective. Share the information you gain with others, while protecting sources as necessary.  We always leverage effectiveness when we share.

Take advantage of crime analysis.  Modern analysis capabilities make it much easier for us to understand the seasonal trends and geographic likelihoods of types of criminal activity.  What we had to learn through years of experience and observation before is now available to everyone in easily understandable formats.  Take advantage of these resources to get in front of your opponent.

Crime is all about incentive.   For instance; if you are addressing property crimes  you need to gain an understanding of the market.  People generally steal to sell.  Remove their ability to sell what they have stolen,  or cut their profit margin to the point that the crime is no longer worth their time and effort and they cease the activity (or move to another jurisdiction – either way, you win :)).

What is your opponents center of gravity?  What do they have to have to succeed and then deny them what they need.  This is the essence of prevention.

Market yourself as the expert.  Make sure that the community and community developers view you as a valuable resource to be consulted when they are considering making changes in the community.  Changes made to community infrastructure should favor your ability to accomplish the Mission.  If you don’t have the opportunity to contribute an aesthetically pleasing project might make the community look better but leave it more vulnerable.

What To Do

On the line level you need to have an understanding of your beat.  Gather and share information with your peers and bosses.  Look at your beat from your opponent’s perspective and let your boss know about the problems you see and more importantly, what you need to address them.

At the organizational level you need to develop performance measures that recognize the importance of prevention.  The importance of proper performance measures was discussed in ‘Aligning Performance Measures and Motivation.’  Identify prevention as a critical tool in your toolbox.  Provide your folks with the resources they need and market your agency as the expert.  Take advantage of opportunities to have input into community design in order to make your job easier.  It is always easier to win the battle you never had to fight.

As always, THANK YOU for your service and BE SAFE!

Please take the time to comment on your views of the value of prevention.  What strategies have you found to be particularly effective?




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