Community Policing as the Primary Prevention Strategy for Homeland Security at the Local Law Enforcement Level

ABSTRACT: Like traditional crime, terrorism is a local issue and is a responsibility shared among federal, state, and local governments. In the wake of September 11, local law enforcement has taken on a pivotal role in preventing and responding to future incidents of terrorism within the United States. The new policing model for terrorism and homeland security must address the areas of crime prevention, intelligence gathering, and information sharing. This will require a shift in the culture of law enforcement agencies, involving the creation of external partnerships, citizen involvement, problem solving, and the transformation of the organization. Adoption of the “homeland-policing” model presented in this article suggests that the community policing model serves as a solid framework for the development of an effective prevention strategy for homeland security by local law enforcement agencies.

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Suggested Citation

Docobo, Jose. “Community Policing as the Primary Prevention Strategy for Homeland Security at the Local Law Enforcement Level.” Homeland Security Affairs 1, Article 4 (June 2005).

Traditionally, local law enforcement has concerned itself primarily with preventing and solving crimes such as burglary, theft, and robbery — crimes that have an immediate and visible impact on the local community and affect citizen quality of life. In the face of unknown future terrorist threats, however, local law enforcement organizations will have to adapt existing policing strategies to fulfill the requirement of homeland security.

Over the years, law enforcement organizations have sought to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime in communities through the creation of effective partnerships with the community and other public and private-sector resources, the application of problem-solving strategies or tactics, and the transformation of agency organization and culture. In the wake of September 11, 2001, local law enforcement agencies throughout the country find themselves struggling to identify their responsibilities and define their future role in the effort to combat terrorism. The new policing model for terrorism and homeland security must address the areas of crime prevention, intelligence gathering, and information sharing. While these roles are not new to local policing, homeland security at the local level will require a shift in law enforcement’s role if police are to ensure the safety and welfare of citizens.

While some have suggested that community policing can fit into the overall national strategy for homeland security, little research specifically identifies community policing strategies and their direct application to the national strategy for homeland security. Many of the objectives of terrorism prevention parallel current law enforcement policies with respect to local crime issues. Because of these similarities, individual, neighborhood, and community crime-prevention strategies should support law enforcement in the fight against terrorism.

Community-oriented Policing

The United States Department of Justice has defined community policing as a philosophy that “focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services that includes aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem-solving, community engagement, and partnerships.” 1 Despite varying definitions of community- oriented policing, it is generally agreed that there are three key components to the community policing philosophy. These include the creation of and reliance on effective partnerships with the community and other public/private-sector resources, the application of problem- solving strategies or tactics, and the transformation of police organization and culture to support this philosophical shift. In other words, community policing is not in itself a tactic or strategy, but instead a philosophical approach to how policing is conducted. At its core, community-oriented policing is based on law enforcement and the community joining together to identify and address issues of crime and social disorder.

In a 2002 publication, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing discussed a series of community-oriented policing resources and practices that have a direct application to terrorism deterrence and prevention. These include the use of crime mapping with GIS systems, data collection and analysis protocols, and technologies that may be used as platforms for gathering intelligence to assess terrorism vulnerability. In addition, the community partnerships formed by police in the course of community-oriented problem solving provide a ready framework for engaging citizens in helping police to identify possible threats and implement preparedness plans. 2

Rob Chapman and Matthew C. Scheider, senior analysts at the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), suggest that community policing could play an integral role in homeland security. They contend that by applying the principles of organizational change, problem solving, and external partnerships, community policing can help police to prepare for and prevent terrorist acts, and respond to the fear such threats engender. 3 Community policing helps to build trust between the community and law enforcement, which allows officers to develop knowledge of the community and resident activity and can provide vital intelligence relating to potential terrorist actions. Local law enforcement can facilitate information gathering among ethnic or religious community groups with whom police have established a relationship. It will generally be citizens who observe the unusual — groups of men living in apartments or motels, or unusual behavior at flight schools — in their own community, and could be expected to report such observations to the local police. According to Chapman and Scheider, problem-solving models typically used in community policing are well-suited for preventing and responding to possible terrorist activity. Using existing data sources, agencies can conduct target vulnerability assessments and develop risk-management and crisis plans. 4

Community Partnerships

Community policing is based on the notion that citizens should be empowered to prevent crime or the problems that lead to crime. 5 Establishing and maintaining mutual trust is therefore the central goal of community policing, as it allows wide law enforcement access to valuable community information leading potentially to the prevention and resolution of crimes.

The partnerships formed in support of community crime prevention efforts can also provide a framework for engaging citizens to help police identify possible terrorist threats and infrastructure vulnerabilities. Effective community policing involves not only developing partnerships between law enforcement and citizens, however, but also intergovernmental and interagency collaborations with state and federal agencies. These partnerships are essential for the collection and exchange of intelligence, the identification of threats and vulnerabilities, and the sharing of resources in the event of an attack.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is a broad term that describes the process by which specific issues or concerns are identified and the most appropriate remedies to abate the problem(s) are identified. Problem solving is based on the assumption that “individuals make choices based on opportunities presented by the immediate physical and social characteristics of an area. By manipulating these factors, people will be less inclined to act in an offensive manner.” 6 The idea is that if the underlying conditions that create problems can be eliminated then so will the problem. Such conditions range from the type of individuals involved to the physical environment in which these problems are created.

Prior to the advent of community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing was associated with the decentralization of responsibility and with lateral communication both within and outside the police department. Problem-oriented policing dealt with the conditions that cause a problem; this concept of policing required officers to recognize relationships that lead to crime and disorder and direct their attention to issues of causation. 7 Mark Moore asserts that thought and analysis is fundamental to problem-oriented policing in order to effectively respond to the cause of the problem. 8

According to Spelman and Eck, problem-oriented policing converged on three main themes: increased effectiveness, reliance on the expertise and creativity of officers, and closer involvement with the community. These themes are implemented by attacking underlying phenomena that deplete patrol officers’ and detectives’ time, and educating officers to study problems and develop innovative solutions to ensure that police address the needs of citizens. 9

Organizational Transformation

Community policing requires an organizational transformation inside the law enforcement agency so that a set of basic values rather than mere procedures guide the overall delivery of services to the community. Organizational transformation involves the integration of the community policing philosophy into the mission statement, policies and procedures, performance evaluations and hiring and promotional practices, training programs, and other systems and activities that define organizational culture and activities. 10

In the community policing model, individual officers are given broader freedom to resolve concerns within their community. Individual officers are presumably the most familiar with their communities and are therefore in the best position to forge close ties with the community and create effective solutions. Community policing emphasizes employee participation; individual officers are given the authority to solve problems and make operational decisions suitable to their assignments. Officers are seen as generalists, not specialists.

Adapting Community Policing to Homeland Security

Like traditional crime, terrorism is a local crime issue and is a responsibility shared among federal, state, and local governments. Indeed, traditional crime and terrorism are inextricably linked. International and domestic terrorist groups are well-organized and trained, and demonstrate the sophistication of other, traditional organized crime groups. These groups commit ancillary crimes like fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, and identity theft to provide the resources for their terrorism. The investigative approach to a terrorist event is similar to that of a traditional crime incident. Because of the similarities between traditional crime and terrorism, departments that have already adopted a community policing philosophy should find it a seamless transition to addressing terrorism and terrorism-related crime. Officers should already have the skills to analyze the terrorism problem, perform threat analysis, develop appropriate responses and reflect these efforts in the mission, goals and objectives of the department. 11

In 2002, the Markle Foundation Task Force report stated:

Most of the real frontlines of homeland security are outside of Washington D.C. Likely terrorists are often encountered, and the targets they might attack are protected, by local officials — a cop hearing a complaint from a landlord, an airport official who hears about a plane some pilot trainee left on the runway, an FBI agent puzzled by an odd flight school student in Arizona, or an emergency room resident trying to treat patients stricken by an unusual illness. 12

In a more recent report, the Rockefeller Institute observed that “while much attention has been focused on the national government’s efforts to address these [Homeland Security] problems, there has been less consideration of the role of state and local governments, which play a critical role in preventing and responding to terrorist attack.” 13 In the wake of September 11, 2001, however, local law enforcement has taken on a pivotal role in preventing and responding to future incidents of terrorism within the United States. This new role, like the adoption of community policing, will require yet another shift in the culture of law enforcement agencies.

Facilitating this shift, however, is the fact that community policing and homeland security have a great deal in common. Both neighborhood crime and terrorism threaten the quality of life in a community and exploit the fear they create. Despite creative ways to stretch public safety budgets, local law enforcement cannot sustain two separate missions of traditional policing and terrorism prevention. Community policing and homeland security can share the same goals and strategies. Creating external partnerships, citizen involvement, problem solving, and transforming the organization to take on a new mission are all key elements of community policing and should be part of a comprehensive homeland security strategy. The lesson learned from fighting traditional crime is that prevention is the most effective approach in dealing with crime, fear, and social disorder. Fighting terrorism is no different.

Organizational Transformation

The task of a wholesale re-engineering of American local law enforcement toward a counter-terrorism role is complex and unprecedented. If U.S. law enforcement is to move forward to a national role in homeland security, then practical, focused, and effective training must be a cornerstone of this transformation. Without appropriate and ongoing training of both current and new law enforcement personnel, homeland security will be dismissed as a passing concept instead of a cultural change in law enforcement strategy.

There are a number of community policing practices that can support efforts in homeland security. These practices include adopting the philosophy organization-wide, decentralizing decision-making and accountability, fixing geographic and general responsibilities and utilizing volunteer resources. Local law enforcement officers are most likely to come into contact with individuals who are either directly or indirectly involved in terrorist activities and are certain to be the first responders to any attack.

Empowering officers at lower levels with greater decision-making authority and responsibility for important decisions could be valuable in a crisis. During a terrorist event, there may be little time for decisions to move up the chain of command. Officers who are accustomed to making decisions and retaining authority may be better prepared to respond quickly and decisively to any event.

In terms of prevention, developing a flat organizational structure can help lower-level officers feel free to pursue leads regarding possible terrorist activity. In addition, officers who work in a fixed geographic area for an extended period are more likely to develop specific intelligence that may be a vital part of counter-terrorism efforts. 14

Organization-wide Adoption

Homeland Security, like community policing, must be adopted agency-wide to realize its full potential and effectiveness. Integrating the homeland security responsibility into the agency’s mission statement, goals, policies and procedures, training programs, and other systems and activities that define organizational culture, should reflect this adoption.


Local agencies will need to expand beyond the rudimentary aspects of law enforcement training such as firearms, driving, unarmed defense and criminal law into one that emphasizes an analytical preventative approach. While law enforcement must continue to train for their roles as first responders in post-incident management and investigation, police must receive training and education in:

  • Understanding the nature, dynamics, and operations of international terrorist groups that may operate in or against the United States, and how that translates into more effective patrol and investigative functions;
  • Understanding the locations, movements, and plans of international terrorist cells that live and work in local communities;
  • Gathering and analyzing intelligence on potential terrorist activities;
  • Conducting threat assessments;
  • Conducting inquiries and investigations into potential terrorists while safeguarding the constitutional rights of all people in the United States.

Most local law enforcement officers have never been in the intelligence business and therefore may not know precisely what information they should look at as indicative of terrorist activity or that may have value within a larger intelligence context. These signs are not necessarily obvious, but rather subtle, and would be discernible to a regular patrol officer or detective with proper training. Officers or detectives may have valuable information without even knowing it and may not know to share the information because they have never had adequate terrorism intelligence training.

Another area of training that law enforcement must commit to is public education. Although the majority of communities will never be impacted by a terrorist event, the threat of potential terrorist attacks can create fear and undermine the sense of community safety. It will therefore be critical that police take a leadership role in maintaining community confidence. This can be done by educating the public as to the nature of threats and actively responding to specific community concerns. For the public to respond to an alert, it needs to know what to watch for. Educating the public also garners support for government action in a crisis. Moreover, citizens educated about potential threats can assist law enforcement during alerts. The public would know what to look for, what to do, and how to respond. 15

Decentralized Decision-making and Accountability

In community policing, individual line officers are given authority to solve problems and make operational decisions. Leadership is required and rewarded at every level; supervisors and officers are held accountable for decisions and the effects of their efforts at solving problems. Empowering officers at the lower levels will allow them the freedom to pursue leads or suspected terrorist activity, or to identify possible terrorist vulnerabilities within the community.

Fixed Geographic Accountability and Generalist Responsibilities

In community policing, most staffing, supervision, deployment, and tactical decision-making are geographically based. Personnel are assigned to fixed geographic areas for extended periods of time in order to foster communication and partnerships between individual officers and their community. Having fixed-geographic responsibility allows officers to develop more productive relationships with members of their community and, as a result, officers should be more attuned to rising levels of community concern and fear. By virtue of these relationships, officers should be in a position to respond effectively to those needs and concerns. Community policing engenders trust and increases satisfaction among community members and police, which in periods of heightened unrest or crisis can translate to dealing more effectively with community fear. 16

Utilizing Volunteer Resources

After the events of September 11, 2001, the idea of involving citizens in crime prevention has taken on new significance, with President Bush calling for greater citizen involvement in homeland security through initiatives such as Citizen Corps and Freedom Corps. 17 President Bush created these programs so Americans could participate directly in homeland security efforts in their own communities. This network of volunteer efforts uses the foundations already established by law enforcement in order to prepare local communities to respond effectively to the threats of terrorism and crime. In addition to creating the Citizens Corps and Freedom Corps, the president’s plan is to enhance community-policing programs already in place, such as Neighborhood Watch, by incorporating terrorism prevention into its mission.

Community policing encourages the use of non-law enforcement resources within a law enforcement agency such as volunteerism, which involves active citizen participation with their law enforcement agency. Volunteer efforts can help free up officer time, and provide an effective channel for citizen input. It has long been recognized that many of the basic functions within a law enforcement agency can be accomplished by other than sworn deputies or civilian employees. Volunteer efforts can help free up officer time, and allow sworn personnel to be more proactive and prevention-oriented. In many jurisdictions around the country, citizens who have the time to volunteer in the community have offered their services to law enforcement agencies, freeing up law enforcement personnel to spend more time in a crime reduction role.

This community policing element dovetails perfectly with President Bush’s Citizen Corps, which was developed to “harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds.” 18 There are four programs in Citizen Corps: Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), all of which integrate well with the community policing philosophy. In fact, Neighborhood Watch has been an integral component of the community policing philosophy virtually since its inception.

Neighborhood Watch

This crime prevention program, which has a thirty-year history, engages volunteer citizen action to enhance security within local communities by encouraging citizens to report suspicious activity in their immediate neighborhoods. Citizen Corps hopes to double the number of neighborhood watch programs, while incorporating terrorism prevention into the program’s mission. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the need for strengthening and securing our communities has become even more critical, and Neighborhood Watch groups have taken on greater significance. In addition to serving a crime prevention role, Neighborhood Watch can also be used as the basis for bringing neighborhood residents together to focus on disaster preparedness as well as terrorism awareness, to focus on evacuation drills and exercises, and even to organize group training, such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. 19

Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS)

This program provides training for civilian volunteers who assist local police departments by performing “non-sworn” duties, effectively freeing up officers to spend more time on critical functions. Since September 11, 2001, the demands on state and local law enforcement have increased dramatically. As a result, already-limited resources are being stretched farther at a time when our country needs every available officer out on the beat. The program provides resources to assist local law enforcement officials by incorporating community volunteers into the activities of the law enforcement agency and by using best practices to help state and local law enforcement design strategies to recruit, train, and utilize citizen volunteers in their departments. 20

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)

This program provides civilians with training in emergency management planning and response functions to bolster the capacity of local communities to respond to disasters. President Bush has proposed a three-fold increase, to 400,000, of the number of citizens enrolled in CERT. Since its move into Citizen Corps, the program has added a new module that addresses terrorism preparedness. When emergencies happen, CERT members can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community. 21

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Program coordinates the skills of practicing and retired physicians, nurses, and other health professionals as well as other citizens interested in health issues who are eager to volunteer to address their community’s ongoing public health needs and to help their community during large-scale emergency situations. Local community leaders develop their own Medical Reserve Corps Units and identify the duties of the MRC volunteers according to specific community needs. For example, MRC volunteers may deliver necessary public health services during a crisis, assist emergency response teams with patients, and provide care directly to those with less serious injuries and other health-related issues. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) plays an integral part in our preparedness and response strategy. It provides an organized way for medical and public health volunteers to offer their skills and expertise during local crises and throughout the year. 22

Problem Solving Tactics Applied to Homeland Security

Through programs such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), intelligence gathering, information sharing, and the use of GIS mapping and analysis, law enforcement can identify and conduct security assessments of critical infrastructure and other important private sector facilities. Security assessments can identify which facilities have the greatest potential as targets. Once identified, detailed risk management and crisis plans can be developed and implemented. The goal of problem solving in community-oriented policing is a fundamental shift from traditional reactive policing to one that preemptively reduces a facility’s vulnerability to a terrorist attack.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Basic principles of CPTED include target hardening (controlling access to neighborhoods and buildings and conducting surveillance on specific areas to reduce opportunities for crime to occur) and territorial reinforcement (increasing the sense of security in settings where people live and work through activities that encourage informal control of the environment).

Local agencies will have to get involved in community planning through programs like CPTED to ensure that future growth and construction of facilities minimizes the vulnerability to terrorist acts. The conceptual thrust of CPTED is that the physical environment can be manipulated by design to produce behavioral effects that will reduce the incidence and fear of crime, thereby improving the quality of life. These behavioral effects can be accomplished by reducing the propensity of the physical environment to support crime. 23

Intelligence Gathering

For years, local law enforcement agencies have complained about federal agencies failing to appreciate the role of law enforcement in intelligence activities. At a time when asymmetric terrorist threats pose some of the biggest threats to our communities, however, we cannot afford not to have local law enforcement more fully integrated into the National Homeland Security Strategy.

The challenge here will be two-fold. First, it will require a philosophical change in federal law enforcement to break down the barriers of compartmentalization and accept local agencies as full partners in the national security intelligence infrastructure. Secondly, local agencies need to receive the necessary training and analytical resources. The challenge will come not in obtaining additional human resources, but in training existing personnel to recognize information or behavior of individuals or groups of possible threats, and the ability to disseminate that information with others in a manner that would allow for the intervention of any future terrorist acts.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping and Analysis

Many of the innovations implemented through community-oriented policing require a geographic focus, and emphasize the importance of integrating GIS mapping technology into problem-solving strategies. Technological advances in computer mapping have propelled crime mapping and analysis to the forefront of crime prevention and community policing. Computerized crime mapping allows law enforcement agencies to plot crime data against a digitized map of a community, city, or region. Crime-related data can then be compared and analyzed with other external data sources. 24

Community partnerships

Since September 11th, it has become apparent that Homeland Security is not an effort that can be conducted by law enforcement alone. Instead, an effective Homeland Security strategy must include partnerships not only with other law enforcement organizations, but also with businesses, citizens, emergency management, public health, and many other private and public organizations with a stake in terrorism prevention and response. Partnerships need to be expanded to take advantage of the many skills necessary to plan for, mobilize, and respond to terrorist acts. For homeland security, this means building trust with Arab-American and Islamic-American communities, not with empty promises but by demonstrating how law enforcement can protect them in their neighborhoods, workplaces, places of worship, and other public spaces. 25

There is often some misconception that in community-oriented policing, “community” is defined by certain geographical boundaries. Daniel Flynn suggests that law enforcement agencies look beyond traditional geographical boundaries and that agencies also look at areas or groups with shared character or identity and those with common problems or concerns. Flynn points to ethnic, cultural, and racial communities, as well as businesses, schools, and churches. 26 In community-oriented policing, the police are only one of the many local government organizations responsible for responding to community problems. In community-oriented policing, other government agencies are called upon and recognized for their abilities to respond to crime and social disorder issues. Community-based organizations also are brought into crime prevention and problem solving partnerships with law enforcement. Encouraging citizen involvement in programs such as neighborhood watch, youth education, and other activities with law enforcement has been found to increase social cohesion among citizens and decrease fear of crime. 27 The emphasis on building community partnerships encouraged by community-oriented policing may also help reduce citizen fear of terrorist events. 28

The prevention of terrorist activities requires not only effective communication between local and state agencies and the federal government but, perhaps more importantly, with the community. By building community partnerships facilitated by community policing, law enforcement can develop responses aimed at reducing levels of fear. While citizen fear of terrorist events is somewhat different from fear of crime, some of the same techniques and programs can be used in its reduction. Citizen awareness campaigns can inform citizens about what police and government are doing to prepare for and prevent a future attack. 29

Working with the Media

In any terrorism strategy, the media will play a crucial role in defining the nature, scope, and level of threat in critical situations, in disseminating information, and in calming the population. According to Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, one way to blunt the “behavioral, attitudinal, and emotional responses” to terrorism is to influence the human response through an effective program of communications. 30

Through relationships and partnerships cultivated with reporters and producers, the local media will look to law enforcement as an important partner in delivering accurate and relevant information to the public. While government cannot control how people will react to a terror attack, officials can help shape attitudes and behaviors by providing helpful information as well as seek assistance in obtaining information that may be relevant in the prevention or investigation of a terrorist incident. Making information available about measures taken to prevent or defend against an attack will give citizens a greater sense of control over uncertain situations and tend to lower the level of public fear. 31

Neighborhood Watch, Business Watch and Worship Watch Programs

Neighborhood Watch as a crime prevention tool has been in place around the country for many years. Recognizing that the detection of criminal activity is not a job law enforcement can do alone, Neighborhood Watch has served as extra eyes and ears in the community to report suspicious activity or crimes to law enforcement. As the detection of suspicious behavior is an integral part of homeland security, using this already established program should be part of an agency’s overall homeland security effort. Through the Neighborhood Watch program, law enforcement can:

  • Act as a liaison with each current Neighborhood Watch group. This includes developing more efficient methods of communication between law enforcement and these groups in order to provide a better exchange of up-to-date crime prevention and homeland security information. In turn, the interest level of Watch members would increase and keep groups active.
  • Recruit new Neighborhood Watch groups. Experience has shown that in areas where Neighborhood Watch groups are active, crime is generally lower and support for law enforcement higher.
  • Review daily all crime-related calls for service records in their assigned area. Police officers will be looking to identify problems areas that can be addressed with prevention efforts. This includes working with crime analysts and district enforcement personnel seeking unified approaches in reducing crime by prevention.
  • Meet with crime victims and other citizens to offer services to reduce their potential of becoming a victim in the future. The main activity supporting this task is conducting crime prevention programs and security surveys to residential areas.
  • Act as a conduit for homeland security initiatives to encourage citizens to be observant and watchful by reporting things that seem unusual or out of place.

Managers and business owners make risk management decisions for their businesses every day. These risks encourage them to seek new opportunities to profit. Allowing crime an opportunity to exist is not one of these risks, since no chance for profit exists when crime is present. Crime results in monetary loss, inventory loss, and a loss to the reputation of the business. Most importantly, crime can impact the personal safety of employees and their customers. This makes crime prevention good for business from both a human and financial standpoint.

The Business Watch Program is modeled after the Neighborhood Watch Program and establishes a formal communication network between law enforcement and businesses countywide. Business members are alerted to the potential of crime and are encouraged to look out for the community.

Law enforcement can provide members with training to educate owners, managers, and employees to be able to recognize and report any suspicious activities or crimes. Such training ranges from preventing shoplifting and robbery to learning how to be a good witness, and many other topics. The key focus of each deputy is the delivery of proactive crime prevention and homeland security services to the business community.

Worship Watch was originally designed to bring crime prevention awareness and law enforcement services to all religious communities regardless of their religious beliefs by providing programs on personal safety, home security, drug awareness, auto theft, and many other subjects of interest to the public. Since September 11th special emphasis has been placed upon religious institutions that, as a result of current world events, may be at a greater threat level because of their religious beliefs.

Citizen Academies

Community-oriented policing is based on the premise that citizens should be empowered to enhance their quality of life and prevent or eliminate crime and the problems that lead to crime. 32 Everyone benefits when community members understand the role and function of their police department and become active proponents of law enforcement. 33 One such initiative used by law enforcement agencies is the citizen academy. Citizen academies have been effective in educating members of the community about the mission, goals, objectives, and programs of the police department. Citizen academies should be expanded to address the issue of terrorism and the role that the community can play in assisting law enforcement with information gathering, identification of target vulnerabilities, and volunteer opportunities directly supporting the homeland security strategy.

Homeland policing

For the past ten years, community-oriented policing has served as the impetus for law enforcement agencies to establish a closer relationship with citizens to identify threats within the community that create a climate of fear and social disorder. The emphasis in community policing on community involvement and problem solving clearly establishes a solid foundation upon which homeland security efforts should be built. At a time when local law enforcement agencies have to deal with additional homeland security responsibilities and shrinking budgets, there could be a tendency to reduce community policing efforts, which are still often thought of as a “frill.” Under these circumstances, it is important that law enforcement agencies not revert to the “traditional” approach to policing. Instead of de-emphasizing community-oriented policing efforts, law enforcement agencies must realize that a strong community-oriented policing philosophy within the agency provides a strong basis for preventing and responding to terrorism and its goal of creating fear in the community. Local law enforcement must realize that their efforts are integral to any national homeland security strategy and that community-oriented policing could be their most effective strategy in dealing with terrorism prevention and response in their community.

The “homeland-policing” model presented here suggests that the existing community policing model does serve as an effective framework for the development of an effective prevention strategy for homeland security by local law enforcement agencies. Results of a 2004 survey of all local law enforcement agencies in the state of Florida showed that a significant correlation exists between what agencies do in their day-to-day activities with respect to community policing and homeland security. For example, agencies that use GIS to conduct crime mapping and analysis also frequently use GIS to conduct terrorism target mapping and analysis, and agencies that use their web site to disseminate crime prevention information also frequently use it to disseminate homeland security information. In short, results showed that factors associated with adopting a community policing philosophy among agencies and implementing homeland security strategies within agencies are highly related. 34

Chief Deputy Jose Docobo has served with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for over 24 years. He has served previously as a Detective in Special Investigations, Internal Affairs; as the Operations Corporal for the Enforcement Operations Department; as an Internal Affairs Sergeant at the Professional Standards Bureau; as Lieutenant, Captain and then Major, of the Inspectional Services Division; and as Colonel of the Enforcement Operations Department and Executive Support Department. Chief Deputy Docobo graduated with honors from the University of South Florida and holds a Master of Arts Degree from the United States Naval Postgraduate School in National Security Studies. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the Senior Executive Fellows Program at Harvard University, and the Secret Service Dignitary Protection School.

  1. United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “What is Community Policing,” [Accessed July 4, 2005].
  2. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, COPS INNOVATIONS, “A Closer Look, Local Law Enforcement responds to Terrorism: Lessons in Prevention and Preparedness,” Washington, D.C., 2002.
  3. Rob Chapman and Matthew C. Scheider, “Community Policing: Now More than Ever,” Office of Community Oriented Policing, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., 2002
  4. Ibid.
  5. Dennis J. Stevens, “Case Studies in Community Policing,” (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 9.
  6. Kenneth J. Peak and Ronald W Glensor, “Community Policing and Problem Solving: Strategies and Practices” (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996), xvi-xvii.
  7. Herman Goldstein, “Problem-Oriented Policing” (New York: McGraw Hill, 1990), 32-34.
  8. Mark H. Moore, “Problem Solving and Community Policing: A Preliminary Assessment of New Strategies of Policing,” “Modern Policing Crime and Justice Volume 15”, eds. Michael Tonry and Norval Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 99-158.
  9. John E. Eck, W. Spelman, W. D. Hill, D. W. Stedman and G.R. Murphy, “Problem Solving: Problem Oriented Policing in Newport News,” (Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 1987), 3-4.
  10. United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “General Elements of Community Policing,” [Accessed May 24, 2004].
  11. Matthew C. Scheider, Robert E Chapman and Michael F. Seelman, “Connecting the dots for a proactive approach,” “Border and Transportation Security America,” Quarter 4, 2003, 159.
  12. Markle Foundation Task Force, “Protecting America’s Freedom in The Information Age: A Report of the Markle Foundation Task Force” (New York, New York, October 2002), 10.
  13. The Rockefeller Institute of Government, “The Federalism Challenge: The Challenge for State and Local Government,” “The Role of “Home” in Homeland Security: Symposium Series,” Number 2, March 24, 2003.
  14. Matthew C. Scheider and Robert Chapman, “Community Policing and Terrorism,” “Journal of Homeland Security,” April 2003, [Accessed October 31, 2004].
  15. Eric Taylor, “The New Homeland Security Apparatus, Impeding the Fight against Agile Terrorist,” “Cato Institute, Foreign Police Briefing” No. 70, June 26, 2002, 5.
  16. Matthew C. Scheider and Robert Chapman, “Community Policing and Terrorism.”
  17. President George W. Bush, Citizen Corps, [Accessed May 14, 2004].
  18. Citizen Corps Mission Statement, United States department of Homeland Security, [Accessed October 31, 2004].
  19. Neighborhood Watch, United States Department of Justice, [Accessed November 1, 2004].
  20. Volunteers in Police Service, United States Department of Justice, [Accessed November 1, 2004].
  21. Community Emergency Response Teams, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency,, [Accessed November 1, 2004].
  22. Medical Reserve Corps, United States Department of Health and Human Services, [Accessed November 1, 2004].
  23. Timothy D. Crowe, “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” (Woburn, Mass: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1991), 28-31.
  24. Cynthia A. Mamalian and Nancy G LaVigne, “The Use of Computerized Crime Mapping by Law Enforcement,” National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, January 1999, 1.
  25. Williams Lyons, “Partnerships, information and public safety: community policing in a time of terror,” “Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management,” 25, No. 3 (2002): 532.
  26. Daniel W. Flynn, “Defining the community in community policing,” United States Department of Justice, Community Policing Consortium, Washington, D.C., July 1998., [Accessed April 28, 2004].
  27. Gary W. Cordner, “Community Policing: Elements and Effects,” Roger G. Dunham and Geoffrey P. Alpert, eds., “Critical Issues in Policing.” (prospect Heights, Il: Waveland Press, 1997), 451-468.
  28. Matthew C. Scheider and Robert Chapman, “Community Policing and Terrorism.”
  29. Ibid.
  30. Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Research Council, “Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism,” (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2002), 270. [Accessed November 7, 2004].
  31. Ibid, 272.
  32. Dennis J. Stevens, “Case Studies in Community Policing”, 9.
  33. Daniel P. Carlson, “When Cultures Clash: The Diverse Nature of Police-Community Relations and Suggestions for Improvement”, (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002), 115.
  34. Jose M. Docobo, “Community policing as the primary prevention strategy for homeland security at the local law enforcement level,” (masters thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2005), 60.

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5 thoughts on “Community Policing as the Primary Prevention Strategy for Homeland Security at the Local Law Enforcement Level”

  1. Barbara Brandt

    In theory, training individuals as police officers means that they have an understanding of the law and judgment to recognize criminal activity. Including thousands of untrained and unqualified citizens in participating in law enforcement, without a knowledge or understanding or respect for individuals that have been targeted, may harm neighbors that have done nothing at all. I think it very important that every citizen have the right to go about their lives without interference by unknown people, following them in an out stores, following them to their job, to their doctor, and all because they may live near someone that was involved in a crime. What seems to be missing here is that innocent people, people who may have already had a life that involved abuse, harrassment, or great harm to their person and family, may all of a sudden find that they have no right to privacy. When asking police as to the reason, perhaps misinformation or perhaps revenge of a neighbor or even an abuser, the police refuse information. There is no crime, no warrant and no reason for community surveillance and one does wonder what in the world is being told to neighbors to cause such surveillance. If this happens to one person, a victim of vehicle harrassment or whatever it is called, it may be happening to many people. I think that is the reason we have the 4th Amendment so that we are not subjected to rummor, to a disregard for individual rights under the U. S. Constitution, and also, so that we can be save in our vehicles when we drive somewhere, go to work, and are allowed respect by our neighbors and our place of employment. Without a reason for intrusive behavior, it seems to me that there is abuse of the law and although one person may think someone is “different” or perhaps even suspicious, without proof and just cause and warrant, there is no reason that police should recruit neighbors to spy on neighbors.


    like in KARAMOJA REGION, We at least need the opportunity of further training in community policing. I THE DISTRICT CRIME PRESENTERS COORDINATOR MOROTO.

  3. As a concerned citizen of country and community, in 2005, I assisted our local PD in starting what became a very successful educational community Citizen Police Academy that ran for five years. I had also started a successful neighborhood watch and to do it responsibly and effectively, required all my participants to attend the academy as well. The coomunity appreciated our volunteer work very much, not only as a crime deterrent, but also for the many other ways in which we helped our community residents, such finding keys left in door locks by resudents, vehicle door locks and trunks left open, reporting community street lamps and breezeway lamps that were out so they could be replaced asap, which made women who arrived home from work late at night feel safer, among many other things helped increas community safety. We even stood by a resdent who was being harrassed by three young adult men not from our neighborhood while we waited for a police unit to respond.

    Neighborhood watch can be performed very safely and responsibly to serve others and one’s local PD in performing their duties. Such groups however should have some degree of training, practice, understanding certain laws that apply and never interferring with rights to privacy of others. As leader,I went as far as developing a Watch Patrol 16 page manual for all members to become acquainted with and follow its rules and regulations.

    I would like to see more done by DHS, such as developing a film dvd for a 1 to 3 adult evening education course offered to local PDs or civilians to purchase for study and application in everyday life.

  4. Seems like this would be an excellent fit for State Defense Forces (SDF’s). Mostly comprised of ex-military, former civilan defence contractors, police, EMTs, or trained civillian professionals anyways. They could hit the ground running and probably take a significant burden off of active military, law enforcement and government officials. I know I would be more than willing to dedicate some of my free time to make our states/nation safer.

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