September 14, 2016 – Washington, D.C. – Arguably, nothing is more important in policing today than gaining and holding the trust of the community, particularly those most affected by crime and violence. Today, the Police Foundation, with generous support from the Charles Koch Foundation, is releasing a new report that provides real-life examples and optimism for how foot patrol can help law enforcement officers and agencies reconnect and build strong, mutually supportive relationships with their communities.
The report, entitled Engaging Communities One Step at a Time, highlights the positive interactions and dialogue that are occurring between communities and foot patrol officers from the Cambridge (MA) Police Department, the New Haven (CT) Police Department, the Evanston (IL) Police Department, the Kalamazoo (MI) Department of Public Safety, and the Portland (OR) Police Bureau. The study found that foot patrol facilitates relationship building between the police and the community while also enhancing the enforcement and problem-solving efforts of law enforcement.
Our study shows agencies and officers interacting with communities in the co-production of public safety, including police-citizen discussions of community problems, police satisfaction surveys being administered in door-to-door interactions, and the integration of the officers into the community resulting in improved suspect identification, which was necessary to close a murder investigation at one site and to bring justice to the community. Our study also highlights evidence within the research literature that foot patrol may have the ability to help reduce crime, improve relations, and to improve work conditions for officers – making foot patrol a policing change agent.
The importance and timeliness of this study cannot be understated. “Given the recent events in policing and the ongoing national conversation about community-police relations, this study offers a glimpse of the positive policing and engagement occurring across the country”, said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation and the former chief of police of the Redlands Police Department in California. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of relationships. As one community member asserted, “The key to policing, no matter where you are in the country, is building relationships. It’s not rocket science.”
All of the community groups interviewed for the study expressed widespread support for the foot patrol officers, and many indicated that they wanted more foot patrol in their community. While it may be difficult to justify policing strategies that don’t create efficiencies in the current budget environment, we could be tragically mistaken to consider it too costly or unimportant at a time when we have a crisis of trust in some communities. Combined with other scientific evidence which suggests that police may be able to reduce crime using foot patrols, it may be time for policing across the country to return to its past as we attempt to move the profession forward through needed reforms. To view and download the full report, please click here.
About the Police Foundation
The Police Foundation is a non-profit, independent, and non-partisan organization that has been advancing policing through innovation and science for 45 years. For more information on the Foundation’s efforts, please visit www.policefoundation.org.