Community policing in general refers to adopting such measures by law enforcement agencies specifically police where closer ties between the community and the police tends to prevent crime rather than police responding to the incidents of crime once it has taken place. Community policing as a concept implies its meaning in the realm of ‘’public good’’. This concept of public good in itself is shadowed by another broad concept of ‘’order’’. These two concepts go hand in hand so that so peace is achieved as an end. Both ‘’public good’’ and ‘’order’’ lies at the center of community policing.
As identified above, one of the central tenants of community policing which is ‘’Order’’ or ‘’Structure’’ is a concept embedded in the theoretical approach of ‘’Neo-Realism’’ as well. The relevance of this approach of Neo-Realism in the study of community policing is validated by the fact that Police as an institution functions with obligations to its institutional structure. Therefore, the role of police is molded by its presumed authority. It is here where the point of convergence is established between the idea of community policing and neo-realism. Neo-realism which is also called structural realism contends that it is the architecture of the international system that determines state behavior. So that so, in whatever manner the structure of the international system is designed, state’s actions will be in accordance to that structure.
The approach adopted in this paper is to debate the concept of community policing from two different lenses. One such approach as mentioned above is Neo-realism and another one can be Realism as a general theoretical perspective. These two approaches are debated in such a manner that it complements the study of community policing. The reason to incorporate these two concepts is to evaluate community policing from a specific to a general lens. In a theoretical frame of reference this means that it to debate this concept from the level of analysis perspective of international relations.
In the general frame of ideas, the fundamental aim on which community policing is predicated is ‘’prevention of crime’’. The outlook of the practices taken upon by the police personnel are all in alignment of this aim which may include building better relations with the community and developing trust between and among all the stakeholders. It is in this sense that the theoretical framework of international relations theories is worth exploring in accordance with the concept of community policing. In any inquiry of social sciences, the basic purpose of incorporating theory is because theory is what explains the practice and helps to build a better understanding of the social circumstances which affects the lives of people.
Community policing as a concept when deconstructed consists of two major ideas. At the core of it exists the idea of ‘’public good’’ and another one is the idea of ‘’order’’. Public good remains the end goal, whereas the idea of ‘’order’’ is the function of its structure. It is therefore necessary to understand the function of this concept in order to draw justifiable conclusions.
Neo-Realist Perspective on Community Policing
The neo-realist perspective of international relations builds upon the premise that the structure of the international order is the primary determinant of state’s actions. That is to say that if the dilemma of threat exists between two states, and one state is compelled to act in accordance to that to take up measures which ensures its survival then this is due to the prevalent structure or environment of the international order. In this case, state’s actions in a way becomes subservient to the structure. On the other hand, in a community of people, where police personnel are as credible actors as a state is in the international system, his/her actions also are subservient to the prevalent structure of the institution of police as whole. The liberty to exercise power is informed by the institutional obligations which exists upon the personnel. Therefore, the principle of ‘’order’’ which can also be referred to as ‘’structure’’ can determine the extent of prevention of crime rate in a certain community. The structure then has direct effects on behavior of the police personnel.
Realist Perspective on Community Policing
Before dwelling into the explanation of the realist perspective and into relevance to community policing, it is essential to point out why this is being discussed after neo-realism, since realism as a theory of international relations is a broader and a more conventional concept than neo-realism. The primary reason for this is because the argument of community policing is drawn from the behavior of ‘’individual’’ which functions under an institution, therefore the approach undertaken is from specific to general. In that regard, it was essential to debate the structure of the institution which affects the behavior of the personnel first and subsequently debating the role of the broader perspective of realism.
Realism is a theory which is predicated upon the idea that the primary source of conflict in international system is prevalent because states in general seek to maximize their power. The power struggle undertaken by states then translates into security dilemma and balance of power between states. So as to ensure a position of relative advantage against each other. Applying this theory to the concept of community policing, it manifests itself in a manner where the community police is presumed as one actor and the people of the community is considered to be another actor. Both these actors, function with relative powers to each other. Where the police functions with more explicit power of ‘’force’’, the people of the community function with the mobilizing power of ‘’rights’’ and ‘’democracy’’ which is more explicitly referred to as the power of ‘’vote’’. Here the dimension of power maximization applies to both the actors in terms of conflict of interest. As it happens in the international arena, as a bargaining failure of diplomacy leads to states confronting each other by other means, similarly in a community, where both the law enforcing agencies and the people of the community diverge over a conflict of interest, such as wrongfully accusing an individual of a crime which builds a negative perception of the police in the minds of the general public leads to resentment. This, then translates into people being mobilized against the law enforcing agencies. In response to which, the police would further build its capacity to confront the rebels since they usually are in larger numbers. The concept of dilemma then in this realm does exist as enshrined in the philosophy of realism as well. Here dilemma exists where both parties, the law enforcement agencies and the people of the community understand that their relationship is regulated by the nexus of the amount of force that police can use against the people and the authority that is given to them implicitly by the people by putting their trust in the governance system. Therefore, community policing as a concept is predicated to evade the dilemma of mutual conflict and as it happens with the business of one state with the other, where they pursue diplomacy to reach any mutual point of interest; Similar is the case with community policing which aims to establish peace and harmony through public diplomatic channels.
Both these theoretical perspectives then provide insights into how they can actually be debated upon in the study of community policing. It informs the function community policing as well as analyzes its main contours.