We don’t have community policing. That’s no accident.

We don’t have community policing. That’s no accident.


– [Narrator] If you watch movies, you’ve probably noticed this kind of cop over and over again. Meet the friendly neighborhood beat cop. They know your name,
frequent your local diner, and live down the block. But off-screen, a lot of police encounters actually look more like this. – Why are you being so rude? I’m sorry.
– You’re the one that’s being rude.
– [Man] You don’t touch me. – [Woman] All he’s doing
is driving down the street. – You wanna go to jail too? – [Narrator] So why are
Hollywood’s friendly beat cops so hard to find, and how
can we make them a reality? If your experience with police doesn’t look like the movies, you’re not alone. And to figure out why, we
need to look at something called the consolidation movement. – Consolidation is when different providers of a public service, like policing, choose
to combine their efforts in order to eliminate any potential redundancies or inefficiencies. – And the idea was that it was inefficient to have
all these various communities have their own police departments, and we should centralize and consolidate into one large police department. – [Narrator] Support for consolidation first got its legs in the 1920s and ’30s, when federal agencies were having trouble enforcing prohibition. They argued that
consolidated police forces were needed to enforce federal laws, some going as far as calling for nationalizing American policing. That never happened, but federal
interest in consolidation continued to grow, and by the 1960s, those small, friendly,
neighborhood departments across the country were unifying into large, city-wide forces. This had the effect of
spreading officers thin, in part because these departments heeded federal recommendations that limited what a good cop looked like, through what were called
professionalization standards, minimum requirements for
employment on things like level of education or physical fitness. The same recommendations also called for relaxing residency requirements, meaning officers no longer had to live in the area they policed. Together, these new
standards raised the bar for serving on many
consolidated police forces. But they also raised the cost. And they encouraged consolidated forces to place serving officers in neighborhoods they weren’t familiar with, leaving areas with fewer officers patrolling communities
they didn’t understand. – You have a kid out after curfew. Does he get hauled home to mom, or does he get hauled to jail? Maybe they might have a little
bit different perspective living inside the community,
about whether or not something is even a problem,
than an outsider would. And they can actually choose, then, to take advantage of these
alternative mechanisms. – [Narrator] One big reason
the consolidationist movement was willing to overlook the loss of these community relationships was out of a belief that there was one best way to police all communities. – You don’t have to
worry about there being diversity, you don’t have to worry about there being potential for experimentation. You just figure out what
the one best way forward is, and you implement it. And if there’s only one best way, what’s the most efficient scale for that program to be implemented then? It’s gonna be at the
largest scale possible. – [Narrator] Despite its serious flaws, consolidation continued to hold sway. The public administration literature just didn’t offer up
convincing alternatives. And it wasn’t until the 1970s that consolidationists
faced any real opposition. – Ladies and gentlemen, I
am honored and delighted to introduce to you Nobel
Laureate Elinor Ostrom. – [Narrator] Born into
poverty in Depression-era Los Angeles, Elinor Ostrom
was a dogged researcher, and routinely barred from
male-dominated academia in her early career. Ostrom was undeterred,
and went on to study how large structures of policing
affected police quality, later becoming the first and only female to win a Nobel Prize in Economics for her broader body of work. – Elinor Ostrom’s research pushed from whether the consolidation
movement was right, in that, is it more
efficient, did it better serve community and the community needs? And she found that no, actually, communities that had their
own police departments, or had smaller police departments, people in those communities
were more satisfied with the police services. – Kind of, you know,
poked a finger in the eye of that idea that the expert was always gonna be better than the
person who was on the ground. – She literally rode in
the back of police cars. – Tried to understand what
the nature of the interactions between the police and the
community residents were. – [Narrator] Ostrom’s
qualitative research style was reflective of the qualitative
gaps she saw in policing. She argued that
consolidationists’ hard data approach to policing not only
missed problems on the ground, but created them too. And many officers agree with her. Listen to this radio
interview with a NYPD officer, criticizing ticket quotas back in 2015. – [Adhyl] I can tell my supervisors that I took three people to the
hospital and I saved their lives. That the child that I
helped deliver is healthy. I can tell them that, but
that’s not gonna cut it. The culture of the department,
the way they see it is that you’re not working unless you are writing summonses or arresting people. – [Narrator] This mentality
is what drove Ostrom to offer up a theory of how
to provide public safety that recognized each
community’s problems as unique, and not easily fixed
through tickets and arrests. – This gets to the idea of co-production. – Co-production refers to
citizens and the police sharing responsibility for
achieving outcomes of safety. – It’s not just having
a cop on the street. It’s having a cop on the street who has built relationships with that community, such that they’re comfortable
going to that police officer with information and with problems. – [Narrator] Ostrom’s idea
of co-producing public safety is important because it shifts the focus away from hard metrics,
by creating a situation where police are forced to define safety on the community’s own terms. And the idea actually caught on, later getting published through
the Department of Justice. The wider body of research on the topic even led the DOJ to attempt to federalize community policing, through a 1994 program called Community Oriented
Policing Services, or C.O.P.S., which provided grants and training to local departments that complied with federally defined
community policing tactics. – [Interviewer] And were
those effective programs? – So, not necessarily. (laughs) The community-based policing programs were not that effective. Wasn’t this hoped-for
revolution that they expected. – [Narrator] Part of the reason
why has to do with the fact that these weren’t
community-based programs at all, and instead, continued in the
footsteps of consolidationists by mass-producing one form of policing. At the same time, C.O.P.S. and other federal incentive programs were making it increasingly attractive for local departments to
prioritize federal issues. This graph shows a steep
increase in participation by state and local law enforcement in federal anti-drug
indictments from 1983 to 1999. And this level of local
employment for federal goals causes some serious problems. – So it gets really funky
when your paycheck’s actually coming from a
completely different party. And if that paycheck
is coming from somebody who has a really different set of goals than your community’s
safety, then what happens is police departments instead
direct their attention towards the accomplishment of
those federal objectives, rather than the accomplishment of keeping a community safe on
that community’s own terms. – [Narrator] These federal
programs are not only a drain on local police, they
also incentivize tactics that hardly have communities in mind. – So these are programs,
like Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, that sends
military equipment to the police. Again, it’s hard to
get trust if the police look like they’re about
to go to war with you. – [Narrator] All of these issues raise an important question. Why do we police our communities? Is it to meet quotas? To do work for the federal government? Or is it to keep communities safe for the people living in them? It’s easy for Hollywood to write scripts that get the friendly
beat cop right every time. And it’s also easy to
dwell on bad police work. But if we want humane policing
that honors the dignity and diversity of our communities, it will mean removing the barriers to unique and diverse policing. (relaxed music)

6 thoughts on “We don’t have community policing. That’s no accident.

  1. 7:45 And the main barrier is the fact that security is a socialized service, controlled by politicians and funded by tax extortion. As all socialized services it has zero incentives towards consumers, and no incentive to perform anything the people actually wants.

  2. I don’t have a lot of talks with cops but in my experience, all except one were nice and human.

    Viral internet videos are not a good reflection of reality.

  3. Dumbest “research” I’ve ever heard. Officers still live in the community and plenty of depts. require officers live in their community. And guess what, crime is at an all time low! Scary to think a university could publish such garbage.

  4. I tend to agree that there are social costs involved in some communities' focus on federal incentives and revenue generation; but these dysfunctional police departments are mostly centered around cities which are dysfunctional in all sorts of other ways, due to top down political involvement. Chances are that your police department will suck in precisely the places where zoning sucks, where bylaws suck, and where people don't much care about the environment they're living in (either through desperation, apathy, or a lack of understanding of civics).

    I think it's lazy of the people featured to think that they can solve the problems of police from the perspective of police policy.

  5. It's hard to believe that you'll find local talent in areas such as the south side of Chicago, Ferguson, Baltimore, etc. Perhaps better overall training and weeding out the few bad apples will do the trick.

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