POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Bertus R. Ferreira

Many Central and Eastern European countries have experienced totalitarian governments where the national police forces were often used to intimidate and rule citizens. This gave many police forces a bad reputation and the police were seen as part of the problem, rather than as the protectors of individual freedoms of expression, religion, or association.

Following the Cold War these Central and Eastern European democracies are now facing the challenge of re-establishing the integrity of their police. Community policing could be used effectively towards this end. Only when the community and the police can truly work together for their common good, will citizens feel that they can trust the police. Once the citizens trust the police they will provide the police with information and assistance to help prevent crimes and to arrest more criminals. This will help the police to serve their communities better, to fulfil their task of "To Protect and Serve" and to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Over the last couple of years many community policing studies and experiments have been conducted. We do not have to reinvent the wheel to prove that some of these tested and proven ideas could have immediate benefits for other countries. We should learn from the difficulties encountered by others and use their successes to our advantage. This could lead to safer futures for our communities and increased effectiveness for our police.

This paper emphasizes community policing as a philosophy rather than a program or project. It includes references to studies of community policing efforts already implemented, the problems identified, financial implications, evaluation results obtained, and the community reaction to these issues. Common problems with implementation and interesting disagreements among scholars regarding the effectiveness of community policing are examined.


How can a democratic country, while governing itself, provide freedoms for the citizens and at the same time allow the police to enforce the laws of that country? The answer depends on what role such a country would like to see the police perform. Hopefully the police will be able to uphold law and order while respecting the rights of individuals at the same time. How much power the police should have is a decision that should be made only by the specific community or society involved. It is at this level that community power is displayed through the social, political and economical activities of a group of people that have common goals. When we govern ourselves, we should also agree to police ourselves appropriately.

Community policing is the concept that has been used and tried in many parts of the world to accomplish the above. To determine the possible effectiveness of community policing it is necessary that we examine the literature. One could ask the question: "Is community policing more rhetoric than reality?" Some of the misconceptions come from the criticism that community policing is just a public relations gimmick. However, Trojanowicz and Carter (1988:2) stated that excellent police-community relations are just a by-product of community policing. The main focus is community involvement in combating crime and disorder. Peak and Glensor (1996:46-47) regarded community policing as an excellent opportunity for the government and the police to attend to the needs of their "customers" in society. The fact that customer satisfaction has become such an important part of business and industrial settings may be partly the reason for this movement in government and police services.

Klockars (1988) referred to the "rhetoric" of community policing and argued that although we all hope for the achievement of the lofty goals of community policing, it cannot work in reality. Others have supported the concept of community policing and argued that it works very well in reality and has practical applications in our crime ridden communities. This is a very important debate, because we cannot afford to waste money on something if it does not work effectively. Only if community policing benefits the police, community, citizens and government should we allocate the manpower and money to implement and sustain it. Before considering the arguments for and against community policing, we need to define and explain its concepts. This discussion is limited.


Cox and Fitzgerald (1992:159) claimed that community-oriented policing is in many ways an old idea that can be traced back to Sir Robert Peel. Many authors have referred to the difficult task of defining community policing in one paragraph, let alone one sentence! Friedmann (1992:2) noted that "community policing became a 'buzz word' that is taken for granted by professionals and scholars who used the term to replace other terms such as foot patrol, crime prevention, problem-oriented policing, community-oriented policing, police- community relations and more." Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux (1994:2-3) suggested that, with the trend of short sound-bite media coverage of events, we must attempt to create a simple and concise definition of community policing. If we do not define community policing ourselves, then others, who do not understand the concept, will do so. They suggested the following definition and called it the "Nine P's" of community policing: "Community policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems."

Koch and Bennett (1993:37) and Bennett (1993) defined a community policing philosophy as "A belief or intention held by the police that they should: (1) Consult with and take account of the wishes of the public in determining and evaluating operational policing policy and practice; and (2) Collaborate with the public whenever possible in solving local problems." Kelling and Moore (1988:6-21) stated that we arrived at this era of community policing with the call to re-establish close community relationships. According to them we have passed through the "political" era (with intimate police and community relations) and the "reform" era (with professionally neutral and distant relationships). Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux (1990:xiii-xv and 1994:4-6) also developed "Ten Principles" of community policing and Manning (1993:423-425) proposed eleven assumptions that underpin the concept of community policing.


Once we understand what role we want our police to fulfill in society we will be able to determine the type and model of policing that will be supported by a specific community. The following are three such models of community policing:

Crime Prevention and Peace Preservation Policing:

Lambert (1984) indicated that if the main task of the police is to prevent crimes and preserve the peace then the police must secure the active cooperation of the community. This model also includes the involvement of the community in monitoring and controlling police activities.

Communications Policing:

Ericson et al (1993:41) stated that "community policing is best understood as the policing of communications about risk and security in late modern society." They further argued that the police went through various stages and models in the past: Militarism (order maintenance); Legalism (law officers); Professionalism (public servants); and Communitarianism (community agents). In this last model police should be agents of consensus by making communities cooperative and bearers of a sense of tradition. This could be achieved through interaction with community members so that they can provide for their own security.

Community Building Policing:

Alderson (1979:239) proposed that police should take "social as opposed to legal action" as part of community policing. "Police will need to penetrate the community in all its aspects and develop personal relationships at beat level" (1979:194). Since communities are organic and changing, flexibility is needed. He felt that the police must help to build communities and that "some shape must be given to its obligations" (Alderson, 1979:194). Since a common good is important for a community, he supported multi-agency involvement in his social engineering approach. Kelling and Stewart (1989:9) supported this and stated: "To respond appropriately police must view their role in neighborhoods as a means of re-establishing the neighboring relationships and strengthening the institutions that make a community competent and able to deal with its problems."


The following projects and programs have achieved various levels of success:

  1. Wycoff and Skogan (1993) wrote about the implementation and impact of community policing in Madison, Wisconsin. They found that it was possible for a traditional police department to change and for officers and the community to benefit from improved attitudes.

  2. McElroy et al (1993) evaluated the Community Patrol Officer Program in New York City and found many reasons for satisfaction and optimism for the future. However, they also found some shortcomings in implementation, community involvement, and command support.

  3. The United States National Institute of Justice (1992) reported the results of the community policing partnership in Seattle, Washington. They claimed success since crime statistics showed a dramatic improvement in the quality of life of citizens.

  4. Bayley (1989) evaluated community policing in Singapore and stated that through it operations in Singapore have become more adaptive and rational. He saw it as a "model" that would serve other police organizations well and called it "one of the most far-reaching examples of police reform in the world today" (Bayley, 1989:31).

  5. A community policing pilot project that started in 1993 in Chicago as a field test was evaluated after two years. The findings were very encouraging. It was found that perceived crime problems had decreased significantly, robbery and auto theft declined, residents had more positive attitudes towards the police and police supervisors involved in the study were more optimistic than their counterparts about the impact of community policing. (US National Institute of Justice, 1995)

  6. Various other related projects and programs were reviewed by Eck and Spelman (1993), Kelling et al (1991), Lavrakas (1986), Pate (1986), Skogan and Wycoff (1986), Trojanowicz (1986), and Yin (1986). Some of these were not full-scale and comprehensive community policing programs and some of them had little or no effect. However, research designs that failed to test the resulting effectiveness have been blamed as problematic in those cases.


Various authors stressed the need for community policing because the police alone cannot prevent crimes (Skolnick and Bayley, 1991; Bayley, 1994; US Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994) and the future of police work is dependent upon public cooperation (Greene, 1993a; Trojanowicz, 1994). Wilson and Kelling (1993) referred to the "Broken Windows" idea. Once a neighborhood is decaying, it will attract more crime if nobody does anything to prevent the decay and show that people do care. Moore (1994:285) noted that community policing has become so popular that, if police executives are slow to embrace them, communities will force the ideas upon them. In his submission to Lord Scarman's Inquiry, Alderson (1981:vii) stated that "Community policing provides the roots for the sound growth of healthy policing." Schaffer (1980:85) noted that officers who are involved in the community create an opportunity to make the traditional role of police more effective, especially if there is full cooperation within the police force itself. As former Chief of Police of Houston and New York, Brown (1992:3) believed that "in order to make a difference and to get a handle on violence or any other serious problem in the community, the police must form working partnerships within the community." Radelet and Carter (1994:75) stated that "The concept does provide a logical, comprehensive approach to police service delivery that relies on a solid foundation of research."

Although many critics claimed the opposite, Kelling et al (1988) stated that with community policing the operations and activities of the police are more visible to the public, with more public accountability. Gramckow and Jacoby (1993:30) concluded that community policing is a good strategy to address the concerns and problems of communities, because it is decentralized, proactive, and deals with crime prevention and the fear of crime. Horowitz (1995:87) wrote that "To rid poor urban neighborhoods of their criminal element, public officials at all levels must encourage the creation of new relationships between low-income resident organizations and local police forces." Sparrow (1988:1) felt that the community policing concept "perceives the community as an agent and partner in promoting security rather than as a passive audience."

Cutcliffe (1994:14) believed that good traffic control programs in residential neighborhoods help citizens to understand that the police are trying to improve their quality of life and that should bring communities and the police together. Baker (1995:7) advocated the use of horses by mounted officers to satisfy the curiosity of children, because "Strong, positive relationships between children and police officers often grow into similarly positive relationships between adults and police officers." Meese (1993:10) felt that since officers will become problem solvers, decisions makers, and innovators, their own quality of life and job satisfaction will increase. Research evidence from police departments where community policing activities were implemented indicated that it "has not led to increased problems of corruption or misbehavior" as some critics predicted, or as others are still claiming will happen (Kelling, 1988:7). Alpert and Dunham (1993:450) concluded: "If Sir Robert Peel were to look down upon the proposals, it is very likely that he would strongly approve of the return to his original concept of policing the community."


In determining how successful a new program or scheme is, we need to know how to measure the criteria for success. There are critics (Weatheritt, 1983; McDonald, 1993; Joseph, 1994) who claimed that in the case of community policing it will be very difficult to completely evaluate its effectiveness. Weatheritt (1983) also noted that very little research evidence is available to prove that community policing worked in the terms in which it is defined. Walker (1993) felt that police history has been wrongly interpreted and that it will be a very difficult task to create this totally new form of policing, since nothing like it really existed in the past. Bittner (1991:46) mentioned the fact that police are regarded as crime fighters and therefore always had to justify anything other than law enforcement activities. Many of their other activities were regarded as "nuisance demands" for service. Bennett (1994:243) indicated that not all police departments and officers in Britain have made community policing part of their occupational culture and that research results about some of the programs are disappointing.

The report adopted by the Greater London Council (1982) referred to the fact that community policing is more complex than merely putting more police officers on the street. They also noted that the community will have to become involved in the policy of the police in handling local problems before it can work. Greene (1993b:86) noted that one of the strategic issues that was not resolved yet is the effort towards community renewal and what the police role should be. Since most crimes and disorders occur in communities where social control has failed, he wondered how police will be able "to rekindle that informal social control in community settings." Many authors warned about the education and training needs of community police officers and management personnel. Springer (1994:11) called for "specialized instruction" in community policing and "periodic safety and survival training." The former Attorney General of the USA, Edwin Meese III, suggested that additional training is needed for community police officers, including basic training for new recruits and the retraining of veteran officers in this new philosophy (Meese, 1993:6). Brown and Iles (1985:31) suggested that community constables be equipped with the skills for the job through appropriate training.

Sparrow (1988:7) warned that police chiefs, when introducing community policing, could expect substantial resistance, especially from the detective branch. Detectives often believe that their crime investigation activities are more important than the crime prevention duties of a patrol officer. Kelling and Bratton (1993:9) noted that although there is evidence that police middle management often resisted changes in the past, we should use their creativity to implement community policing to the benefit of all. There also seem to be problems with rank- and-file police officers in that studies show that they sometimes do not understand what the goals and potential benefits of community policing are. (Kratcoski and Noonan, 1995:183) This was also the biggest problem experienced by Beavers (1996) in his effort to motivate the street officers to get involved with community policing. Bennett (1993:140) concluded that in any future implementations the problem of implementation failure and the resistance from lower ranking officers must be addressed. New arrangements should also be devised to involve the public more in the process, since research indicates that they do not always make use of such an opportunity.


In questioning community policing, Weatheritt (1983) thought that it might not be realistic to set objectives for the police and then to expect the police to establish schemes to meet those objectives. Waddington (1984:84) stated that "The largely uncritical acceptance with which this notion has been welcomed is itself a danger. Any proposal, however attractive, should be subjected to careful and skeptical scrutiny." He further noted that since order could only be maintained by a community itself, the police alone cannot do it. Although the police officers need the consent of citizens to be effective, in many instances that consent is not given. He thought that if the police then change back to law enforcement to get the job done, then the community will feel that community policing was abandoned. Waddington (1984:91) felt that community policing was nothing more than a restoration of the "bobby on the beat" concept of policing, because it was less impersonal than the officer "flashing past" in a police car. Waddington (1984) concluded that community policing was a "romantic delusion" because it was not based on "the world we have lost" as some supporters are claiming. According to him, there was never a time when the police officer was everyone's friend, and there will never be such a time in the future.

Short (1983:80) was afraid that, if the police get involved in community development, it would pose "serious questions of political accountability." She went further to explain that to pretend that police neutrality will uncover simple remedies or solutions for "disadvantage and inequality" is either a "naive delusion" or "implies an expansion of the political powers of the police which carries dangerous implications" (Short, 1983:80). McDonald (1993:153) warned that "Without better internal guidance the initiative is like a dangerous weapon launched in a general direction but capable of going astray." He concluded (1993:165) that "community policing is an ill-defined and internally contradictory vision that would sacrifice legality, liberty, and efficiency for democracy and order." It seems that McDonald (1993) did not support democracy as the preferred form of government and did not care for law and order in communities, as the majority of law abiding citizens hopefully do. One also wonders which version of community policing McDonald (1993:165) referred to when he wrote "Community policing does not enhance the rule of law and, in some versions, may well subvert it." Mastrofski (1988:61) claimed that "Justifying police and what they do has always been problematic in democracies". If there was a democracy where no crimes are committed then we would not need any police. However, as long as crime is on the increase it seems that law abiding citizens will have enough reasons to justify the need for police in their country and communities.

Klockars (1988) argued that the police forces do not really want to make any changes to their behavior and are using community policing to gain legitimacy. Eck (1993:73) felt that community policing will not reduce the tension between the police and the public, but "At best they will make police actions more acceptable to the public, even if due process is violated." To overcome some of this, Mastrofski and Greene (1993:99) suggested that "the impetus for community participation must be sustained more by the community's continuing commitment to achieve it than by police willingness to try it." They also stated that if community policing was something more than just rhetoric, then the police would not implement it. Weatheritt (1988:174) wrote that community policing fails to address the problems of practical and constitutional limits to police actions and that the concept is seductive to the public only because it is vague.

Bayley (1988:225) stated: "It is probably fair to say that community policing in 1988 is more rhetoric than reality." Buerger (1993:121) contended: "Reinventing the police is all but impossible; the police rank-and-file energetically defend their prerogatives. Reinventing the community is almost as difficult; the most that can be done is to redefine it in symbolic terms." Alexander (1995:93) claimed that community policing programs give very little real power to the community. He also argued that "the programs have seldom served as a handle for real reform of brutal police departments and are in most cases cosmetic at best." Manning (1988:40) claimed: "Community policing is no different from other police strategies aimed at shaping and manipulating public opinion." Since the police control all information about crime and disorder, he believed that they use rhetoric in "political dramas" to manage impressions of their power and efficacy. Wycoff (1988:116) presented the possibility that once the police and the members of the public work together too closely, there could be an increase in police corruption.

Critics also point to the failure of some patrol experiments to reduce the crime rate and use the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment (Kelling et al, 1991) and the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment (Pate, 1986) as their prime examples. However, it should be noted that these experiments were limited to patrol activities alone and cannot honestly be described as failed community policing projects. Greene and Taylor (1988) claimed that the numerous design and analytical shortcomings of these studies indicated the poor theory on which they were based. Klockars (1988:247) added to that by saying that Skolnick and Bayley (1991) did not have any critical reservations as to the capacities and limits of community policing. "Police can no more create communities or solve the problems of urban anomie than they can be legalized into agents of the courts or depoliticized into pure professionals" (Klockars, 1988:257).


Ericson et al (1993:43) felt that "Critical analysts typically read the models of social institutions as ideologies and forms of rhetoric that are separate from reality." This is especially true in the case of community policing and these critics pretend that rhetoric and reality are mutually exclusive, or in some form of opposition with one another. Bobinsky (1994:19) claimed that as a law enforcement officer he was cautious and skeptical at first because he did not want to become "a social worker with a badge." However, after seeing that "A more involved community translates into a community more willing to participate with its police department," Bobinsky (1994:19) became convinced of its value. Too many critics have the tendency to dismiss, as worthless, any community policing ideas that do not have an immediate effect (Schaffer, 1980). However, Lambert (1984:78) reminded us that the effectiveness of the police is largely determined by external factors. These include the nature of the laws the police must enforce and the support and involvement of the public. Bryett and Harrison (1993:146) also noted that "It seems that society will only too readily divest itself of responsibility for its own shortcomings by just as readily blaming the most obvious, tangible manifestation of authority, the police." However, Reiner (1994:709) indicated that police efficiency and legal and community accountability should not be seen as contradictory terms, but rather as inextricably interdependent.

Friedmann (1992:2) wrote that much of the resistance against community policing is rationalized on the basis of high cost and on effectiveness and efficiency issues. However, he stated that the long term benefits might offset the start-up costs and pointed out that not even the critics are sure how to measure police effectiveness accurately. Miller and Hess (1994:383) noted that some simple and very basic services that police departments might provide for the community cost very little and require limited personnel. Regarding the cost involved, Inkster (1992:31) pointed out that because of "Budget reductions and present economic conditions" we should be persuaded "of the sense of the community policing approach." Brown (1989:10) agreed and stated: "Experience has shown that community policing as a dominant policing style is a better, more effective, and more cost-effective means of using police resources." Kirby (see Peak, 1993:160) also argued that community members can become a valuable and free resource to assist the police in crime prevention.

Different from what critics claim, community policing "eliminates law enforcement's adversarial relationships with law-abiding citizens" (Cox, 1992:4). Vernon and Lasley (1992:21) found that in inner-city neighborhoods with much crime and deep-rooted anxieties, community policing could "unfreeze" perceptual gaps between police and citizens. Community policing can even help renters in multi-housing projects to "feel 'pride of ownership' towards their communities" (Zehring, 1994:12). According to Tyre and Braunstein (1994:14) the use of civilian review boards will help to satisfy citizens' expectations of sensitivity and accountability from law enforcement. Community policing can have a positive influence on the way police officers use their discretion while enforcing the law. During a study in Richmond, Virginia, to determine the patterns of police discretion it was found that officers who were favorable to the community policing concept made fewer arrests than other officers. It was also shown that these officers made their arrests based on and guided by legal considerations and that they made less discriminatory based decisions. (US National Institute of Justice, 1996)

Schaffer (1980:84) argued that to break bad habits is a slow and expensive procedure and that positive changes cannot be expected overnight. McDowell (1993:211) stated that community policing represents a radical departure in the philosophy of policing, and therefore critics must note that such a shift in organizational values is difficult and time consuming to implement. Trojanowicz (1992:12) reminded critics that he, as one of the big proposers of the concept, understood that community policing "is not an overnight miracle cure or quick fix, even if it may make dramatic and immediate improvements." Brown and Iles (1985:35) noted that to make the changes as suggested in their report the attitudes to community policing will have to change. However, these changes will have to come from both within and outside of the police force and that will not be an easy task.


Friedmann (1992) suggested that we should bridge the gap between those supporters who see community policing as the cure for everything and those "over-zealous" detractors who do not even want to give it a chance. Alderson (1981) noted that community policing should not be regarded as a substitute for all other needed forms of policing, but rather as a complementary strategy. The key to the concept is to decentralize the operations of the police as much as possible and take it into the community, in the form of substations in neighborhoods, storefronts in the business districts, and even in malls. Eck and Rosenbaum (1994:5) considered the literature and concluded:

Organizing the diverse views on community policing into a coherent whole is a daunting and possibly futile task. So much has been said by so many police officials, policy analysts, researchers, and theoreticians that one sometimes wonders if they are talking about the same thing. So many claims have been made about community policing - with and without evidence - that one wonders if it is possible for community policing to deliver on all or even most of them.

Some of the criticism against community policing is based on the practical issues of implementation, ensuring public involvement, financial implications, and measurement of the possible successes. Most of these "milder" critics do see something good in the concept of community policing. However, the "harsh" critics not only fail to see any good intentions, but rather refer to these police efforts as if they are conspiracies to infiltrate the community, for generating more political power for the police, and to do their "dirty little deeds" with the blessing of parts of the community. It is interesting to note that they do not suggest more practical ideas for solving the crime problems in our communities. These people criticize the police for not being willing to change, but they themselves do not want to try something new for fear of the unknown, or because they just do not want any authority controlling public law and order. By taking a sufficiently critical but open minded approach, we might be able to implement community policing in those areas where it is most appropriate and needed. As we practice community policing we should strive to improve it every day. Society is dynamic; therefore, police officers should also be willing and ready to tailor their responses to crime and their interactions with the public to accommodate changes in communities.

To be effective community policing needs a democratic environment to flourish in. This can only happen if the community and the police form a partnership of equality. They must also learn to trust each other with the understanding that whatever the one does will also be in the best interest of the other. The wounds caused by questionable police involvement in government suppression of the citizens of former non-democratic societies would be healed the fastest if community policing becomes a reality based on trust and cooperation. Only then will the police be able to truly serve and protect those model citizens who strive to obey the laws their own democracy creates.

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