THE EDITOR: The Commissioner of Police has started off on the right foot. He has rallied his troops to successfully retrieve Mrs Pollonais, who was kidnapped. To use his words she was successfully "extracted." He has dealt with promotions both in the First Division and the Second Division. He has commenced handling the backlog of applications for firearm users licences. I would like Mr Griffith to now train his attention, sooner than later, on community policing.
The CoP will be aware that community policing is an approach to policing that recognises the independence and shared responsibility of the police and the community in ensuring a safe and secure environment for all citizens. I'm certain he knows community policing aims at establishing an active and equal partnership between the police and the public through which crime and community safety issues can jointly be discussed and solutions determined and implemented.
The CoP will be acutely aware that the police cannot effectively deal with crime alone as a consequence they must partner with others who share a mutual responsibility for resolving problems. Community policing stresses prevention, early identification, and timely intervention to deal with issues before they become serious problems. Officers must be encouraged to spend considerable time and effort in developing and maintaining personnel relationships with citizens, businesses, schools and community organisations.
Community policing means police become part of the neighbourhood. This helps police get a better sense of residents’ needs and helps residents to develop greater trust in the police. Community policing helps build up and strengthen the community. It also links the police and the community together. The partnership that develops over time can ultimately help the police find the underlying causes of crime within the neighbourhood. By getting the community involved the police have more resources available to them to help in crime prevention. By familiarising themselves with the members of the community officers are more likely to obtain valuable information about criminals and their activities. Also they are more likely to obtain a reliable evaluation of the needs of citizens and their expectations of the police.
One of the main advantages to community policing is that it reduces fear in the community. With an increase in police presence in the neighbourhood the residents feel more secure. This feeling of security helps the police establish trust within the community. In order to make a difference and to get a handle on violence or any serious problem in the community, the police must form working relationships within the community.
The community policing approach is not an encouragement for members of the community to take the law into their hands. Vigilantism is discouraged, however, community members can volunteer information on suspicious characters or activities. Police depend on information to act. community policing creates an understanding between the police and the community about their role in crime prevention. It can form community policing victim support centres. It speeds up the improvement of street lighting to reduce crime. It can give special attention to vulnerable groups who are most likely to become victims eg the elderly, women and children.
Community policing may not be the cure for everything and should not be regarded as a substitute for all other needed forms of policing but rather it must be seen as a positive complementary strategy. The key to the concept is to decentralise the operations of the police as much as possible and take it into the community in the form of substations in neighbourhoods. So Mr CoP desist from responding to every critic since your "plate is full." I am confident you have the capacity, more so with the support awaiting you in the communities.
Cuthbert Sandy, Point Fortin