Across America law enforcement agencies have implemented Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solv­ing, hereafter referred to as COPPS, a new name for an old method of policing some still refer to as "professionalism." Today, COPPS has formal guidelines and is backed by the federal government through specific grants.

Agencies may obtain partial funding for COPPS to hire new police officers or hire civilians to fill non-sworn assignments, thus allowing sworn officers to be redeployed to the street where they are needed.

COPPS can generally be described as the reunification of the police and the com­munity they serve. COPPS is meant to be a partnership, a shared responsibility based on trust, to reduce crime, violence and fear in our neighborhoods. To many, it is the changing of policing in America.

Community oriented policing as a concept even became an official part of the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which outlined as a goal, the funding to hire 100,000 officers over a six-year period.

COPPS Basics

Success stories are being reported from across the nation with achievements sup­ported by statistics of reduced crime, de­creased violence, improved government and community relationships and a de­crease in complaints against officers. Many law enforcement and government officials praise COPPS as an essential el­ement to answering many of today's prob­lems in law enforcement. As of mid-sum­mer, the U.S. Department of Justice boasts that more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies have received grants from the COPPS office to add more than 77,000 police officers and sheriffs' deputies across the country.

Misguided Dissatisfaction

Despite such strong federal backing, aggressive public relations and substan­tial support by police administrative of­ficials, there has been a growing consensus of malice towards COPPS philoso­phy and strategies. This anti-COPPS dis­position is most prevalent among street ­level police officers and frontline supervisors. COPPS has been rejected as a "politically correct" program or sim­ply a method to obtain federal money.

These sentiments, in part, are based on the fear that COPPS instruction is being squeezed into academy curricu­lum at the expense of important tactics and officer safety training.

COPPS is further charged with forc­ing police to be kinder and gentler and that this improper demeanor is the cause of officers getting hurt or killed.  COPPS is receiving recognition and acclaim as being responsible for lowering crime levels while the efforts of hard working officers go unnoticed.

Many officers dissatisfied with community policing refer to those involved with COPPS as the "hungry police" or view them as soft on crime.  They blame COPPS for draining resources and manpower away from understaffed patrol operations.  Self proclaimed "real cops" or "traditional cops", are insulted by depictions of uniformed Community Oriented Police in a park setting pushing a happy child on a swing.  They feel that this portrayal is not true to life and misrepresents the department as well as an officer's duties.

Skeptics claim COPPS IS JUST A CUTE name for what police have been doing in a variety of ways for more than 40 years. Even more militant officers say that COPPS is turning the police into social workers and the program is endorsed and controlled by politically motivated liberal executives who have personal agendas, are building resumes or are competing with the agency next door.

Keeping Focused on the Facts

While some of the criticism and ap­prehension generated by COPPS may have basis in fact, primary disapproval is rooted in confusion, misinformation and a lack of factual knowledge about COPPS and its potential. The implemen­tation and strategies of COPPS varies from city to city and should be unique within every agency. COPPS should em­bellish quality and service.

It is not meant to replace traditional policing, but to compliment it, support it and enhance it. Community policing is not designed to transform "real cops" into social workers, but to augment their capabilities and assist them to success­fully participate in productive change.

If any academy, field training officer program or in-service training, compro­mises issues of officer safety or any other mandatory training in order to teach or train about COPPS, a tremendous disser­vice has been done to the officers, their departments and the community. This sort of problem is not a consequence of COPPS itself, but the result of improper decision-making and a distorted view of priorities by the trainers involved.

Police officers who place themselves or others in jeopardy or at a tactical disadvantage, due to an overexertion of COPPS philosophy, should be corrected immediately.  Safety, control, proper tactics and preservation of life are second-to-none in law enforcement.  COPPS should not be condemned or blamed as a singular or fundamental cause of declining officer safety.

More appropriate areas in identifying the true causes of deficient tactics or conduct should include the quality of the department's selection and hiring process, academy training and curriculum, the effectiveness of field training officer programs, the probationary performance and evaluation period, the quality of supervision, and in-service training.

Officers must never allow a single philosophy or strategy of any kind to subvert safety.[PAGEBREAK]

COPPS as a Tool

COPPS is not the prima­ry cause of falling crime rates. Any official, article or training that claims this to be true, is unquestionably flawed. The application of COPPS strategies is only a tool, one of many that law enforcement can utilize to aggressively combat crime. It is the responsibility of management and adminis­tration in police agencies, when claiming a victory over crime with the imple­mentation of COPPS, to rec­ognize and praise the efforts of the street officers who made it work.

COPPS is futile without intelligent aggressive personnel to make it a suc­cess. For COPPS to be effective, the commitment of personnel must be de­partment-wide, a coordination of concept and effort by every employee.

COPPS has been blamed for taking re­sources away from areas where person­nel are desperately needed. The grant funding available from COPPS allows agencies to hire more officers. If an agency gets funding to add two posi­tions to the work force and these posi­tions are assigned as COPPS personnel, then the department has only gained and-benefited. If only two positions are funded and six officers are assigned ex­clusively to COPPS functions, then it is the agency that must be faulted for im­proper staffing, and not the implemen­tation of COPPS funding or philosophy.

Examining the Image of COPPS

Media reports, photos and city newsletters that portray happy officers holding hands with happy children in a picnic atmosphere is simply part of the public relations game. These are ways to show that the police are committed, through COPPS, to making things better. Pictures and related media of this type are simply commercials to advertise a positive message - that of a partnership between the police and the community.

Is it true to life? No. Is it a genuine representation of an officer's duties? Hardly. But this type of public relations is not exclusive to COPPS.

Similar media techniques have been used in promoting the DARE program or even when an agency wants to gain public acceptance for new equipment or programs such a motor traffic unit.

Although model-like police officers, unrealistically posed in surreal environ­ments, are used to promote specific programs or the implementation of COPPS, it is only a technique that does not affect safety, staffing and is non-detrimental to an agency or its officers.

Skeptics declare that COPPS is uno­riginal and has been practiced for many years. They will tell you that COPPS is just a catchy title to rename police work that already exists. This may be partially true; however, prior to 1994, there has never been such a huge commitment through grant funding - at the federal or any other level to support law en­forcement. The 1994 Crime Bill resulted in 8.8 billion dollars being committed to law enforcel1lent with a large portion specifically directed to COPPS.

Additionally, there is nothing inappropriate about standardizing and giving a title to a method or philosophy of ser­vice. For example, testing drunk drivers was standardized and formally called field sobriety testing.

Identifying, solving, and preventing problems to reduce cost and liability was neatly packaged with the term risk management.

Inappropriate behavior in the work­place was identified and labeled sexual harassment.

COPPS may have been practiced in varied ways over the years, but today it simply has been given an official title.

More militant officers swear that COPPS is a scam; that it is turning police into social workers and forcing them to perform functions police should not be in­volved with. They blame administrators with political aspirations or charge those who support COPPS of being liberals.

Other officers, many who have been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, dismiss COPPS as nothing more than intrusive meetings that serve no purpose. To these officers, I would ask that they educate themselves about what COPPS truly is, what it is not, its purpose and intent and the favorable re­sults already documented. At the very least, I would ask any skeptics to con­sider the substantial benefit to law en­forcement of a goal to fund 100,000 additional police officers and deputy sheriffs for our nation's streets.[PAGEBREAK]

COPPS Continually Evolving

Formal COPPS is in its infancy. Its application and practice should never be con­sidered finished. COPPS must be im­proved upon continually and be given the opportunity, through personnel, capability, and through administrative courage, to change with society. Flexibility and imag­ination are key elements. If the implementation of COPPS is problematic, if it causes friction among personnel, if it is viewed as an ineffective waste of time, or if it does not meet desired results, then change it.  Alter it.  Modify it.  Custom fit COPPS to your police department and your community until it is effective and successful.

COPPS philosophy and strategies should not be blamed for improper implementation or mistakes that are not corrected by those responsible.  COPPS' success or failure is in the hands of those who participate in it.  It has the potential to deliver sweeping success based on hard work and achievement or it can e a failure, criticized and blamed by those who find comfort in mediocrity and refuse to change for the better.

Thoughts on Community Oriented Policing

"As a retired officer with 25 years of service wit the Detroit Police Department, and now the executive director of NAPO, I've been a supporter of community oriented policing for many years.

"When I was a rookie in the late 1960's, it was a requirement that we got to know the business owners and residents in our assigned patrol area.  This assisted in establishing relationships and communication with the people in our area, and served as a resource for fighting crime.

"That all changed in my police department in the early 1970's with the advent of the 9-1-1 system.  At that point, instead of doing preventative police work, we became strictly reactive and ran from one call to the next.

"I am truly excited that management and research organizations now once again see the importance of face-to-face contact and communication with the people we are sworn to protect.  However, for community oriented policing to truly be effective, management must commit the necessary resources to keep staffing levels at 100 percent."

Robert T. Scully, Executive Director, National Organization of Police Organizations

 "Community Policing when put into action can mean many different strategies and tactics to police professionals.  There are as many options, plans ad definitions as there are opportunities to improve the way we serve our communities.

"For the Santa Ana Police Department, community policing has been a tremendously strong and long-lasting positive influence on our department's reputation and the well-being of our community.

"We have been able to reduce the Part 1 Crime by over 50 percent in the last six years, to the lowest level wince 1965, with fewer police officers than we had 12 years ago.  During this same time period, our population expanded by over 40 percent.

"Of the 100 largest cities in the nation, we have the lowest median income and the youngest median age (26)of any city in America.  What we have been able to accomplish as a team, given demographics is nothing short of a minor miracle.

"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who paved eh way in the development of community policing philosophy, for it has made a significant difference in our community and for the entire department.

"It has helped us to gain the respect and admiration of the mayor, city council and the entire community.  It is the only way to do business if you plan to be successful in dealing with the new realities of policing."[PAGEBREAK]

Paul M. Walters, Chief of Police, Santa Ana (Calif.) Police Department

 "There is no doubt that having the police officers of this nation identity and communicate with the people that they serve and protect is a big plus for all, except for the criminal element.  Community policing isn't a fad that you just adopt and all that is wonderful begins to happen.  Having a mutual trust and understanding is the foundation for any relationship, but this takes time to achieve.

"The entire police agency must understand what the goals of that agency' community policing efforts are, and all must commit to those goals if there is to be any chance for success.  The community members-both the formal and informal community leaders and the community-also need to understand what and how the police will implement the community policing program.

"The program needs to have specific direction, but there must also be room for modifying the program.  Any lack of police agency commitment will have community policing go the ay of the most recent fad.

"Community policing is also a two-edged sword.  Are warm and friendly police officers more likely to be injured or killed?  Perhaps, as evidence by some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's research that has showed a profile of murder victim police officers as being virtually ideal candidates for community policing efforts.

"We want friendly police officers in our community, but not social workers.  Community policing training may be important, but so is officer safety and survival training.  A police officer's physical safety cannot be sacrificed for the sake of any program, no matter how important the program is viewed.

"When I began my police career I was told not to get too friendly with people in the community, because I might be more open to giving special treatment to those people or to receiving gratuities.  This is a concern.  After all, isn't it easier to let a friend "Slide" for a minor infraction? If so, when does minor become major?  Receiving free tickets to the hottest sports team around may be "free" for now, but they will probably come with a price later when the giver of the free tickets has a spouse charged with drunk driving.  These issues should also be addressed through training and proper supervision."

Ed Nowicki, Police Training Specialist, POLICE Advisory Board

 "Community oriented policing should not be viewed as just another "political" solution.  Instead, it should be viewed as a law enforcement tool which can result in the very survival of our nation's domestic tranquility.

"Policing methodologies implemented in the next century will determine where we as a nation will be going insofar as our freedom is concerned.  If we fail to effectively address the crime problems we face today it is highly possible that the problems we face tomorrow will dwarf 20th-century crime and result in the erosion of our liberties and freedoms.

"Community policing has a track record of enabling the police and the people to effectively address crime problems by forging together a potent force through proactive crime fighting partnerships.

"Police officers who embrace community oriented policing will, in effect, be building a positive and productive working relationship with the people of their community and will reap benefits which will affect public safety in years to come.  Community policing is America's last hope to win the war on crime."

Sgt. Steven L. Rogers, Nutley (N.J.) Police Department, Author: 21st Century Policing

"Across the nation, the underlying philosophy of how public services are de­livered is changing dramatically because of community policing. Any institutional change requires courage, patience and persistence. But thanks to the men and women on the beat, who are building part­nerships and strategies in their cities and towns, community policing is significantly contributing to an-unprecedented reduc­tion in crime and improving the quality of life throughout America. The federal support provided has greatly enhanced the advancement of community policing. How­ever, its institutionalization - just like its origination - will be attributed to local practices and innovation. "

Joseph E. Brann, U.S. Department of Justice, COPS Director

"We have built many partnerships and solved many crime and nuisance-related problems though our community policing efforts.  

"The impact that community policing has had on our community is very evident wit reductions in crime in some of our highest crime neighborhoods and improved relations between the police and the community.

"In my eight years as a Denver Police Officer, I have noticed considerable changes in the attitudes of other police officers towards their police.  I feel that we have come a long way, as a police department, with the implementation of community policing."

Craig T. Moen, Police Officer, Denver (Colo.) Police Department

"My knowledge of the language and culture has given me an advantage in serving the community.  I patrol the area on a bicycle, on foot, or in a vehicle."

Andrew P. Ewantz III, Police Officer, New York Police Department, Beat includes nation's largest Russian Population

"It is my opinion and I am sure, the opinion of many fellow officers, that community policing has had a very positive impact on our community and our police department.  Form our top commanders, down to our line officers, community policing has become a priority.

"Across the nation, the underlying philosophy of how public services are de­livered is changing dramatically because of community policing. Any institutional change requires courage, patience and persistence. But thanks to the men and women on the beat, who are building part­nerships and strategies in their cities and towns, community policing is significantly contributing to an-unprecedented reduc­tion in crime and improving the quality of life throughout America. The federal support provided has greatly enhanced the advancement of community policing. How­ever, its institutionalization - just like its origination - will be attributed to local practices and innovation. "

Joseph E. Brann, U.S. Department of Justice, COPS Director

 "Community policing is the union be­tween law enforcement officers and the community they serve. In my opinion, community policing should be the involvement of those who protect and serve and those they serve.

"The local community leaders who take the time to become involved and make de­cisions to change their communities for the better - by taking action - make an impact to create change for the better."

Eddy Zelaya, Police Officer, Los Angeles (Calif.) Police Department

Andrew J. Borrello is an officer with the San Gabriel (Calif.) Police Department.