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Community Policing, Community Justice, and Restorative Justice: Exploring the Links for the Delivery of a Balanced Approach to Public Safety

Nicholl, Caroline G
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Community policing has become a significant feature of modern policing, yet its meaning and implementation vary depending on where you are and with whom you speak. The future of community policing could be vulnerable to any sudden increase in the crime rate (provoking a renewed emphasis on the traditional model of professional policing) or the removal of funding support.

Although there may be disagreement on how far community policing has come, and its fragility, one thing is clear: the challenges of the 21st century—violence, intercultural conflict, social and economic injustice, resource shortages, substance abuse—require us to think broadly and even more creatively about the future. To begin breathing life into a new vision for sustaining and advancing positive change, policing needs to be examined in light of (1) how crime is defined, and (2) its tie to a justice system that frustrates victims, alienates whole communities, and fuels skyrocketing financial and moral costs of punishment. Current developments in community and restorative justice are helping to shape ideas and thinking about what policing and the administration of justice could look like in the year 2019. Twenty years is probably about right to achieve more widespread understanding that current problems and paradoxes are often of our own making—and to learn that the methods we are using to offer protection and safety are reinforcing divisions in society, thus exacerbating the conditions that promote crime, fear, and disorder.

The emerging paradigm of restorative justice might seem so alien, so naive, and so impractical that we miss the opportunity for a fundamental reappraisal of the values on which policing and justice should be founded. But starting with small changes, as suggested in this report, can make an enormous difference in how we think, speak, practice, and promote the meaning of community policing.


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