International Community Policing

Among key principles espoused by community policing (CP) several come to mind when considering international community policing (ICP): Interagency cooperation and partnerships building. Most practitioners and scholars emphasize the importance of building relations with the community to focus on crime-causing conditions so as to minimize the likelihood of crime production.  By utilizing a proactive approach agencies can also focus on organizational development, interagency collaboration and the enhancement of police professionalism.

Yet, an aspect that does not get enough attention is police organizational development. One way to enhance police professionalism is through interagency interaction that aims to exchange information, methods, techniques, know-how, best practices, sources of excellence and ways to improve police services and public safety. Perhaps there is no better platform for ICP than that provided by the IACP.  This 120 years old organization offers structured opportunities for interaction, learning, exchange of valuable information, networking, introduction of new technology and shaping and influencing law enforcement related policy and legislation. In essence, the IACP offers access to and promotes best law enforcement and public safety practices.

Therefore, from the perspective of ICP it is important to look at international participation in the IACP which is largely American dominated. Agency heads from the US regularly participate in IACP annual and other conferences and there is typically participation from a number of countries around the world. If attendees from the US are numbered in the thousands, international attendees number in the hundreds. The distance, cost, value-sought, climate of international cooperation could all independently or together hamper participation.  Even if seen as important, cost, distance and other technical factors are often prohibitive not only for regular participation but even the occasional one.

I would like to focus on one example, the Israel Police (IP). For a number of years (probably the last 20 or so) the IP has sent its attaché in the U.S. to attend IACP conferences. In 2006 the Israel Minister of Internal Security, Avi Dichter, attended and addressed the IACP and also signed cooperative agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  In 2013 it was the first time that a commissioner of the Israel Police addressed the IACP and Lt. General Yochanan Danino had an opportunity to present his “Turnaround Plan” that is aimed at increasing the public’s sense of safety and enhancing the level of trust the public has in the police. A key element of this plan is an approach called community-based policing which combines enforcement with preventive measures. See RAND report: Effective Policing for 21st-Century Israel which offered enhancements to the Turnaround Plan.

The IP has been known for years to excel in areas of homeland security and counter terrorism measures. The IP’s YAMAM, bomb disposal units and other special forces have acquired world-wide reputation.  Yet, despite this excellence, most members of the public were frustrated with what they perceived as insufficient attention they received in the areas of "traditional" crime. Low clearance rates on property offenses, increasing violence and other troubling offenses made the police realize that excelling in the areas of counter terrorism is necessary and important but also insufficient.  Police realized that a balance is needed between special services such as counter terrorism and “traditional” service such as handling crimes against the person and against property. This is the backdrop against which Danino’s Turnaround Plan has emerged.  He presented it to foreign delegations visiting Israel and at international conferences. Independent surveys have provided data driven confirmation that the public’s sense of security and its trust in the police have increased.

Indeed, the IP has always encouraged international inter-agency cooperation in many areas of policing. For the first time in its history, the Israel Police became a finalist in the 2012 IACP-Cisco community policing award with the Rishon LeZiyon entry.  In addition to exchanges in the areas of counter-terrorism (special forces, bomb disposal), crime laboratory, and other areas, the IP is now collaborating with the Atlanta Police Department on developing the future cadre of police leaders by exchanging leadership training principles, expert instructors, and command staff.

Law enforcement agencies are no longer an isolated island. In order to remain on the cutting edge of development it is in the interest of law enforcement agencies to enhance and increase inter-agency collaboration and the IP understands the importance of ICP and is committed to international cooperation.  As much as it can learn from sister agencies it also has a great deal to offer.  All this does not minimize the gravity of the challenges facing the IP (or for that matter, many police forces) but adhering to ICP can make a real difference in improving police services locally and internationally alike.

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