Supervisor emerging from specialty investigations see crime as an isolated incident. When investigators arrive at a scene, the chaos is gone, witnesses and victims are separated, and the suspect is in custody. The investigator methodically interview victims, witnesses, and interrogate suspects. Next, the scene is processed and physical evidence is gathered to make the case.
What the investigator does not see is the chaos that exists in the community prior to his or her arrival because patrol has contained the scene. The investigator is not aware of the drug dealer controlling the streets, or the gang members threatening and intimidating residents in the neighborhood. He or she does not know who the prominent players in the community are, and the issues relating to blight and disorder. The investigator may not know the witnesses, victims, and suspects are interrelated, and the crimes committed are ongoing battles between groups vying for control and domination; all they see is a suspect, victim, and witnesses.
Supervisors emerging from a patrol background have knowledge of the community and the issues that contribute to disorder and violence. The patrol supervisor is aware of the drug and alcohol abuse, criminal records of the players, family histories contributing to the disorder, and the socioeconomic factors, which contribute to actions and eventually outcomes. The patrol supervisor realizes the issues are more than differences between the victim and suspect; it is the environment in which the victim and suspect exist. The patrol supervisor realizes that to change behavior, you must change the environment, whereas, the investigator just wants to close the case and move onto the next case - a micro point of view.
Changing environments changes behavior. Changing environments requires community involvement and intervention. Apathy is born of unresolved conflict and it is our duty to redress those conditions that nurture crime and disorder and decisively deal with those conditions. Communities operating from within a survival mentality can never change. It is only when the community becomes safe that change can occur. This is the function of law enforcement. Law enforcement is but a small piece in the process of change, but it is the most integral part. People do not change unless they feel comfortable and safe enough to address those social problems that contribute to dysfunction. Removing crime and disorder is the means to revitalization and restoration, not the end. When the community observes the removal of crime and disorder, they will experience hope; hope that change is possible. Otherwise, if crime and disorder remains, the community resorts to what has worked for years, survival.
Precincts are change agents for communities in regard to removal of crime and disorder; however, the community is the change agent for community restoration and revitalization. Law enforcement and city resources are ethically obligated to facilitate processes for the community in creating change for itself, but change can only occur in the community when the residents combine their forces toward a better tomorrow. We help them help themselves.
As precinct commander in Maryvale Precinct, Phoenix, Arizona my team worked continuously with faith-based organizations, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Weed and Seed, neighborhood associations, too many to list because we were aware it takes a village to create change and sustain change. Sustainability derives from a combined group effort in which the driving force is a shared vision embraced by all stakeholders to achieve a goal, which in this situation is revitalization and restoration. The beauty of a shared vision is that all members of the community benefit from the fruits of their labor.
Today is the day we begin to seriously consider the mapping of our future by analyzing the topography of current affairs. Values are not legislated; they are absorbed by families as they are modeled by leaders. No person is an island to themselves; they are an integral part of the organism we call society. Every member of this organism is vital to the future growth, development, and maturation of our society.
Today we must choose to become interdependent and live our lives for the enrichment of our communities. Today is the day we choose to be a better person, a better parent, a better neighbor, a better citizen. Crime and disorder is not a police problem, it is a problem that can only be addressed by the people of community.
Changing lives and community is not a police function, but police are an integral element to change. Committed to aligning our goals and strategies with faith-based organizations, community groups, drug and alcohol treatment centers, educational institutions, and recreational centers will promote positive change for community. We must remember that the majority of crime is the result of a broken down social environment and that crime suppression programs are only a small ingredient in bringing social change to any geographical location. With this in mind, we as the Police Department must realize that to bring about real change within any environment we must include those social services and community programs that provide a positive alternative from the targeted behavior we are attempting to suppress.
B.S., M.Ed., Doctoral Candidate, Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership