Police-Community Relations: Importance & Comparisons

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  • 0:00 Police-Community Relations
  • 1:12 Transparency
  • 2:00 Changing Police Priorities
  • 2:58 Accountability
  • 4:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The relationship between police and citizens in a community drastically affects the effectiveness of law enforcement. Explore this relationship, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Police-Community Relations

This community is a nice place to live, and as far as communities go, it's pretty average. Average income, average levels of education, average amount of crime. But, this community has a big problem. The citizens of the community and the police don't get along at all. The people don't trust the police to be fair and impartial, and the police feel threatened by the citizens. Things are getting tense.

One of the fundamental keys to successful law enforcement is good police-community relations, or the relationship between the police and the communities they serve. Good police-community relations are imperative for developing trust between police and citizens. Without this trust, police work becomes much less effective. Even if the police officers are preventing crime, the people may not feel safe because there is no trust. Other times, officers are fighting an uphill battle trying to get communities to work with them to fight crime. So, this community needs some help improving police-community relations. Let's see what we can do.


Let's start by introducing a few strategies that can improve community-police relations. Research has consistently shown that few things help build up trust as much as transparency, the visibility of and access to police business. Basically, the people need to know what the police are up to, and efforts to make this information more accessible goes a long way. Publishing police reports and other public documents on the department website, establishing an obvious physical presence, and holding open-forum community discussions all help to increase the transparency of the police department. When people feel like they know what the police are up to, it is much, much easier to develop trust between these two groups.

Changing Police Priorities

Recent research into community-police relations has also noted that some of the tensions between citizens and officers come from the pressure the police feel to make arrests. In fact, for many years, police success in many areas was measured purely in terms of arrest statistics. How many arrests were made per month? How high-profile were these arrests? Were they misdemeanors or felonies? How many resulted in conviction? Police officers were evaluated exclusively by these numbers, which put a lot of pressure on them to make arrests. With so much focus on this aspect of policing, other important aspects, like the day-to-day actions of helping the community, were neglected. Removing the pressure to reach some sort of arrest quota gives officers the ability to balance crime investigation and the time needed to become part of the actual community.

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