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Evolving Strategy of Policing

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages

The history of policing can be divided into three different eras distinguished by their strategies: the political era of close police-politics ties from the 1840's to the 1900's; the reform era, a reaction to the political era that took hold in the 1930's, thrived during the 1950's and 1960's, and began to erode in the 1970's; and the currently emerging era that emphasizes community problemsolving.


These eras differ in the sources from which they derived their legitimacy, the definition of the police function, the organizational design of police departments, and the relationships police created with their external environment. They also differ with respect to the nature of police efforts to market or manage demand for their services, principal activities and tactics used to achieve operational success, and the concrete measures used to define operational success or failure. Hitherto, policing has followed a trend that encourages the pursuit of independent, professional autonomy for police departments. This strategy must be reconsidered in the light of ongoing professional experience and changing environmental circumstances. The emergence of a decentralized, problemsolving approach that involves police in partnerships with the community provides a means for police to achieve their maximum potential and create civil communities. 46 notes.

Date Published: January 1, 1988