U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2011
20 pages

This paper from the Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management examines the return to the core ideas of police professionalism.


The article examines the shift in thinking by policymakers and law enforcement professionals regarding the fundamental mindset that governs today's policing practices. The police professionalism of the 1960s led to changes in police methods and brought about the idea of community policing, promoted heavily through funding from the Federal Government in the 1990s. Since that time, however, Federal support for community policy has declined, pushed aside for new approaches such as intelligence-led policing and predictive policing. This article begins with a discussion of these new approaches to policing and examines the ways that they constitute a return to the ideal of police professionalism. The second section of the article discusses reasons for why police professionalism seems to be reappearing, while the third portion of the article cautions that despite changes to the ideal of police professionalism from the 1960s and 1970s, reasons still exist for why police departments should not rush their return to that mindset. The final section of the paper discusses why community policing may still be the better approach for policymakers and law enforcement executives to pursue in today's world of policing.

Date Published: March 1, 2011