Is collaborative policing possible in the cowboy, gun-toting wild west?

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 28 August 2016 8:20 PM CAT

In most developed nations, if asked as to who is responsible for public safety, the answer would, of course, be the police. In South Africa, I would guess that many would answer that it’s a combination of police and private security companies. So the question that emerges is as follows; ‘is leaving public safety entirely to the police a mistake?’


There is growing opinion around public safety problems and more effective policing that talks to the fact that law enforcement alone, and police alone, will not effectively address most public safety problems. This is not in reference to our local problems in South Africa, which are possibly more around poor management from a national government level.

So let’s think more globally. Police have a strong and important role to play, but so do others in local government, other government agencies, non-government organisations, the business community, and the general community. Local government has the ability to build a collaborative environment around local policing and although many people think only of the police, firefighters, and emergency medical services as public safety agencies, in fact, nearly every local government department plays some important role in promoting public safety.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of community policing with a focus on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police service. Community policing requires that police and citizens create partnerships.

Collaborative policing is, in essence, a more complex and deeper form of community policing, with a focus on areas where more inclusion is possible, where transparency in enhanced and where beneficial relationships are created through bridge building.

In researching material for this blog, I read an article in the Huffington Post where the author states “Those of us who want to uproot the racist roots of Broken Windows here in New York and abroad should explicitly reject ‘community policing’. “ Without real insights into the apparent classism and racism that has prevailed here, the comment does spark one thought and that thought is that collaborative policing is not possible unless departments are willing to implement radical shifts in thinking.

Is the mandate of police to contribute to safe environments and to protect vulnerable citizens, and when we speak of contribution, how does that become collaborative? I have a sense that in many countries, police are not the contributors to safe environments, but the gun-swinging cowboys that enforce the law in extreme ways. Sadly this kind of police force is a far from collaborative policing as earth is from mars.

So while the world changes, while collaboration seeps into many parts of society, those tasked to protect that society, appear light years away from collaboration.

Janice Scheckter is a collaboration activist, in love with the City of Joburg, crimes stats and all, and the eternal optimist that local government will grasp the Collaborative ERA with both hands.


The Huffington Post

The Epoch Times


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