Working with the community also means utilizing discretion and taking reasonable actions when dealing with the public. Officers who are familiar with the residents of the development where they work may be more inclined to return juveniles to their parents if they are engaged in minor, nuisance activity, such as breaking housing authority rules against riding bicycles on the grass, staying in the park after the posted closing hours, or other minor infractions. Parents appreciate the discretion the officer exercises, and the rewards of appealing to the resident’s sense of empowerment in maintaining order and control in their living environment becomes tangible. A parent’s reprimand may do the child offender more justice than a juvenile report filed at the precinct. Residents who return home from work on a hot, summer evening and sit outside with an open container of beer may be better served with a request to conceal the container or to drink indoors rather than face a fine. An officer knows that any action he takes can escalate to an arrest in spite of his best intentions, but an experienced community police officer applies his discretion based on his knowledge and experience with the people her serves.
Officers operating under the community police model will investigate criminal activity to a wider extent than officers on routine patrol. If there is a suspected gambling location on his beat, drug sales, or other persistent illegal enterprises, the officer may call upon other specialized units at the precinct level or within the department after performing observations and preparing reports. In addition, the officer may be the source of intelligence for outside agencies who wish to execute a warrant or arrest a suspect. On different occasions, my partners and I reported our findings to the Organized Crime Control Bureau, detective units, and other narcotics units. Also, I provided detailed information to Postal Inspectors given to me by a member of the community who trusted me because of my history of fairness and effective policing in his community. Special Agents of the Secret Service visited out Police Service Area satellite to consult with us concerning a suspect who threatened former President Bill Clinton’s life. Because the officers I worked with and I knew the suspect and where he lived, he was arrested without incident by the Secret Service, and with Housing Police present at the scene. On numerous occasions, when responding to nine-one-one initiated calls for police assistance, we would knock on a resident’s door, and when the occupant asked who is was, we’d answer “It’s the police.” The follow-up question was almost always, “Are you Housing?” Then, we would respond with a reassuring, “Yes.”
The methods of community policing employed by the former, New York City Police Department, briefly outlined here are still utilized by the NYPD’s Housing Bureau created in 1995 after the merger of the Housing Police into the NYPD. While relationships between the police and the community can often times be strained or contentious, community policing, as exemplified by the NYPD’s Housing Bureau and the other housing police departments in cities across the nation, remains an effective and enduring model of policing.
End of Series
About the Author: Michael J. Kannengieser is the author of the police thriller, The Daddy Rock. He is a retired New York City police officer who lives on Long Island with his wife and two children. Michael worked as the Managing Editor for Fiction at The View from Here magazine, a U.K. based literary publication. Currently, he is employed at a performing arts college as an Instructional Technology Administrator. He has been published at The View from Here, and in Newsday, a Long Island newspaper. Michael is a contributor to Criminal Justice News. Click Here to buy a copy of Michael J. Kannengieser's new novel "The Daddy Rock."