The Relationship Between Police & Citizen & The Role of Officers in the Community

Nowadays the aspects of the police-community relationships and the roles of the police officers for their communities, as well as for each individual member of the community, remain highly debatable and controversial. Taking into consideration the basic functions of the police officers, namely maintaining of pubic safety and effective policing, it is evident that there is a need to establish strong and positive relationships of mutual trust and support between polices agencies and their communities. Police officials need to have the chance to rely upon community members’ support in relation to obtaining additional information about crimes, cooperation for solving of crimes and disorder situations. At the same time community members could hardly be able to trust the police in case they are not sure that the representatives of the police are able to reflect the community values and are ready to adhere to the principles of justice and legitimacy. Unfortunately, the cases of use of force by police representatives and other similar issues, cause questions and debates in the communities. “Many cities in the United States experienced large – scale demonstrations and protest marches in 2014 and 2015, and in some cases, there have been riots over perceptions of police misconduct and excessive use of force. It is imperative that police agencies make improving relationships with their local communities a top priority.” (Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens, 2003). There are a lot of controversies, regarding the relationship between police officers and citizens due to a great number of challenges and problems; at any rate the basic role of the police officers is the protection of their communities and each single individual along with establishing of balance.

The role of police has to go through a number of transformations, starting from the moment of its establishment as a profession in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel in London. Speaking about the relationship between citizens of the United States and police, there is commented to be a progress from the political era at the beginning of the 1840s and 1900s to the reform era, which lasted till the middle of the 20th century. In the 1970s this relationship developed in the frames of the community era. “…the history of American police strategies cannot be separated from the history of the Nation as a whole. Unfortunately, our police, and all of our other institutions, must contend with many bitter legacies from that larger history. No paradigm–and no society–can be judged satisfactory until those legacies have been confronted directly.” (Finn, 2001, p. 52). All these eras could be characterized by the lack of involvement of the minorities in policing. For example black individuals did not have any kind of power during the political era and correspondingly could hardly impact the police strategies. The situation for them was not much better even during the reform era. This is the reason, why the most important aspect in today’s era of policing is related to establishment of the cohesive cooperation between community and police officers.

An important role for establishment of positive relations between the police departments and the community is played by the police culture. The culture of police departments is the reflection of the basic beliefs and values of the individuals, working for this organization. These beliefs are meaningful for recruiting and selection processes, for police training and development, actions of the police officers in various law enforcement situations. All police departments have their culture, but the problem is whether this culture was thoroughly developed and corresponds to the interests of the community.  For example application of police force is generally considered unacceptable and if it is applied, then administrative attention is attracted to the concrete situation. This is just an example of the police culture and its aspects. Experts assume that the last decade has brought certain progress for police-community relationships. “Yet, the major problem creating friction between the police and the community today–especially in communities of color–is police use of deadly force. This is an age-old problem of which only in recent years has the public become aware. The fact that this problem existed for such a long time before receiving widespread attention can again be related to the culture of the police.” (Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens, 2003). The Tennessee v. Garner decision in 1985 forced most of the police departments to develop their firearms policies, including them into the general value system and underlining the importance of human life. According to the official policies most of the police agencies allowed their officers to use fire warning shots, when potential criminals or criminals wanted to escape or to apply deadly force in various circumstances, which reflected less than the value of human life.

The process of developing a set of values for a police department has great meaning for future establishment of mutually beneficial and positive relationships with the community. The list of these values should not be too long; instead it should reflect precisely the important things and be objective. This is the task of the police chief to take care of the values of the department and their integration into its daily operating. Thus the police chief, as a strong leader, should start from effective communication of the values, considering not only the formal structure of his organization, but also the informal one. The policing values should be developed in such a way that they reflect the values of its community. The most basic positions of police values should be based upon preserving of the democracy principles, support of the highest value of human life, accepting the prevention measures as the number one priority, involvement of the community into its services and commitment to the community it serves. All societies need a system for maintaining order. The role of the police officers should not be limited only to maintaining this order, instead they should be consistent with the democratic form of the government. “Therefore, it is incumbent upon the police to enforce the law and deliver a variety of other services in a manner that not only preserves, but also extends precious American values. It is in this context that the police become the living expression of the meaning and potential of a democratic form of government.” (Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens, 2003).

The value of the preservation of human life was already mentioned as one of the top priorities for police departments and police officers. Human life should be perceived as the most precious resource and thus all operations of the police structures should be aimed at life protection. This means that the priority should be given to life-threatening situations and secondly, application of deadly force by the police officers should be adhered to the law and be consistent with the rational social control. Logically it is much better to prevent crimes, than to manage the results of the already committed crimes and this is the reason, why so much attention should be paid to the prevention measures. Such approach is expected to improve life quality for the citizens and contribute to their fear reduction, which is generated by current perception of crimes.

There are a lot of types of crimes, usually they are grouped on the basis of the causes and presence or absence of victims, profiles of criminals involved etc. Taking into consideration the fact that there are too many types, some of the basic categories were formulated, but they include a lot of subcategories. Generally there are the following types of crimes pointed out: crimes against persons, crimes against property, hate crimes, crimes against morality, white –collar crimes, organized crimes. All of them have some features in common and have their differences. Crimes against individuals are also known as personal crimes and include rape, assault, murder, etc. Crimes against poverty are usually victimless crimes, and they are committed without any physical harm. Often then involve just theft of property and are practiced by young inexperienced criminals, who want to get easy money, but lack skills and knowledge for planning professional crimes. Hate crimes are often related to gender, sexual orientation, race or religion issues. During certain periods the rates of this type of crimes grow due to political or social pressure. Crimes against morality are mostly victimless crimes, they include prostitution, gambling, illegal drug use. One of the most controversial categories is white-collar crimes. They are usually committed by individuals with high social status, and thus they are difficult to be revealed and prosecuted. Mostly this type of crimes gets little of public concern, but in reality turns out to be very dangerous for the whole communities or even countries. Finally organized crime is form of illegal business, which is organized on the basis of legal and operates actually in the similar way. It is committed by organized groups of individuals, taking control over certain spheres of illegal operations. Understanding of the structure of crimes, their characteristic features and their types could be advantageous for establishing better balance within communities as well as improving of the relationships between police and community.

Overall, the role of the police structures has been changing during different historical periods; nowadays there are a lot of controversies and problems in the sphere of relationship between police officers and the community, they serve. Establishment of culture and values, adherence of them to the values, supported in the community, commitment and support of the human life priority could be the general steps in the direction of improving of the relationships between community and police officers and even mutually beneficial cooperation between them.


Daane, Diane M., Hendricks. James E. (1991). Liability for Failure to Adequately Train,The Police Chief, Vol. 58, No. 11 Retrieved from

Finn, Peter, (2001).Citizen Review of Police: Approaches and Implementation. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice Retrieved from

Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens. (2003) Retrieved from

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 1, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 1, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: October 1, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 1, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 1, 2022]
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