Community Policing as an Ideology

This post was written by crim3305student, a KPU CRIM 3305 Law & Society student

The politically correct version of community policing looks to strengthen the interrelationships between citizens and police organizations. Through community partnerships and crime prevention initiatives a community’s social issues can be effectively addressed. Often a veneer of community policing gives an image of a cop working with a home owner to prevent graffiti or cop being patient in a dispute between citizens. Community policing is a modern ideology relative to Hay’s ideological concepts of majesty, justice, and mercy. The ideology of community policing is perpetuated through the criminal justice system and has been adopted by most police departments.

The term community policing is a hegemonic term in itself because it assumes that police and community interests are one in the same. The ideology of community policing enables terms like partnership and cooperation which portrays a positive image of police to the working poor. The term community policing reinforces the dominance of the status quo by presenting police in a positive image to encourage complacency. Hegemony involves the creation of ideals that convince the working poor that the goals of economic elites and the working poor are one and the same. Hegemonic “ideologies … mask interests of capitalist exploitation and deflect attention away from capitalist society’s real interests; naked oppressions and structural inequalities” (Brook & Schissel, 2008, p. 59).

Community policing ideology re-enforces the status quo by distorting the role of police officers. The image of police officers is altered to re-enforce the ideals that the police are there to protect citizens by enforcing the law. Community policing is an ideology used when convenient to legitimize the function of the police. The ideals of community policing are swept aside in issues of dissent, protest, and corporate crime. Citizens that start protesting or expressing dissent are often met with force or excessive violence. Citizens that protest root causes of exploitation in capitalism through anti-globalization protests are preemptively arrested. The 1997 UBC protests involved students expressing their concern over Suharto whom was a dictator from Indonesia. Suharto was scheduled to speak at the Asia Pacific Economic Coalition summit at UBC. Suharto was accused of mass killings of protestors and indigenous populations in Indonesia. The students protested both Suharto’s crimes against humanity and the non transparent meetings of global economic elites. The RCMP preemptively beat and arrested the university students protesting on campus. The video link shows a CBC report on the protests: ( Eventually news came to light exposing that the Canadian government ordered the RCMP to deal with the protestors. Reports also came to light of a protestor named “Jaggi singh” (Klein, 2002, p. 152) who was arrested by non uniformed police officers the day before the protests took place. Jaggi singh was arrested on school grounds and put into the back of an unmarked vehicle. Community policing ideology was neglected during the APEC summit while the students of UBC were met with force. The excessive use of force by the RCMP alienated community members and exposed that state agents represent interests other than those in Canadian communities.

Dickson states that the government has been monitoring peaceful protestors and university lectures (Dickson, 2014). The protests and lectures were critical of the state and often addressed issues unfavorable to capitalism. Issues surrounding workers rights, pollution, and transnational corporations were reasons for the RCMP and CSIS monitoring civilians. The RCMP’s unwarranted spying on civilians contradicts the official version of community policing. The current spying controversy exposes how community policing is an ideology created for elite interests. The politically correct version of community policing is:

“The ‘professional community policing model’ proposes a new philosophical, organizational and operational approach to policing in an urban setting. It suggests a partnership between the community and the police in ‘managing’ crime and public order as well as developing crime prevention programs” (Dubois & Normandeau, p. 113).

The ideology of community policing perpetuated by the super structure creates a perceptual disconnect in the actual functions of police officers. As seen in the 1997 APEC protests state agents will protect the will of the ruling class compared to the constitutional rights of civilians. The above definition of community policing fails to include police conduct in different protests across North America which include: the occupy protests, the Seattle protests, the G8 Toronto protests, the OKA crisis, the Ipperwash protests, and the Six Nation’s Reclamation. The above definition also fails to describe the unwarranted spying of civilians that are critical of capitalist modes of productions. The community policing ideology provides “mystification” (Larsen, 2014) to perpetuate the belief that state agents do not operate to protect capitalist modes of production. Structural Marxists hold that “the state acts on behalf of capital, primarily by reproducing capitalist class relations” (Larsen, 2014). Community policing ideology masks police functions in the guarding of the collection of capital, the modes of productions, and the social relations of production.

The super structure includes institutions that create and perpetuate ideology that legitimizes the relationship between the upper and lower classes. The community policing ideology attempts to portray citizens and police as equal partners in decisions of crime in communities. Ideology in this case helps create consensus and reaffirm that both police and society seek to deal with the same social issues. The ideology is symbolic in that community policing creates illusions of equality in a system rife with class conflict. Community policing as an ideology can potentially shift the focus of policing and criminal activity to the lower classes. Brooks and Schissel claim that the most serious crimes are perpetrated by corporations and the state. Brooks and Schissel explain that;

“in recent decades an ideological revolution – a corporate counter-revolution – has succeeded in persuading key elites in Canadian society that potentially profitable corporate acts are not wrong. Therefore, although they cause many more injuries and deaths, and much greater financial loss than traditional assault and theft, they are not defined as acts that merit criminal status” (Brook & Schissel, 2008, p. 279).

Community policing is one ideology amongst many in the Canadian legal system. Community policing effectively produces rhetoric that masks police functions that are unfavorable to working class interests. When the working poor express discontent about corporate crime and state transparency it results in police tactics that no longer resemble community based values.

Works Cited

  • Brook, C., & Schissel, B. (2008). Marginality & Condemnation: An introduction to criminology 2nd Ed. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
  • CBC. (n.d.). Pepper Spray – APEC UBC 1997 . Retrieved October 9, 2014, from
    Dickson, J. (2014, September 20). Harper government tracking hundreds of peaceful protests. Vancouver Observer .
  • Dubois, P., & Normandeau, A. Professional community policing in Canada. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research , 5 (4).
  • Klein, N. (2002). Fences and Windows. Toronto: Vintage Canada.
  • Larsen, M. (2014, October 7). Law, Society, Class amd Ideology: The Contributions of Marx – Oct. 7. In class notes . Surrey, BC, Canada: Kwantlen Polyyechnic University.



1 Comment

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One response to “Community Policing as an Ideology

  1. This is a detailed and effective analysis. I encourage you to look into the literature on community policing, and particularly the ‘rhetoric vs. reality’ debate. This is linked to a broader debate in the criminological literature regarding the uses (and abuses) of the concept of ‘community’.

    Question: If community policing is a mystification, what would an accurate (demystified) explanation of the role and function of the public police look like?