PUBLIC FAVOUR ‘DIXON-STYLE’ COMMUNITY POLICING
Researchers have found that people would like to see higher-quality community policing of the type epitomised by PC George Dixon in the old television series “Dixon of Dock Green”. The study was carried out by The City University, London for The Police Foundation in response to the Home Office’s drive towards every area of the country having Neighbourhood Policing Teams by 2008.
The Home Office plans are for teams made up of police officers and police community support officers and designed to promote local reassurance through being “citizen-focused.”
Dr Alison Wakefield, a lecturer in criminology, has conducted a detailed review of public opinion surveys about the police and other services as well as of research studies on foot patrol initiatives. She selected 13 initiatives from this country, the United States and Australia involving police officers, police community support officers, neighbourhood wardens or security guards. Each of the studies was assessed against four criteria – the promotion of reassurance; the incorporation into patrols of other activities expected by the public; responsiveness to expectations from different social groups and sustainability.
Dr Wakefield’s research found that people were particularly reassured where patrol work was enhanced by additional activities such as officers becoming more involved in the local community, gathering local intelligence, dealing with disturbances, providing advice, catching criminals and responding to emergencies. She said opinion surveys were always held to show public support for more police foot patrols but the public were often more sophisticated and were not simply concerned with seeing more “bobbies on the beat”.
“They want officers who understand what community policing is and realise that much of their work is about reassuring people. They want to be asked about what they want and have their requests for a decent service taken seriously,” she said. Effective foot patrols were only one way to achieve accessible policing. Other strategies included drives to improve the selection and training of police officers for reactive as well as community roles, and effective marketing strategies to remind the public about what the police were doing.