The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing-Final Report recommended Moving from the Warrior to Guardian mentality in police. Many law enforcement officers around the country have voiced the opinion that the “Guardian” mentality is some sort of slap to their efforts to protect their communities. In truth, it is just the opposite. Before officers used patrol cars, and Community Policing was the norm, officers walked the streets and neighborhoods. The walking beat officers knew everyone, the neighbors, children, criminals, the ones who were doing well, and those who were struggling. Everyone worked together to protect the communities. The officers were in tune with the community; the Guardians.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s communities began placing officers in patrol cars, and so the slow end of the Guardian relationship began. Placing officers into cars had an economic impact; officers in cars can cover more area. Therefore, you didn’t need as many officers. Unfortunately, the positive economic impact resulted in decreasing community connectedness. Officers drove past neighborhoods rather than getting out of their cars to meet the residents. Slowly, officer’s mentality became less Guardians working with the communities and more Warrior like with the officers forming a tribe within their shifts. The mentality became our tribe versus everyone else. Likewise, communities who no longer knew their officers began to distrust the police
To stop the tide, Community Policing efforts were begun to reconnect officers to the communities they serve. Much of the success in reconnecting officers back into their communities resulted from the Community Policing efforts. However, simply having a Community Policing program is not a panacea. It takes time, effort, and must be tailored to each community. Moving away from the Warrior mentality will also take time. Officers will still be in cars, and constantly running calls for service. High call volumes create fewer opportunities for the officers to make the connections necessary to build community relationships. Officers may feel guilty when they walk and areas knowing their brothers are out running calls. However, the impact of walking officers is significant. Research indicates that walking officers have a positive impact on the fear of crime. Walking officers get to know the residents and who is committing crimes, and therefore make the communities safer.
The Guardian mentality should be looked to not as a slap to the officer’s hard work, but as an opportunity go get back to the roots of policing. Back to the days when officers work made an impact not by arrests but connectedness and mutual responsibility for the community.
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