Contact: Richard Wood, (505) 277-3945 or 277-2501 or
Steve Carr, (505) 277-1821

January 26, 2001

UNM, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT STUDY COMMUNITY POLICING

Community policing – does it work? That’s what University of New Mexico sociology assistant professor Richard Wood is trying to find out, along with the Albuquerque Police Department, community groups and government leaders.

“The answer appears to be ‘yes’ – when implemented successfully and systematically,” Wood says. “But it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right. Some very good research has come out recently, showing that community policing can bring down crime rates and lessen people’s fear of crime. But that same research also shows how hard it is to get police officers and other city agencies doing what they have to do to make community policing work.”

Wood has been researching community policing since 1997, when the APD-UNM Research Partnership received its initial grant for $155,000 from the National Institute of Justice (United States Department of Justice). Wood is the principal investigator for the partnership, which he and APD Director of Planning Roy Turpen founded; UNM student Mariah Davis has been the lead research associate throughout the project. The partnership received a subsequent, two-year grant for $177,000 in 1999. The objective of the National Institute of Justice in awarding the grants was to foster collaboration between academic researchers and police departments.

The research, “Transitions: Creating a Culture of Community Policing,” focuses on how much impact community policing implementation has had on the organizational culture of the police department, and in particular on the day-to-day work of patrol officers: Do they actually do their jobs differently than before the advent of community policing? The idea of community policing involves three components: police working in partnership with their communities; police personnel, neighborhood organizations and city governments collaborating to solve community-based problems leading to crime; and proactive policing by officers – initiating greater contact with residents, community groups and people in the streets.

“It involves complex organizational change with long term effects, obstacles and successes along the way,” said Wood. “It’s trying to get police departments to work together with community groups and doing more than just responding to police calls. It’s hard to get officers to change their regular routines, especially when they are understaffed. In Albuquerque, police chiefs have tried to make things happen, to get officers to buy into it. They’ve been able to change some things, but not how most officers most of the time do their work.

“So far the Department has implemented some organizational changes successfully, and some officers are doing some proactive and creative work. But in a broad, departmental sense, community policing hasn’t quite taken off. I think Police Chief Jerry Galvin recognizes that, and is working to re-focus that effort.”

Wood said that research in Chicago suggests that one key to success may be greater coordination between city agencies to solve community-based problems that contribute to crime; this may be the next challenge facing Albuquerque.
Wood notes that the idea underlying community policing is “to use police authority in new and creative ways, as opposed to just arresting bad guys. It’s still about reducing crime. Community policing just tries to do it in smarter and more productive ways.”

Through more than 3,000 hours of participant-observation in police settings, the APD-UNM Research Partnership is working to understand just what those more productive ways are, from the point of view of both police officers and community residents.

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The University of New Mexico
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