The police can play a proactive role in facilitating inter-agency coordination on preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism and radicalization, especially at the local level. Exchanging information with communities is essential for effective policing and prevention of terrorism. Community Policing (CP) is the Police phenomena of the moment. Several cities are implementing this proximity Police system, but it is not a new concept. For instance, Valencia Local Police pioneered in Spain, counting with an experience of more than 25 years, as they introduced this system in 1992.
The followed aim, which is maintained currently, was to get off the cars. To bring back a figure that walks, connects with the population and, although this figure would not participate in major operations, could be in contact with everyday problems. The philosophy differentiating Community Policing is going from a reactive attitude to a proactive attitude. To prevent any type of problem, it is essential to detect it and acting before it is committed.
Community policing cannot function as a stand-alone tool to prevent Organized Crime (OC) and Violent Extremism and Radicalization (VER). Therefore, legislators and Police leaders should be aware of the real expectations on the results that CP can offer regarding a highly complex and multidimensional problem. CP benefits could not be easy to measure in the short-term and could be more tangible in the medium and long term.
The degree and manner in which CP can benefit from fighting terrorism and OC will depend on the level of cooperation between the Police and the population. Possibly, it will be required to make great efforts to gain population’s confidence and their collaboration, and to provide evidence of the tangible benefits of such engagement for the community. The support of society as a whole is critical to successfully countering terrorism.
In order to be capable of organising and carrying out attacks, terrorists need to recruit people and acquire different types of material, founds, weapons, the ability to move without burdens, places to hide, ways of communication, and access to vulnerable targets. Therefore, effectively countering acts of terrorism requires a comprehensive and strategic approach, relying on a broad range of policies and measures. States have an obligation to provide protection against acts of terrorism, and this requires that they put particular emphasis on preventing terrorism.
At this point, there is always a local dimension to terrorism: it always happens, it can be where the terrorists hide, find support and operate, as well as it can be where an individual or a group gets involved with terrorism. Consequently, a local approach is necessary to prevent terrorism and counteract violent radicalization. In such effort to improve their action against terrorism, different states have tried to concentrate their efforts. Communities are progressively becoming the centre of attention of the development and implementation of counter-terrorism policies.
The key principles of community policing are that the police should: be visible and accessible to the public; know, and be known by the public; engage, mobilize and partner with communities; listen to communities’ concerns; respond to communities’ needs; respect and protect the rights of all community members.
Some key strategies for translating these principles into practice include: Composing diverse police teams, with sufficient experience and an appropriate gender balance, that reflects the demographics of the community they serve; permanently assigning police officers to serve a particular geographic area, with dedicated patrol officers regularly visiting particular communities; introducing visible and easily accessible police officers and police facilities; engaging communities through broad outreach and developing transparent partnerships with the public; introducing a proactive problem-solving approach; involving all government agencies and services.
Interaction between the police and the public may provide an important information source and guide police actions, locally and nationally. Equally, communication between CPOs and the rest of police officers, locally as well as nationally is extremely important. Exchanging information is necessary and basic, as they will both provide multiple types of information. Intelligence may emerge as a by-product of effective community policing in situations where the public has developed trust and confidence in the police. Community policing is not, and should not be, about gathering intelligence for counterterrorism. Citizens’ confidence on the Police is a desired effect of CP, but it is also a previous condition for its success. Nevertheless, specific counterterrorism measures and operations should be delivered by specialist counterterrorism officers and intelligence agencies.
For so doing, Police leaders should ensure that police officers working with communities are assigned for a long-enough period to allow them to develop a sophisticated understanding of those communities and to build trusting relationships with members that, in turn, can facilitate effective engagement and co-operation with the public. CPOs must be psychologically prepared and have specific training on the subject. For so doing, they must know how to identify, record and report relevant information or concerns, which situations require their immediate action, and how they should act under those circumstances, which matters they should be vigilant about during their work. Moreover, it is extremely important that they are commited and willing to develop such activity, as there is a risk of falling into monotony, of not giving some happenings importance, or the risk of stigmatizing particular communities. Therefore, they must be carefully planned, to mitigate possible risks, especially stigmatizing communities.
Community policing can play a major role through education: Problems can sometimes be addressed and reduced through a process of education, which the police can encourage and contribute to. This can take the form of public information campaigns in schools, youth clubs and public places in an effort to try to combat offending behaviour, or by raising awareness of the law and the serious consequences of crime for victims, offenders and the community as a whole.
Published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe(OSCE), 2014. Preventing Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism: A Community-Policing Approach. [Online]. Available at: https://www.osce.org/atu/111438?download=true