Lessons for Scottish Police Forces to be learned from Chicago ?
The Scotsman reports :
PROFESSOR Wesley Skogan, an American expert on community policing, will tomorrow give the Apex Scotland Annual Lecture.
Now in its fifth year, the lecture is a platform for debate about criminal justice in Scotland, attracting a large audience of the key players and high-profile speakers.
This year's lecture is a first: it takes place in collaboration with the recently established Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), so we have our first international speaker. SIPR represents a coming together of Scotland's chief constables and academic community to promote research into policing methods and to build a body of evidence on good practice.
In his lecture, Skogan will focus on Chicago's Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), which began in 1993 and is based on engagement, decentralisation and problem solving.
Community engagement is achieved through beat community meetings and, each month, almost 7,000 residents attend 250 of these meetings across the city. Residents meet officers who regularly patrol their area, as well as those from specialist units, to discuss and prioritise problems, as well as review progress with regard to issues raised at the previous meeting. Attendance is highest in the city's poorest and highest-crime neighbourhoods.
Teams of nine officers were established in each beat, with a sergeant to co-ordinate their activities. These officers are kept in their beat as much as possible and have responsibility for a beat plan that sets out how they are going to tackle problems.
CAPS is very much the city's project, rather than just the police department's project, with the public and all relevant agencies involved in identifying, prioritising and tackling a broad range of chronic neighbourhood problems in partnership with the police.
Skogan and his team from Northwestern University revealed some promising trends in their evaluation of CAPS: a decrease in recorded crimes and improvements in how the majority of Chicagoans rate the police in their responsiveness and performance.
Challenges remain, however: integrating the city's Latino residents into the programme has been difficult, and support among police managers and officers has fluctuated.
The programme was designed to change the way the police and other departments - and even city government - did their business. So, what lessons can be drawn for community policing in a Scottish context?
Peter Wilson, the chief constable of Fife Constabulary, says: "Wesley Skogan's contribution to the lecture and the SIPR conference, will provide an excellent benchmark for Scottish police forces. While community policing has always formed a key part of the service, further emphasis has been given in recent years to working with Community Planning Partnerships, establishing campus officers in schools, colleges and universities and seeking to integrate with new communities of migrants and asylum-seekers."
In their manifesto, the SNP noted a gap between the public expectation of police services and the capability to meet that growing expectation and promised 1,000 more police officers. Now in government, the delivery of that promise may depend on the spending review. Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, may want to learn more from Skogan about the best way about to use existing resources in trying to enhance community policing.
• Apex Scotland is a national voluntary organisation that works to reduce offending by enhancing the employability prospects of ex-offenders and placing them in employment, education or training. To get more information about the lecture, call 0131-220 0130. Further information about SIPR is available at http://www.sipr.ac.uk