Making community policing work

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Looking at the obvious resentment many people have about Nigeria’s security operatives, it is enough to explore its relevance in community policing. Community policing offers a myriad of opportunities in Nigeria, depending on how it is structured and applied. One crucial element to consider should be how it can maintain fruitful relations and promote community action against crime and conflict. As argued in Policing Divided Communities, community policing frameworks must take into consideration the numerous identities that exist within the community. It is not enough for its members to be drawn from the communities, but their perspective towards carrying out their operations is key to building community partnerships and promoting durable peace. Therefore, to make community policing work, implementing states must explore different angles.

Winning the support of community residents will aid security. Community policing actors must step in to build public trust through fair policing, professionalism and proper conduct without bias. To cultivate public trust, community policing actors must take a cue from the perception of people towards existing formal security structures. High-handedness, corruption and other professional misconduct that alienates people from security agencies should be avoided.

Community policing strategy should favour community cohesion. Divided communities are prone to violent conflict. The policy framework must be designed to align and collaborate with existing community-based groups to understand community needs. The partnerships will improve responses to adopt in addressing issues around crime and conflict. The familiarity of community policing actors with residents will be valuable in mobilising community groups towards suing for peace in the face of conflict or working together to tackle criminality at the community level.

Informal social control groups are poised to take advantage of community policing units; build strong partnerships that will re-establish the relevance of informal actors in promoting social cohesion. And to also influence the culture of the community towards peace. This strategy will only be guaranteed if local partners that will work directly with community policing actors are included in the planning and implementation stages of community policing as well as adequately trained to discharge their duties. Such inclusion should be systematic enough to capture the specific roles and responsibilities of community actors in working together with traditional institutions to resolve conflict or tackle crimes at the community stage. Regardless of the realities of existing security structures, community policing promises good outcomes in Nigeria if properly employed.