Some academics and politicians talk about rethinking or reimagining policing.

Many major cities acted on one of their recommendations, which was to “defund policing.” The outcome has not been good. Violent crime and murders skyrocketed in those cities.

The AP reported, “Minneapolis this year [2021] recorded the highest number of homicides in over 20 years amid a nationwide spike in violent crime.”

According to the vice-president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, murders were up 236 percent in Minneapolis, up 137 percent in Portland, 87 percent in Oakland, 66 percent in Philadelphia, 50 percent in New York City, and 34 percent in Chicago. All these cities made cuts to the budgets of their police agencies.

The lack of support was made clear by city councils from Maine to California, who sought to defund or dissolve their police department. The results of the defund policy was predictable.

Police officers left those agencies in large numbers. Now that those cities have seen the disastrous results of the defund policies, elected city officials have learned the officers who left cannot be replaced.

Very few qualified people want to be a police officer in the first place. Second, the ones who are qualified know better than to go to a city where officers are not wanted, backed, and supported.

Rethinking policing is not new. It has occurred incrementally over the short history of policing. The profession has transformed itself measured by three distinct eras: Political, Reform, and Community.

----- MODERN POLICING was developed in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel in London. In 1854 the policing model was brought to Boston.

The Political Era was the first. It lasted from 1854 to around 1920. It is also known as the Progressive Era. Back then, municipal police were an arm of the local politicians.

The strategy was for police officers to walk a foot-beat and deal with disorder and crime in the community. The officers not only kept the peace and arrested criminals, but they also ran soup kitchens, found lodging and jobs for newly arrived immigrants and provided other social services.

The close alliance with politicians led to corruption, which led to reform. The Reform Era, also known as the Professional Era, began around 1920 and lasted till around 1970.

The strategy of Reform Era policing included strict standardization “especially in patrol work.” Policing shifted away from community involvement to a “crimefighting” mode, meaning enforcing the law, investigating crimes, and arresting criminal suspects.

During the Political Era, “police had been intimately linked to citizens.” In the Reform Era, police leaders redefined the “relationship between police officers and citizens.”

Officers of the Reform Era were aloof and patrolled in cars, not on foot. They were “impartial law enforcer[s] who related to citizens in professionally neutral and distant terms.” Think of Dragnet and Joe Friday, who often admonished people to provide “Just the facts, ma’m.”

In the 1960s and ‘70s, society changed dramatically and there were clear signs that the Reform Era police model was no longer effective, particularly in minority communities.

No matter how well police did, as measured by Reform Era metrics, police were not able to sustain reduced crime.

In the 1970s, the Community Police Era began to emerge. It is sometimes referred to as problem-solving policing.

Community Policing is a shared responsibility: police, the populace, businesses, non-profits, faith-based, and government organizations.

Nearly 200 years ago, Sir Robert Peel wrote that the police are the public and the public are the police, but only the police are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are the responsibility of every citizen, and that is to keep peace, law, and order (paraphrased).

----- WHY IS FONTANA such a safe city?

One can rationally conclude it is because all the stakeholders which share in the responsibility of public safety, take their responsibilities seriously.

Critically important is a supportive City Council that puts community safety as the number one priority.

Also critically significant is a chief of police who understands shared responsibility.

For example, Chief William Green reaches out to and partners with other entities to create innovative programs such as the Community Outreach and Support Team or COAST. It is a partnership with the Fontana Police Department, San Bernardino County Fire Department and San Bernardino County Behavioral Health Department.

COAST allows highly trained first responders and social workers to respond to and provide meaningful help for people experiencing a mental illness crisis.

At the Fontana Police Officers Association, we believe our Connection with the Community program, where we regularly meet with members of the public to share a meal in common, is very important. It builds trust through communication.

In sum, community safety is a shared responsibility. From the top leadership of the city to every citizen and police officer, we work together in Fontana to make it a great place to live, work, play, and invest.

(Jason Delair is a 25-year veteran of the Fontana Police Department and president of the Fontana Police Officers Association; Ted Hunt is an honorably retired LAPD officer and former POST Commissioner.)

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