Cops, Community Policing, and the Social Norms Approach to Crime Control: Should One Make Us More Comfortable with the Others?

35 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2007

See all articles by Sarah Waldeck

Sarah Waldeck

Loyola University Chicago School of Law


This article focuses on the occupational subculture of the police and its likely effect on community policing and a social norms approach to crime control. It suggests that when an order-maintenance agenda is introduced into a department that retains the traditional reform-era subculture, the agenda can devolve from an effort to enforce norms and creatively solve community problems to an effort to increase felony arrests and unearth the "big collar." Such a devolution entails a number of risks, particularly with respect to young male minorities. The article asks whether community policing, in its current form, can act as a countervailing force against the possibility that police will abuse the license to crack down on disorder. The article examines the hope of humanistic reformers who believe that by recruiting officers with certain characteristics and qualities, departments will create a subculture that is conducive to community policing. While the available information is hardly conclusive, it does suggest that the emphasis on officer characteristics has not led to the results some reformers anticipated. The article suggests that one of the most effective means of breaking through the occupational subculture is to focus on the overarching police function. As originally conceived, community policing sought to change the police function in ways that emphasized problem solving and de-emphasized simple law enforcement. A return to this approach may create the sort of results that reformers seek.

Keywords: community policing, social norm, broken windows, minority policing, crime control, police subculture, police reform

Suggested Citation

Waldeck, Sarah, Cops, Community Policing, and the Social Norms Approach to Crime Control: Should One Make Us More Comfortable with the Others?. Georgia Law Review, Vol. 34, p. 1253, 1999, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 2007-007, Available at SSRN:

Sarah Waldeck (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E Pearson St.
Room 1041
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics