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Citizens, Cops, and Power: Recognizing the Limits of Community

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2. The Paradigm shift

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Sign Up. The danger of oppression is minimized when many small-scale homogeneous communities coexist in an open democratic society and people are free to join any community that shares their most cherished values. The best example is the coexistence of different ethnocultural communities in metropolitan cities. The second thick version is community as discovered. This represents a politically oriented vision that advocates small-scaled democracy based on the self-determination by citizens to solve collective problems.

The desire for self-determination inevitably leads to communal endeavors as people band together to exercise political influence over governance.

Critics of this vision question whether people are generally motivated to be political, and whether self-actualization and self-determination necessarily lead to political involvement. Again, I am more optimistic than these critics. One example is the massive antiwar demonstrations during the Vietnam War; such public protests might have contributed to ending the unpopular war.

Herbert makes the case that, because of a prevailing culture of individualism in America, people might not want the kind of connection and commitment required for thick versions. Therefore, advocates of liberalism favor a thin version because individuals are very mobile; they move from community to community and choose the goods most meaningful to each individual. On the basis of his interview data, Herbert concludes that there is no support for the ideals of the thick versions.

Instead, the residents he interviewed favor some kind of thin version; they have the pragmatic view of a community in which they are free to be left alone, but at the same time they could enjoy some basic familiarity with neighbors who are seen as reliable and predictable. Such loose neighborly relationships are desirable because these reduce feelings of vulnerability. Residents also expressed doubts and pessimism about their political potency. Herbert identifies four factors as primarily responsible for the political lightness of the community: individualism, heterogeneity, transience, and fear.

People like to be left alone and do not want to get involved. Demographic heterogeneity and social difference make it even more difficult to foster a sense of belonging and community. The transient nature of many urban citizens, who tend to be renters rather than property owners, does not contribute to neighborly relations. Finally, fear of retaliation by criminal elements and fear of police retribution further prevent people from getting involved.

These impediments are greater in communities that have greater need for community building. The political potency of community is further undermined by the complicated relationships between police and citizens. In addition to the inherent tension between subservience and separation, the state is also generative of community. The processes of separation and generativity render meaningful partnership between police and community difficult. In view of the above constraints, Herbert proposes the need to rethink or abandon community policing as a viable approach to restore community.

Citizens, Cops, and Power : Recognizing the Limits of Community

He questions the efficacy and the philosophy of Weed and Seed programs without suggesting any alternatives. However, although he dismisses community as a viable force for political actions, Herbert reaffirms community as essential to the good life through social—psychological means:. Community can, of course, exist as a central component of meaning, value, and support, both within and outside their neighborhoods.

He is dismissive of the two thick versions of community, perhaps prematurely.

His own data suggest that people need more than just a thin community. They need some kind of neighborly relations, which are possible only where there are some basic shared values. Ideally, both thick and thin versions of community are needed so that individuals can choose to participate in different combinations of community life. Hall identified four spaces of human interactions: public, social, personal, and intimate. It provides a promising conceptual framework for creating a positive, harmonious community. Myers proposed that a healthy community involves all four spaces, and that four spaces can meet such a need.

For example, in public space, such as a U2 concert or a soccer game, strangers can experience oneness because of a common external object. In social space, such as ethnocultural associations, political parties, or religious groups, which individuals are free to join, the need for preserving shared moral values and exerting political influence can be met. His analysis can be easily applied to management—employee tensions in large organizations. Simply recognizing the legitimacy of subservience, separation, and generativity has already helped human resources managers to find creative ways to reduce the inherent tensions between the three narratives.

Is it possible that this bias may have influenced his negative assessment of the future of community policing?

Even though community does not have the political capacity for meaningful partnership with police, there are still many informal opportunities to strengthen the working relationships between police and citizens. In qualitative research, the process drives the product. I suspect that if the interview had not been directed intentionally to political action, but broadened enough to include informal and personal relationships, the future of community policing might look brighter.

For psychologists interested in restoring, discovering, and building positive communities, how to make community policing work remains a challenge. Personally, I am favorably inclined toward the positive psychology of civil virtues, social capital, and personal relationships as a viable conceptual framework. Such focus on human virtues and strengths can trump all the impediments listed by Herbert. I recommend this book to anyone who is serious about community building, even if they are not particularly interested in the issue of community policing.

This slim book is a valuable addition to the ongoing discourse on the subject of community. It is very well written and enjoyable to read, if one can get used to the sociological terminology. Wong, P. Different Visions of Community The human longing for belonging and social connection is perhaps the most powerful psychological driving force for community. As a psychologist, I could not have articulated the psychological, relational nature of community as well as Herbert: Why this persistent longing for community?

However, although he dismisses community as a viable force for political actions, Herbert reaffirms community as essential to the good life through social—psychological means: Community can, of course, exist as a central component of meaning, value, and support, both within and outside their neighborhoods. References Hall, E. The hidden dimension.