EUPOL is supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts to build civilian policing capabilities and enhance community oriented policing. It is easy to speak about community policing (Police-e Mardume, PeM) but what does it really mean especially in a volatile country like Afghanistan where the police still have to participate in the fight against terrorism? EUPOL community policing expert, Community and Command Team Leader Tommy Wik answers six questions about Police-e Mardume.
Q: What do you really mean when you are talking about community policing?
A: The community policing concept (PeM) and approach is all about co-operation between the police and the community to identify and solve community problems together. It focuses on an effective and efficient crime control, reduces fear of crime and improves the quality of life. When the community policing concept is properly embraced, the police share information and are transparent and accountable.
Q: All the police sergeants and officers are members of their own communities so are they not all automatically community police officers? Why do you speak about community policing as if it was something that is not done by all the patrolmen and women?
A: Not all the police sergeants and officers are fully aware of what community policing means. They do not necessarily understand yet that community engagement can be a way of building trust between the police and the people.
Q: Is community policing in fact a synonym for local policing?
A: Community policing is about local presence and to be part of the everyday life in the communities. However, an ANP community police officer is a trained and professional police who is doing more than just safeguarding the area.
Q: Does community policing or civilian policing mean that the police should not carry weapons?
A: No. As a police officer you must be prepared to engage in all kind of situations. In order to do your job, sometimes that means that you also need to use your weapon to protect yourself and others.
Q: Certainly it’s nice when the police has time to walk around and chat with people but unfortunately the Afghan National Police do not have that luxury: the fight against insurgents keep us busy enough. Aren’t you speaking about community policing a little too early, when the fighting still continues?
A: Police officers should engage in the communities, be present and build trust as much as possible even in volatile environments like Afghanistan. In fact, if you have a good relationship with the community, you can also gather information on what is going on. That information can then be used by other unit’s within the police or the military to fight insurgents.
Q: What does it take to be a good community policing officer and do you need to be a member of a special unit to be a community policing?
A: To be a good community policing officer, you have to understand the needs of the people you serve and be able to look at things from their perspective. You have to be a skilled listener and a good communicator. It is not about being a part of a special unit and therefore all police officers should use the community policing concept and approach as a tool to create security for all.