Is it possible to create policing strategies that identify the community as a major stakeholder and are efficient as well as effective? Policing is especially important to observe because it highlights a specific tension between the drive for efficiency and for government to establish trusting partnerships with its citizens. In light of the recent federal case over the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, it seems that results-driven policing has alienated entire communities—particularly low-income minority communities. I find Meulman’s case study on the Dutch police force to offer a more inclusive (and desirable) alternative.  

The NYPD’s model of policing is celebrated nationally for its performance driven efficiency. Crime has gone down significantly in the last few years, with aggressive policing given much of the credit. No one can argue that lower crime is desirable, but those living in poor, high crime communities of color have a drastically different experience with the police than their white counterparts. The push for arrests and stop-and-frisk quotas has released a powder keg of frustration in these communities, with kids on their way to school reporting that police subject them to frequent pat downs in broad daylight in front of community members.

While police commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg chalk it up to a few bad apples, the reality is that police officers are behaving badly because they are pressured to meet quotas. During the recent trial over the controversial policy, one police officer testified that his precinct’s performance goals were 20 summonses, 5 street stops, and 1 arrest per month. The intense pressure coming from on high makes it difficult to establish trust within the community. How can you build a partnership and co-produce results rather than rule from on high when the community you serve refuses to work with you because of your management tactics?

In stark contrast to the NYPD stands the Dutch police force in the Netherlands. Louis Meulman’s work explores the consensus style of governance adopted by the Dutch, with a particular focus on its community policing style.  Establishing trust is a primary focus, as is integrating the police force into the community. In order to do this the police must “relinquish {their} monopoly on safety and crime” (Meulman 209). Rather than a hierarchical approach, the Dutch police realize that citizen support is crucial and seek to attain it by developing partnerships. They enable their police officers by allowing them high levels of discretion rather than soul crushing quotas. This may be in direct conflict with performance driven contracts and market oriented governance, but I think building relationships are more important than efficiency.

 Policy makers, especially Bloomberg and Kelly, often create a false dilemma: if you don’t have aggressive, top down policing, you can’t have low crime rates, they say—even if certain communities are essentially living in a police state. The Dutch policing strategy proves that you can have public safety, cooperation and a low crime rate.