Community (oriented) policing has become one of the most popular models of policing worldwide. After its initial implementation in many Western countries, community policing has also been transferred to transitional societies, which often lack strong democratic traditions. The international diffusion of community policing should not make us forget that community policing comes in all shapes and sizes and is highly varied in its operations.
After having defined the concept and analyzed its rise in Anglo-American countries, this diversity is illustrated by scrutinizing its implementation in different national configurations: a continental European country relatively open to Anglo-American influences (the Netherlands), socially homogeneous countries with a high level of trust in the police (the Nordic countries), a centralized country with an administrative Napoleonic tradition (France), and postconflict societies (South Africa and Northern Ireland).
These various national trajectories highlight the common drivers and barriers in community policing reforms: political priorities (through emphasizing crime fighting or zero tolerance policing), socioeconomic disparities and ethnic tensions (which may imply a history of mistrust and vicious circles between the police and some segments of the public), professional identities and interests (disqualifying community police officers as “social workers”), and organizational resources (managerial procedures, lack of training and human resources) that may hinder the reform process. These diverse experiences also draw attention to the variety of context-dependent factors that impact the fate of community policing reforms. Political climates, police–government relations, socioeconomic inequalities, and police traditions may differ, which requires further analysis of the various political, historical, socioeconomic, and cultural contexts of specific community policing reforms.