What Are the Primary Goals of Policing?

By Leslie Bloom - Updated December 12, 2018

If the image you have of police officers is solely them catching criminals in the act and throwing them into the back of a patrol car, you have only a glimpse into the daily activities of most police officers. In addition to deterring crime, police officers help ensure that people follow the laws, local communities are safe and neighborhoods are informed. They perform their police officer goals both at their desks and in the streets, often working long hours to make sure people feel safe in their neighborhoods and towns. With all of their responsibilities, what are the primary police officer goals?

Tip

The primary goals of law enforcement are to reduce crime, enforce laws and respond quickly to emergencies.

Reducing Neighborhood Crime

One of the top goals of law enforcement is reducing the amount of crime in their service area. To reduce crime, police officers regularly patrol, follow up on tips and hold driver checkpoints. Police officers may focus on neighborhoods with higher rates of crime in order to meet their goal of overall crime reduction.

They also respond to calls from concerned citizens who may be the victims of crime or have witnessed a crime. Studies have found that these types of service calls account for nearly 40 percent of the calls that come into a police station. Twenty percent of those calls are not related to crime, while about 17 percent are.

Enforcing Law and Order

Whether it’s speeding through a red light, jaywalking or stealing from a store, people constantly break laws. One of the main goals of law enforcement is to enforce laws to maintain order and safety in the community. That includes enforcing non-criminal conduct and preserve the peace through such things as crowd control, parking enforcement and pedestrian traffic. About 10 percent to 16 percent of the calls police stations receive are related to law enforcement.

Responding Quickly When Needed

One of the primary police officer goals is to respond quickly to a call, crime scene or emergency. The average response time to a 911 call is about 18 minutes. This can be more or less, depending on where the caller lives in relation to the police department, the type of call, weather and road conditions, and other variables. One of the goals of policing is finding ways to improve response time, and newer technologies can help.

Individualized Department Goals

Individual police departments set their own internal policy officer goals for their department. These can vary depending on crime levels in the community, the location of the police department (on a university campus, for example) and the size of the department.

For example, the police department in the small city of Pinole, Calif., has stated police officer goals that include preventing and controlling crime, helping people in physical danger, protecting constitutional guarantees and facilitating the movement of people and vehicles. It also aims to create a feeling of security in the community and resolve conflict.

The Shippensburg Police Department in Shippensburg, Penn., has different goals of policing. They include developing an effective and fair evaluation system for the police department, increasing revenue, improving evidence-room procedures, continued personnel development and developing a traffic signal and sign map of the department service area.

The goals of law enforcement of the Dallas Independent School District Police Department are different from the goals of policing at a community police department. They include increasing student, parent and community engagement, increasing staff wellness and professional development, and increasing technology and online social media presence.

While the primary goals of policing may be universal, how police departments approach those goals are specific to each department. Police officer goals may also change over time as neighborhood dynamics change, new laws get enacted and the police department itself expands or shrinks.

About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

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