What Are the Primary Goals of Policing?

By Leslie Bloom - Updated March 19, 2018

Police officers take on a lot of roles as law enforcement officials. They help to ensure that people follow the laws, communities are safe, neighborhoods are informed and criminals are caught. Police officers work tirelessly to make sure people feel safe in their neighborhoods and towns. With all of their responsibilities, what are the primary police officer goals?


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

Reducing 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 Laws

Whether it’s speeding through a red light, jaywalking or stealing from a store, people constantly break laws. Police officers are there to enforce laws to maintain order and safety in the community. About 10 percent to 16 percent of the calls police stations receive are related to law enforcement.

Responding Quickly

One of the goals of law enforcement 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. Police officers are always working on ways to improve response time, and newer technologies can help.

Individualized Goals

Individual police departments set their own internal 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 law enforcement goals. 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 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.

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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