Reforming the police involves changing the structures and practices of the police force to make it more receptive to the needs of the community. It is a delicate balancing act which requires the cooperation of both the police and members of the community they serve. It is a well known fact that man is resistant to change. As a result, one of the primary obstacles police reformers face is the fear of change. In the case of Merrysville, the police department as well as the members of the community were initially not very receptive to the idea of community policing. The police department saw the reforms as an obstacle in their fight against crime while the members of the community were unsure of the viability of the new concept.
Among the many challenges that Chief Harold Furman faced was a conservative community which was initially hesistant to accommodate the new changes in the police department in the name of community policing. Community policing, as suggested by its name, is a collaborative effort between the police and the community in fighting crime. It is founded on a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between the police and members of the community. Members of the public will collaborate with the police depending on the approach they adopt when enforcing the law. If previous relations between the police and the community they serve were not cordial, police reformers face an uphill task of reconciling the two to work together in the fight against crime.
The police department of Merrysville, before the introduction of the Chief Harold Furman reforms, believed that their sole purpose in Merrysville was to apprehend the bad guys and put them behind bars. The department also had a no nonsense approach which more often than not excluded members public from its activities. Thus the public viewed the police as a group of people out to harass and arrest them rather than fellow citizens charged with the crucial task of maintaining law and order in their community. This explains their skeptism in the initial stages of the community policing program proposed by Chief Harold Furman.
led had Officer Mike Strzykalski was a ten-year veteran of the police department of Merrysville, a city of 500,000 people. The department had more than 2,000 police officers and a reputation of “no-nonsense” policing, an attitude instilled by a former police chief who believed that the central purpose of the department was to “catch the bad guys and throw them in the can.” Officer Strzykalski, known as “Big Mike,” was an early supporter of this approach to policing and was respected by many of his peers. He knew that effective law enforcement meant identifying the bad element in the community and dealing with them directly and forcefully. More contemporary approaches to policing, such as community policing ideas and practices, were “bullshit” and coddling criminals, as far as he was concerned. For Officer Strzykalski, policing meant making arrests and showing numbers. He learned early on in his career that getting the numbers was everything, and he also knew that it looked favorable for him at promotion time if he could show that he was productive. Officer Strzykalski, however, was to see all this change with the hiring of a new chief from outside the department.
Chief Harold Furman, a progressive police professional, believed that the quality of policing was tied to how the department resolved community problems. He also knew that his ideas were foreign to this rather conservative community, yet he had the full support of the mayor in trying to bring the department into the 21st century. For Chief Furman, the little things were what mattered. He operationalized his philosophy of policing similar to the ideas of former New York City police commissioner William Bratton. Bratton had adopted an idea postulated by some Ivy League types that the erosion of quality of life in a community led toward urban decay and ultimately unchecked crime. Bratton boasted, both within police circles and among city politicians and the citizenry, that attending to community concerns had caused a significant decrease in crime during the early 1990s. For Bratton and Furman, effective policing meant dealing with the little things in the community, from assisting communities in cleaning up their neighborhoods to arresting individuals who were negligent in paying their tickets and municipal fines.