Small Wars Journal

Community Policing in a ‘War on Terror’ Environment: More Difficult, More Vital

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:05am

Community Policing in a ‘War on Terror’ Environment: More Difficult, More Vital

Pamela Ligouri Bunker                                 

In the face of the unprecedented terrorist attacks of 9/11, US President George Bush responded to the resultant climate of fear and uncertainty by undertaking broad reactive measures deemed a ‘war on terror.’ This ‘war’ metaphor had far ranging effects in its influence on actions, legislation, and discourse, many of which proved counterproductive to countering terrorism.  Policing was not immune to the effects of the ‘war on terror.’  While the 9/11 attacks would push police into a more visible role in appearing “tough on terror,” the 7/7 London attacks would place their focus more fully on domestic Muslim communities. Community policing is a paradigm within law enforcement suggesting that most issues are best dealt with proactively at the community level through collaborative engagement between the community and police. Community policing has been viewed as both integral and anathema to the needs of homeland security.  Looking specifically at the US and UK, this essay investigates the extent to which community policing imperatives were compromised in the war on terror.  Through an examination of the counterterrorism and policing literature, it elicits the place of community policing within the greater policing paradigm pre-9/11 and how this has changed, shows the ways in which the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’ changed policing’s view of and relationship with the Muslim communities it serves, and examines the ways in which these changes compromised tenets of community policing.


In the face of the unprecedented scope of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States government, under President George Bush, responded to the resultant climate of fear and uncertainty by undertaking broad reactive measures, deemed a ‘war on terror.’  This ‘war’ metaphor would have far ranging effects in its influence on actions, legislation, and discourse.  Recognizing the impossibility of fighting a ‘war’ against a tactic at large, the subsequent Obama administration refined the metaphor to one targeting the terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, responsible for the events of 9/11.  Still, many of the ongoing influences of the ‘war on terror’ agenda would prove in the months and years ahead to be counterproductive to that end. 

English has suggested that, “as a general rule, counter-terrorist response is ideally much more of a police than a military matter” (2009, p. 129).  As the most lethal act of domestic terrorism to date, however, 9/11 is often said to have “changed everything,” including the role and profile of policing (Murray, 2005, p. 348; Clark and Newman, 2007, p. 9).  Although not unchallenged, it has been argued that the attacks were a product of a “new terrorism,” whose defining characteristics include increased lethality, a growing religious motivation—especially a radical interpretation of Islam, and a move to more networked and diffuse organizational structures of terrorist groups (Bolanos, 2012, pp. 29-31).  Bleich has pointed out that “9/11 is merely one highly symbolic turning point among many in this broader trajectory” leading to “the securitization of the Muslim-state relationship in the West” (2009, p. 354).  The 7 July 2005 suicide bombings of the London public transit system further impacted governmental and public consciousness regarding the changing nature of terrorism in that—while linked to Al Qaeda—the terrorist attackers were “homegrown.”   While the 9/11 attacks would push police into a more visible role in appearing “tough on terror,” the 7/7 attacks would place their focus more fully on domestic Muslim communities.

Community policing—alternately called ‘community oriented policing’ (COP)—is a particular paradigm within the realm of law enforcement suggesting that most issues are best dealt with proactively at the community level.  This paradigm, elaborated more fully later, broadly consists of a “collaborative partnership between the community and police, engaged in a process that identifies and solves problems of crime and disorder” (Murray, 2005, pp. 349-50).  Community policing has been viewed as both integral and anathema to the needs of homeland security.  On the one hand, it has been suggested by de Guzman that, in the context of the war on terror, “some tenets of community policing appear to be inconsistent with the implementation of these new police roles,” citing elements of the “new terrorism” itself as well as a need for secrecy on the part of police (cited in Murray, 2005, pp. 357-8).  On the other, it has been argued that the relationships that community policing fosters are “vital to promoting the ‘flow of information’ from communities in order to prevent terrorism” (Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009, p. 659).

Looking specifically at the United States and United Kingdom, this essay investigates the extent to which community policing imperatives were compromised in the war on terror.  Through an examination of the counterterrorism and policing literature, Section I elicits the place of community policing within the greater policing paradigm before 9/11, the reasons for its institution, and the extent to which it retains that position within present day policing.  Section II shows the ways in which the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’—including effects of the actions undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan, new legislation enacted domestically, and the institution of Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) as a response to homeland security concerns—changed policing’s view of and relationship with the Muslim communities it serves.  In Section III, the ways in which these changes compromised tenets of community policing with regard to those communities are addressed. The essay concludes with thoughts on the long-term prospects for community policing counterterrorism efforts.

Community Policing in Context

The origins of the modern police service are said to lie in the establishment of the London Metropolitan Police in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, based on military models of organization  (Murray, 2005, p. 349).  The hierarchical structure and distancing of police from citizens—keeping them in patrol cars and off the streets—was later institutionalized as an attempt to subdue corruption, improve legitimacy, and focus efforts on law enforcement (Lee, 2010, pp. 347-49).  This traditional model would continue to be the predominant form of policing, both in the UK and the US, until the 1960s. Reacting to failures in responding to the social upheaval of that decade, there emerged by the 1970s an attempt to reform police priorities from arresting offenders to prevention through addressing the root causes of crime (Lee, 2010, pp. 349-50).  Murray holds that:

The move from a traditionally reactive, action-oriented style of policing to a service-oriented community policing model, which occurred over the past three decades, was the most significant positive change in policing philosophy (2005, p. 349).

Prior to 9/11, then, the ‘community policing’ paradigm had taken pride of place as the favored way—at least in principle if not practice—of addressing most law enforcement issues within jurisdictions.  Through expanding the “number and nature of proactive police services,” the resulting approach to law enforcement was seen as having the benefits of focusing on underlying conditions, identifying problems unique to the community, and releasing a community’s own social control mechanisms in order to “co-produce public safety” and deter offenders (Friedmann and Cannon, 2007, p.10).  The underlying philosophy is that by being immersed in a particular community—getting to really know its citizens and walking its streets—police officers will be in a position to gain actionable information on criminal activity before it happens

Complicating the effectiveness of community policing, however, is that different variations and interpretations exist.  Johnston has found that, while in North America and Europe there is wide acceptance that “the future lies in community policing,” the discourse on what it entails runs the gamut from its being “a police-led and state-centered initiative” to “a genuine partnership” to “a devolution of rowing with a consolidation of steering model” (2003, pp. 186-7).  Furthermore, Spalek has underlined the fact that it is not always made clear that the achievement of community policing goals hinges explicitly on the existence of consent, reciprocity, and—especially— trust (2010, p. 793).  In particular, it has been noted that these partnerships work best when they focus on “often marginalized communities” which, at the outset, often have more mistrust of police (Lyons, 2002, p. 530).            

These factors all come sharply into focus with the changes in the policing of communities that occurred post-9/11.  As early as 2002, Lyons predicted that:

A war on terror is likely to place new and powerful pressure on police forces…to push them in paramilitary directions…and to forego the skill development needed to reinvent police forces capable of working with genuinely reciprocal citizen partnerships (p. 531).

Carter and Carter describe the post-9/11 policing environment as “the homeland security era” (2009, p. 310).  Homeland security policing is said to “focus specifically on citizen safety and anti-terrorism methods aimed at the mitigation of future attacks” and, as such, local police are expected to work closely with communities to gather intelligence that is then shared with other state and federal agencies (Chappell and Gibson, 2009, pp. 327-8).  At first glance, these goals and means do not seem much different from those entailed by the community policing paradigm.  Ultimately, as Clarke and Newman point out, terrorism is but a crime with a political motive and the difference from other crime “merely one of degree” (2007, pp. 15-6).

The first sense, however, that there was a substantive shift in emphasis from community policing to homeland security is in the amount of funding earmarked for each since the attacks.  In the US, for example, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the amount of federal funding for homeland security had doubled, while that for community policing fell by half (ibid, p. 327).  Similarly, in the UK, by 2011, annual spending by the Metropolitan Police on counter-terrorism, operations, and risk-assessment and intelligence were said to have tripled (Klausen, 2009, p. 406).  The second palpable sense that policing had shifted was a “fortification” mentality which emerged (de Guzman in Lee, 2010, p. 350).  As Murray describes it:

Policing across the world, to the average observer, became visibly different. It was not just the fact there were more police about, but police had assumed a more aggressive style of dress and manner (2005, p. 356).

Some of this was due to the fact that police forces were given excessive funding for inappropriate or questionable equipment they may have had little use for in the name

of fighting the domestic war on terror while a lack of training and organizational limits remained (Friedman and Cannon, 2007, p. 8).  The other fundamental issue, however, was that ‘the war on terror’ discourse passed on its militaristic qualities to counterterrorism efforts even in the realm of homeland security.  Grabosky poses that, to some, “the essence of counterterrorism is surveillance and control” to the end that, in the words of Bayley and Weisburd, the police role transformed from “service to suspicion” (In Grabosky, 2008, p. 2).  Some have surmised that, where this occurred, community policing principles had never truly taken hold (Murray, 2005, p. 356; Chappel and Gibson, 2009, p. 332).

Beyond these substantive changes in the overall picture, many recognized the overlap between community policing and homeland security and saw the goals of both to be realized in the construct of intelligence-led policing (ILP).  Both the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings highlighted the consequences of either insufficient intelligence information or a lack of sharing thereof.  In fact, in March of 2002, a summit of representatives from state, local and tribal law enforcement (SLTLE) agencies with the International Association of Police Chiefs recommended reengineering their intelligence function by adopting the ILP model (Carter and Carter, 2009, pp. 313-14).  Intelligence-led policing—like community policing—was originally designed in response to ordinary crime, with the belief in this case that, through gathering as much information as possible and sharing that information with other agencies, law enforcement would inevitably “join up the dots” on threats and prevent crime (Clarke and Newman, 2007, pp. 11-12).  One popular ‘blend’ of the two is the neighborhood policing (NP) model widely adopted in England and Wales.  As has been pointed out by Spalek, however, this model:

…wholly oversimplifies the wider dynamics and complexities to trust within a counter-terrorism context…building trust goes beyond responding to people’s everyday concerns around crime, especially given the highly politicized “new terrorism” context whereby Muslim communities have been problematized by dominant social and government instigated discourses (2010, p. 794).

A further worry is that, with the focus on threats rather than the community as a whole, citizens will lose their partnership status and become either a “useful tool” to be used as the “eyes and ears” of the police agencies or, even worse, as potential threats to be controlled (Lee, 2010, p. 360).  The differences between the models, although seemingly subtle, potentially have much bigger ramifications for police counterterrorism efforts in light of the broader societal effects of the war on terror.

Effects of the War on Terror on the Relationship of Police to Muslim Communities

Post-9/11, the war on terror instituted by the United States and its allies would be undertaken both in the form of military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the enactment of new legislation designed to counter the threat of the ‘new terrorism.’  While ultimately viewed as flawed, the reasoning behind the actions taken has been rationalized from various positions—from the pragmatic to the premeditated.  Richardson, for example, explains that:

There was a new-found sense of insecurity.  With it came a loss of perspective and, ultimately, a willingness to support a response that was destined to make the situation worse (2006, p. 141).

Crenshaw perhaps more critically contends that a further explanation may be that:

…the conception of a new terrorism supports the case for major policy change—a justification for the global war on terrorism, the establishment of the category of “enemy combatant,” brutal interrogation methods, reliance on a strategy of military preemption, and the use of tactics such as renditions, domestic surveillance activities, and other homeland security measures that restrict civil liberties (2011, pp. 63-4).

The commonality behind all of these actions is that they would serve to place the focus of counterterrorism, both globally and domestically, on a particular group of people—the faith community of Islam.  

While the backlash from the military actions such as “collateral damage” from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, among others, may need no explanation; some examples here of new legislation enacted can offer some perspective on the domestic front.  In the US, for example, Cainkar notes that “[o]f the roughly twenty policies and initiatives implemented in the first twelve months after 9/11, fifteen explicitly targeted Arabs and Muslims,” including a mandatory hold on all non-immigrant visas, mandatory interviews of those from Arab and Muslim countries, mass deportation, and forced registration of young male non-immigrant aliens from twenty-three Muslim majority countries (Cainkar, 2004, pp. 245-6).  In the UK, similarly targeted anti-terror laws have been enacted.  Perhaps the most notorious is the implementation of Section 44 stops-and-searches which allow for individuals to be stopped and searched on the street for articles relating to terrorism without need for reasonable suspicion, resulting in over half a million stops with no convictions (Choudhury and Fenwick, 2011, pp. 167-9).  These stops-and-searches reportedly focused on Muslim communities, with an increase in the targeting of ‘Asians’ of 302% in a year—compared to 230% and 118% for ‘blacks’ and ‘whites,’ respectively (In Spalek and Lambert, 2008, p. 268).

Considering the historical precedent of the Irish experience in Britain as set out by Hillyard, Breen-Smyth maintains that now—as then—the focus of counterterrorism efforts within an identifiable community, particularly in its publically visible forms such as stops, searches, detention, and arrest, serves to create a “suspect community.”  The public begins to identify these suspect communities as “dangerous, antipathetic, and traitorous” (2013, pp. 2, 7-8).  Pantzis and Pemberton define a suspect community as:

…a sub-group that is singled out for attention as being ‘problematic.’ Specifically, in terms of policing, individuals may be targeted, not necessarily as a result of suspected wrong doing, but simply because of their presumed membership in that subgroup (2009, p. 649).

This need for “othering” lies not only in major counter-terrorism campaigns.  Huq and Muller show that major law enforcement foci—such as the ‘war on crime’ and the ‘war on drugs’—created a stereotypical gang member, pedophile, or drug user whom the public could vilify (2008, p. 217).

In the case of the ‘war on terror,’ however, the “other” is said to lie among those espousing a radicalized form of a religion whose members are virtually indistinguishable at a glance from any other member of the various religious and ethnic sub-communities in which they might be found.  In the UK alone, the Muslim population has 56 nationalities, 70 languages, and 1,200 different mosques representing Sunni, Shi’a, and Sufi, and many different schools of thought (Spalek and Imtoual, p. 198).  This sheer diversity of the Muslim population in the West has often been lost with the “security lens” through which they are now viewed (Bleich, 2009, p. 354).   

Hickman et. al. note the ambiguous position of members of suspect communities in that they simultaneously occupy the roles of victims needing protection, partners with law enforcement and a potential safe harbor for extremists (2011, p. 14).  As law enforcement turned its concern to “domestic terrorist sleeper cells” and focused on, in the words of US Attorney General John Ashcroft, “identifying threats of future terrorist acts, preventing them from happening, and punishing would-be perpetrators” (In Huq and Muller, pp. 215, 222), there would be an increased perception of a need to have Muslim “community” cooperation in the pursuit of intelligence leads.   At the same time, the ‘new terrorism’ emphasis on radical Islam as key to Al Qaeda terrorist acts placed focus on the need to identify “radical elements” within that community as would-be terrorists to be surveilled or arrested.  Supportive communities are deemed imperative to both turning a blind eye to terrorist activities in their midst but also are themselves considered subject to terrorist recruitment.  Through these perceptions, policing began subtly—and in some cases not so subtly—distancing itself from its Muslim citizens.

Compromises in the Tenets of Community Policing

Muslim communities have thus been placed in a precarious position.  These communities feel a need to be cooperative with official government agencies but may feel that they are being asked to “spy” on friends.   Spalek and Imtoual describe how anti-terror measures have framed this choice for Muslims as one of between “good Muslim community member” and “good citizen” (2007, p. 185).  Lyons response is a strong one, and lies at the crux of the community policing versus intelligence-led policing dichotomy:

Cooperation with the police cannot be a precondition for being treated like a citizen.  If we expect Arab-Americans and Islamic-Americans to share information, perhaps at great personal risk, it is incumbent on us to first treat them with respect, protecting their liberties and dignity as zealously as those of other Americans to provide a foundation for their willing cooperation (2002, p. 537).

In fact, measures such as forcing cooperation on the government’s terms may actually be unnecessary and do more harm than good.  A 2009 study by Tyler et. al. of Muslim Americans in New York City tested normative (value-based) versus instrumental (e.g. to avoid confrontations) reasons behind the motivation for cooperation with law enforcement authorities regarding terror-related risks in the community.  Their findings strongly suggest a normative response but find this is contingent upon their trust and confidence in the authorities, particularly their perceptions of procedural justice (2010).

This leads us back to the placement of community policing in relation to the war on terror and the compromises that the move towards a homeland security emphasis have wrought.  There has recently been a recognition that ‘hard-sided’ approaches have taken their toll and that a reversion to more ‘soft-sided’ approaches—a decade hence— may now be starting to take place (Spalek, 2010, pp. 792-3).  The recognition that community policing has much to offer counter-terrorism rests on some general assumptions shared by many who promote the usefulness of community policing for counterterrorism purposes.  The core of this is that terrorists have to live in a community somewhere, that this will be a place where they will seek to blend in, and that local ‘beat’ police will be in the best position to recognize any signs or changes in the community they serve and will further be able to glean information on potential terrorist activity from those citizens and business persons with whom they interact on a regular basis. 

The problems in most assumptions are clear in a statement by Kelling and Bratton.  They maintain that local police “are in a better position to know responsible leaders in the Islamic and Arab communities and can reach out to them for information or help in developing informants” (In Clarke and Newman, 2007, p. 13, emphasis mine).  The reason that community policing works is precisely that it is not geared toward developing informants but rather working in concert with the community.  There is a relationship of trust built on—to the greatest extent possible—a give and take and geared toward the mutual stake all parties have in the community.  They are partnerships.  The key to these relationships of trust is that they are not abused. 

It is often said that trust is fragile and hard to rebuild once it is shaken.  Spalek has been led to ask “whether trust can be built at all between police officers and Muslim minorities, within the context of the ‘new terrorism.’”  She points out that the literature suggests that the trust that exists between them is easily eroded through over-policing (2010, p. 790).  Trust between police and the Muslim communities they serve has been undermined due to factors intrinsic to the ‘war on terror.’  One cause has been a view that the actions (and abuses) related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the targeted focus of domestic legislation have really constituted a ‘war on Islam’ (Spalek, 2010, p. 805).  Another factor is that when Muslim families are singled out and detained at airports and miss their flights, when young Muslim men are repeatedly stopped and searched, or when whole Muslim communities are subject to covert surveillance as happened in Birmingham, there is a backlash to domestic counterterrorism efforts that goes beyond those individuals affected to the Muslim communities at large (Choudhary and Fenwick, 2011, pp. 162-73).           

The second part of the Kelling and Bratton statement above that proponents of true community policing should take issue with is the identification of  “responsible leaders” within the Islamic communities.  Spalek and Lambert have pointed out that often governments are reluctant to engage with those sub-groups within the larger Muslim community which do not agree with governmental policies, particularly those “Muslim identities that appear to value the ummah over feelings of Britishness, or who appear to isolate themselves from wider society” (2008, p. 261).  Lambert elaborates this exclusionary process of engagement further, finding a bias against Salafi and Islamist communities in favor of their more “moderate” religious opponents.  If engagement with these groups is necessary, he finds, it has been advocated this be done covertly, “in a dark alley” (2008, p. 33). 

In reality, it has been found that most Salafi and Islamist community leaders are at the forefront of combatting the very terrorist rhetoric to which counterterrorism efforts are addressed.  In the US, Schanzer et. al. interviewed 120 Muslims in four communities across the country.  Among their findings were that “the self-described Salafis in our project were among the most hostile to radical Islamic movements, which they considered haram, religiously impermissible” at the same time they were less quick to condemn acts outside the US that were part of armed conflict (2010, p. 22).  In the UK, Lambert argues that:

Indeed, in London, a handful of Salafi and Islamist groups have been at the forefront of groundbreaking community work that successfully counters the adverse influence of al-Qaeda propaganda among susceptible youth.  In doing so, they face the double-jeopardy of attack from within their increasingly alienated communities…and suspicions from without—where Islamists and Salafis are pejoratively conflated with the al-Qaeda threat (2010, p. 33).

These authors further stress that the term ‘Salafi’ refers simply to the fact that they are followers of the first generation of Muslims (the Salaf), a form of Islamic doctrine that rejects later interpretations while Islamists are Islamic political or social activists (Spalek and Lambert, 2008, pp. 264-5, Schanzer et. al., 2010, p. 22).  Spalek and Lambert point out that police are choosing to work with groups willing to cooperate on their terms, for example Sufis, who have “little knowledge of al-Qaida activity and even less street credibility to be able to tackle it” while ignoring the potential of those groups most likely to be helpful (2008, pp. 266-7).  This goes against the very essence of community policing in that it fails to create relationships with an entire community thereby losing out on the trust that contributes to the safety of the community as a whole.  It is particularly spurious to choose partners on the basis of “moderacy” when surveys have estimated that in the UK 91% of Muslims as a whole disagree with UK government foreign policy (Spalek, 2010, p. 805).

Conclusion:  The Future of Community Policing for Counterterrorism

Despite the still mainstream notion of a need to project a ‘tough’ stance on terror, there are those who maintain a firm belief that the tenets of community policing are more vital than ever.  Prevention is at the heart of counterterrorism.  Like the prevention of all crime, it requires the piecing together of information from the community to identify a threat to peace and order.  While terrorism is infrequent, the day-to-day concerns of communities go on and the trust engendered by community policing—when done right—relies on all its actors maintaining ongoing engagement.  Horgan makes the point that:

It is naturally easier to attempt to prevent future instances of some action by immediately punishing it than it is to find some other way of redirecting that behavior, or what underpins it (2005, p. 44).

In the discussion above, it is clear that—in order to prevent terrorism—in some cases it is necessary to engage with groups with views which are not ‘mainstream’ yet are best able to redirect those who are misled by groups, such as al-Qaeda, into considering the employment of terrorism a ‘religious mandate’.  Important programs have been operating for years to those ends, both independently and supported by police agencies.  The STREET program, initiated in Brixton, South London, exemplifies the kind of successes that local communities can achieve.  This program, geared towards Muslim youth provides a safe social environment while allowing the deconstruction of erroneous religious/civic beliefs by those respected as authoritative voices (Haqq Baker, 2011, pp. 220-25). Since its inception in 2002, similar partnerships have been advanced by the Muslim Contact Unit of the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). While MCU officers are specialists in counterterrorism rather than local ‘beat’ police, the principles of interaction are the same and there is transparency in engagement (Lambert, 2008, pp. 32-3).  It has been noted that many local agencies lack properly trained intelligence analysts (Clarke and Newman, 2007, p.12).  The MCU model may offer a positive ‘blend’ of community and specialist policing for further application.  Finally, Spalek and Imtuoal suggest “the notion that extremists can be located in any [specific] community is problematic” (2007, p. 194).  For the future, we need to be cognizant that terrorism has a variety of bases and to link it with specific communities can ‘problematize’ them and backfire in our intent.


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About the Author(s)

Pamela Ligouri Bunker is Managing Partner, C/O Futures, LLC, and is a researcher and analyst specializing in international security and terrorism related narratives. She holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology-geography and social sciences from California State Polytechnic University Pomona, an M.A. in public policy from the Claremont Graduate University, and an M.Litt. in terrorism studies from the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland. She is co-editor of Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2015) and has published many referred and professional works including additional books.



Wed, 07/30/2014 - 5:27pm

I echo much of what David says, and will add to it a bit from my own experience.

I remember well how we as police scrambled immediately after 9/11. As one example, for the first couple years we regularly - and by that I mean daily - responded to 911 calls for "suspicious object (bag) beneath (or near) an express-way underpass" that invariably turned out to be construction sandbags. We repeatedly had to call state and local transportation departments to have them collected, as responding to these jobs was both prioritized and unending. But those days, for the most part, have waned. While we remain wary of many things we were not so attuned to before 9/11, the sense of running in all directions at once has largely passed.

I do not see, nor do I believe anyone else in LE sees, the dichotomy between Community Orientated Policing (COP), counter-terrorism (CT), and intelligence-led policing (ILP) as widely as has been presented above. This is certainly not a "one-or-the-other" option, and while I readily admit abuses or poor decisions have certainly occurred that have been detrimental to the goals of both COP and CT, we as a profession are certainly capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

I and others have been vocal in our criticism not of COP but of how many interpret COP. I do not believe COP to be a strategy, but rather a philosophy on how law enforcement (LE) should structure their strategies and conduct their operations.

In developing partnerships with the community, one of the goals is to develop a familiarity and comfort so that information - "tips" - do come in from the community. In Chicago, one of the primary reasons why LE is not permitted to inquire about community members' legal status is because we do not want anyone with information to be afraid to share it with us for fear of deportation. While meeting with community members to collect tips is an outstanding and necessary goal for COP, my personal belief is that LE plays this aspect too softly; there appears to be a nebulous hope and belief that if we simply build up enough trust information will flow in. I believe time and experience both show that a) building this trust is far more difficult than most imagined it would be for an assortment of reasons beyond the scope of this paper, and b) where inroads into communities have been made, the voluntary passing of information to LE has been much smaller than hoped for. Certainly these two things interact directly, but we cannot continue to wait on the latter while working on the former.

Terrorism is not the only threat facing our communities; gang violence and drugs affect communities much more deeply and regularly than terrorism, and while we work on our public relations and outreach still these spectres remain - and that prevents trust from being built as well. Given the need to affect security today, LE must put a greater premium on developing those tips. We cannot afford to simply sit back and hope that people will tell us things - we must actively pursue it. This may mean we do nothing more than ask; it may mean we need to learn how to listen for certain things and ask key follow-up questions. It need not be turning community members into "useful tools." We should not forget that part of earning trust is active listening.

This is one component, in my mind, of ILP: deliberately trying to collect tips from those very same community members we hold meetings for so that they may provide them. The second part is using those tools and information we have at our fingertips today to ascertain patterns in activity. Crime patterns; date, time, location, victim, and offender information; social network analysis can all be collected via open source or LE (arrest records, victim records, etc.) databases and processed to provide LE with the kind of intelligence that would have taken police 30 years ago months to assemble with stacks of files and a couple pencils. How LE manages it's resources should be based in part on the results of this intelligence.

Is there more to ILP than this? Certainly, but the above are meant to demonstrate that not only are COP, CT, and ILP not mutually exclusive, but that they may - and should - have a nexus.


Tue, 07/29/2014 - 11:15am

Pamela's viewpoint on 'community policing' and counter-terrorism (CT) is different to mine. I respond as a retired police officer who worked in the UK's second city, Birmingham and in the eastern parts which over decades saw the Muslim communities expand. My last years were spent as a Special Branch (police intelligence) officer having arrived just before 7/7 (in 2005).

Terrorism is not 'new', rather it is an 'old wine in new bottles', largely as causing mass casualties was and is often the aim of violent Jihadist groups. Both 9/11 and 7/7 were anticipated surprises, they still knocked many out of their comfort zone, including policing in the UK. In both the USA and the UK our governments needed to display an effective and knowledgable response. “Spin” aside governments had to appear to provide effective public security, not national security, simply as the people were the targets.

In both the UK and USA 'community policing' is often given pride of place in explaining the strategy followed by law enforcement. With a few exceptions most policing policy decisions remain the responsibility of the police's senior leadership; the public here are rarely involved in a partnership in identifying and solving the problems of crime and disorder.

Yes there is a need for secrecy in CT, experience since 7/7 has shown the advantage of the covert and overt parts of policing working together. For example when executing search warrants at Muslim-occupied homes taking women officers along. A 'need to share' rather the 'need to know' principle was espoused. See Peter Clarke's Colin Cramphorn Lecture (2007), which remains the best single explanation of CT here:…

'Community policing' can lead to a greater flow of public information; in CT there is little evidence that this happens. A police officer walking a 'beat' may impact an individual's motivation and opportunity to provide information, there is little evidence it is the key ingredient.

I describe the process for public information as Five Boxes:

1) The public have information without realising CT needs that

2) The public need to be motivated to pass this information on (See: )

3) There must be sound working methods to pass this information on; whether directly or indirectly

4) The police and others must ensure it reaches the right place

5) It is desirable to update the original source

There is a SWC thread on this topic:

'Intelligence-led policing' (ILP) in the UK long pre-dates 7/7; the original impetus was a report by the now defunct Audit Commission which called for resources to be concentrated on prolific offenders, catching them in the act – mainly via surveillance and informants. Their report noted the increasing absence of public help identifying suspects. This was long before the arrival of modern forensic science (DNA notably), CCTV and computers.

Nor should one overlook the experience of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland, this slowly had a profound effect on policing, particularly over 'tasking & coordination', informants, public order (riot control in US parlance) and CT. A good number of senior police officers from the RUC migrated across to England, a few went in the other direction – such Sir Kenneth Newman and Sir Hugh Orde, who were RUC Chief Constables.

It took many years for CT policing in Northern Ireland to “get up to speed”, a period when the Army took prominence; often this was clumsy and gradually changed as resources and hard thinking developed better tactics. An excellent commentary on the 'end state' is Toby Harnden's book 'Bandit Country:The IRA & South Armagh' (Pub. Paperback 1999).

The 'fortified' appearance of UK policing, with hardened buildings long pre-dated 7/7, in the late 1980's many stations surrounded themselves with high fences, limited public access, lighting and more. Officers on patrol radically changed in appearance, mainly with stab-proof vests, tear gas sprays and longer batons – this was due to the high incidence of assaults with knives not terrorism. Unlike the USA attacks with firearms are thankfully rare.

The accurate identification of violent Jihadists amongst Muslim communities will always be a problem; not that all such persons actually live in predominately Muslim populated locations. Some liken this to “searching for needles in a haystack” when the dimensions and character of the “haystack” are unknown.

Critics refer to the creation of 'suspect communities', once Irish now Muslim. Historically the British communities with the highest levels of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour (ASB) are found in urban areas, often in the inner city and large, once publicly-owned housing estates. Those areas often had a strong Irish community, as did parts of east Birmingham decades ago and for many reasons became the home for many Muslims.

One should also consider that 'stops, searches, detention and arrest' are caused by law enforcement and intelligence agencies (my emphasis) possible objective: is to create fear amongst the violent Jihadists and those around them.

Yes the UK CT strategy, known as 'Operation Contest', has four main strands: Pursue, Prevent, Prepare and Plan. See:…

Pursue has always had the greatest resources; Prevent less and even smaller under the current government. “Radical elements” exist, that does not mean they are identified let alone resourced by CT policing.

The British experience is that rarely do 'responsible leaders' or
community leaders actually know who and what the “radicals” are doing, nor do they wish to overtly act against them. Nor can they offer much about the Jihadists – who often take care to act out of community view. In fact the communities are far more diverse, with leaders whose impact is limited to their own group linked by their religious viewpoint. Locally elected councillors are invariably absent from official 'Prevent' actions and community-based actions.

Much to the discomfort of the current UK government the group which most often confronts and argues with the “radicals” and aspiring Jihadists are the Salafists, who are seen as too socially conservative, if not extreme.

In my opinion 'community policing' and communities can help in CT – particularly when coercive action is taken (arrest & search) and is clearly done with respect. Legitimacy is vital. Yes community information can help, so far little has been seen here in the UK.