News / USA

China Studies US to Revamp Police Force

Chinese police wait for the arrival of delegates for a session of the National People's Congress outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 11, 2012. Chinese police wait for the arrival of delegates for a session of the National People's Congress outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 11, 2012.
x
Chinese police wait for the arrival of delegates for a session of the National People's Congress outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 11, 2012.
Chinese police wait for the arrival of delegates for a session of the National People's Congress outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 11, 2012.
China is spending more than ever before in an attempt to upgrade its domestic police force, but it may also be seeking to change its approach to law enforcement by looking to the United States for ideas. 

U.S. law enforcement officials and experts who have advised China on its police force say Beijing is looking to update an antiquated system plagued by outdated crime reporting methods, outmoded equipment and vehicles and a lack of trust with the people.

“They're really trying to make a professional police force as opposed to just hiring someone, giving them a uniform and putting them in the neighborhood and saying ‘defend the party,’” said Sergeant Erik Branson of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., who has been to China to speak with law enforcement officials there about U.S. tactics.

Branson said Chinese Embassy officials approached him after seeing an article about his role in helping clean up a crime and drug-infested park in Washington.

China’s police force is highly centralized and not divided along local, state and federal levels as it is in the United States. In China, the Ministry of Public Security is responsible for day-to-day law enforcement. But Branson said the officials he spoke with were less interested in the federal system and more interested in local policing, like how he patrolled on a bicycle and developed good relations with members of the community who, in turn, served as his “eyes and ears” on the ground.

“The focus is on local because that's where the problems are with corruption and insurrection,” Branson said, adding that they want to become more professionalized by learning how American police patrol, how they interact with the community and how they deal with the mass media.

Exchange students

One way Chinese police are learning is by immersing themselves in the U.S. system. For the past three years, roughly 15 elite students from China’s prestigious Zhejiang Police College in Hangzhou, China have studied criminal justice for an entire year at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. (see video)


Video courtesy Dr. Phil Lyons of Sam Houston State University

Vincent Webb, dean and director of the university's prestigious college of criminal justice, said such an exchange is telling.

“I think there's a lot more concern about civil disorder in China than I ever thought,” he said. “I think there's a growing recognition that policing is going to have to involve the community as stakeholders in a variety of decisions, problem identification and development of solutions. Public safety is a two-way street. If you're always going out with riot gear, you're going to have to have a lot more police.”

Webb’s observations are borne out in statistics. The number of what the Chinese government calls “mass incidents” has risen from less than 10,000 in 1993, to about 90,000 in 2010, according to Chinese government-backed studies. The number of these public gatherings, which officials fear could disrupt social stability, may even be higher, but Beijing stopped publishing statistics in recent years.

These have been fuelled by citizens who are increasingly frustrated with corruption and abuse of power by local officials.

Both Branson and Webb said the Chinese police may be realizing they have to build trust with the people if they want to maintain order, and that means developing partnerships with citizens to solve and prevent crime.

Community policing

Community policing, which focuses on building those very kinds of partnerships, was widely used in the U.S. during the late 1990s, but has taken a backseat in some areas as law enforcement has focused more on homeland security in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Dennis Bowman, a professor at the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University, said he thinks community policing is a good fit for China.

“Conceptually, the model is appealing to them in my view,” he said. “But we have no knowledge as to the elements of [community policing] that particularly interest them.”

Bowman added that for China to “do it truly, it has to be a more democratic style of government” because of the emphasis the approach places on decentralization and the active participation of the citizens.

The U.S.-approach to community policing likely would run into barriers in China when it comes to communication and transparency. The government tightly controls the media and tries to restrict public discussion of unrest.

“They can only take it so far,” Bowman said.

But they’re interested in hearing ideas.

Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman with the Fairfax County Police Department in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., was recently invited to speak at the International Forum on Police and Media in Hangzhou. She said the Chinese participants were interested in learning the basic tools her department uses to communicate with the public, how to build trust and credibility and how to show empathy with the people.

“The public must know that you care before they care what you know,” she said.

Cultural divide

The Chinese exchange students at Sam Houston State University are getting a first-hand look at this approach. As a part of their studies, the students spend a week with the police departments of nearby League City or Alvin, Texas.  During that time, they live with American police families and ride along in police cruisers, witnessing frontline law enforcement, as well as life off duty.

“In keeping with the notion of community engagement, I thought it made sense to connect these students to the community so they can see American policing from the inside of a police car,” said Phillip Lyons, a professor at Sam Houston State University.

Crystal Ye, who is about to finish her year at the university, said she takes her role seriously.

“In my opinion [being a] police officer is an honorable job,” she said. “It's an integral part of a mature society.”

Ye said she was impressed with the amount of high tech equipment and statistics used by U.S. law enforcement officers, adding that a similar approach could be used in China.

Some things didn't translate, though. Ye said she was surprised to see that American officers carried guns, saying that it’s illegal for citizens to carry weapons in China, so there’s no need for police to carry them.  Also, she said many Chinese police do not have the authority to make arrests.

Lyons said that he instructs Chinese students who are shadowing a U.S. officer during an arrest to stay in the car until it is safe to come out.

“We explained that sometimes people don't like police intervening, and we told them they may shout or yell,” he said. “One of the students asked, ‘Do they ever use bad language?’ I told him ‘Yes,’ and he asked, ‘Is that when you shoot them?’ It’s the wild west to them.”

Lyons said when he asked one student what surprised them most about American police, the answer was "the power you have."

“That really struck me as backwards,” he said. “Here's someone from the PRC [People’s Republic of China] talking about the power of the American police.”

However, there have been recent examples of just how much power Chinese police have when it suits local government officials.

Human rights groups have criticized Chinese police and security forces in recent months following revelations of a harsh anti-crime crackdown in Chongqing under disgraced Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, and the extrajudicial detention of blind activist Chen Guangcheng. These incidents have renewed calls from China's top leadership to clean up corruption and impunity at the local level.

Servants of law and order?

While Beijing's interest in community policing and communicating more with citizens is clear, the extent to which China will implement the U.S. lessons remains a mystery.

Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch said Beijing likely will be putting its own spin on the Western system. He said China may be looking to resurrect a model from its Maoist past, the so-called neighborhood committees.

The committees, Kine said, were basically the communist party’s “boots on the ground and eyes and ears looking for troublemakers and outsiders…looking for anti-revolutionary elements.”

Kine said they were revitalized during the 2008 Beijing Olympics because they were seen as valuable maintaining order during a time when the spotlight was on China.

“It’s an old model that, like Frankenstein, has been brought back to life,” he said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement that both China and the U.S. had achieved “positive results” with exchange visits, joint investigations, intelligence sharing and law enforcement training.

“Sending exchange students between law enforcement training academies of the two countries to learn from each other advanced policing philosophy and tactics will help enhance mutual understanding and trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation and promote sustained and sound development of cooperative relations between China and U.S. in the field of law enforcement,” said the statement.

But Kine is skeptical about what China may be learning from the West.

“One of the things that we’ve noted with alarm is that Chinese security services look to best practices in Western countries to essentially build a better mousetrap,” said Kine. “It’s to bolster the regime rather than to bring real law enforcement to China. The police are controlled by the state. They are not the impartial arbiters and servants of law and order.”

The Chinese Embassy did not respond to Kine’s assertion, despite repeated attempts seeking comment.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Chief David Couper from: United States
June 06, 2012 1:52 PM
If China is really interested in learning how to transform and improve police, police leaders need to take a look at my new book, "Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police." And visit my blog "ImprovingPolice" at Wordpress.com.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid