There is limited focus in scholarly and practitioner publications on policing in the Middle East. This is a problem in the global policing field because states like the United Arab Emirates are, by many measures, safe places. This begs the question: how are police and law enforcement organisations in the Middle East achieving this enviable position?
As police organisations around the world grapple with ever-increasing demands on their time and resources, sharing research and best practice is becoming more widely recognized as an area from which to draw critical support. This comes as no surprise to those in strategic police leadership positions; the challenge is gaining access to such research and findings to support organisations’ continuous improvement endeavours and police reform deliberations.
The police and law enforcement challenge of managing public safety and adherence to health and welfare protocols that was created by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value and importance of understanding “how others are managing.” The resulting upsurge in scholarly publications from across the globe that evaluate policing initiatives implemented to manage local COVID-19 pandemic issues has created a valuable resource not only for our police leaders, but also for our emerging leaders and those in associated government and non-government agencies.
From the perspective of advancing policing, new ways of doing business for police have emerged—either intentionally or by default—out of the COVID-19 response, with the digitalization of standardized police services that are public facing and of internal police operational tasks being examples of such development.
What can police organisations learn from Abu Dhabi Police?
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Abu Dhabi Police sought to build community relations and public confidence. The force conducted 19 key diverse campaigns and initiatives across Abu Dhabi in 2020 with the aim of establishing consistent personal engagement between officers and members of the public.
The “From Home to Home” campaign, for example, was launched to provide the public with advice and guidance around the clock and release educational messages in many languages. The “For the Sake of Your Safety” initiative focused on the distribution of masks and gloves to residents of residential neighborhoods in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Abu Dhabi Police provided instructions and advice on precautions to avoid infection with the emerging COVID-19.
Such campaigns engaged officers from across the service, communicating and interacting face-to-face with the public. As a result, the level of community satisfaction with the work of the Abu Dhabi Police remained strong at greater than 98%, according to a recent government survey (the average for 2016-2018 being 98.47%).
The findings from these campaigns are explored in the research article “Influencing police and community relations with a soft power approach during COVID-19,” part of the special edition of Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. The edition highlights the work of Abu Dhabi Police across a range of policing domains, offering that much-needed insight into “how others are managing.”
The special edition—the first of its kind from the Middle East—demonstrates the value of investing in research and capturing advances in a range of industries and activities, such as artificial intelligence, information technology, data analytics, and community-oriented programmes, to build police/community relations and partnerships. The edition shares lessons learnt on the journey to achieve best practice, contributing to the advancement of police operations across the global policing community.
Featured image: Abu Dhabi Islamic Decoration Sheikh Zayed Mosque via MaxPixel, public domain