Looking Outside the Box in Research on Police Encounters With Citizens: A Re-Examination of the Power of Observational Research

Jennie J. Long, Drury College
William De-Leon Granados

ABSTRACT
Despite the rich history of observational research in the field of criminology, such research is still under utilized in the field despite the new levels of understanding that can come from in-depth, field observations. In the area of policing, for instance, field research can provide us with better insight regarding officers' applications of community policing principles, the decision-making processes that officers engage in when handling calls for service, and the dynamics of officers' encounters with victims, offenders, and other citizens. Despite the fact that observational research provides researchers with opportunities to obtain new insights about the field of policing, much research in this area continues to be dominated by quantitative analysis. In this paper, the power of observational research is examined in the context of community policing. The authors use four hundred hours of field research with patrol officers to underscore the importance of conducting observational research in the area of policing.

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Updated 05/20/2006