The State Police: Patrol Tasks and Trooper Discretion

W. Carsten Andresen, Rutgers University

To broaden the police literature and aid in professional innovation, this research focuses on the state police as a distinctive policing form. In particular, this study identifies the core tasks that make up trooper work, the critical tasks that supervisors expect troopers to perform correctly, and the legal and extra legal variables that mold trooper discretion. Based on empirical research of a state police organization, this work utilized various data sources, such as internal organizational documents, focus group interviews with troopers, supervisors, and command staff, and systematic observations of state police work through trooper ride alongs. The findings of this research echo past work by James Q. Wilson (1968), who classified municipal policing in the United States into three different organizational styles: the watchmen, legalistic, and service style. Like municipal police, state policing falls into three different organizational styles. Indeed, this study found that trooper barracks provide three types of state police services: exclusive service of bounded roadways, general police services to municipalities, or a mix of services to bounded roadways and rural communities.

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Updated 05/20/2006