Discretion or Direction: An Analysis of Patrol Officer Activities

Christine Famega, California State Univ. - San Bernardino
James Frank, University of Cincinnati
Lorraine Green Mazerolle, Griffith University

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, numerous movements in police reform and crime prevention have surfaced which are directed at making policing more proactive. Strategies and philosophies such as directed deterrent patrol, hot spot policing, and Compstat, generally place the responsibility for planning and implementing patrol activities on commanders, lieutenants, or other supervisory personnel. Community policing and problem-oriented policing stress decision making by line officers. All of these strategies have been proposed to use patrol time more productively for crime prevention, yet it has been suggestewd that random preventive patrol remains the predominant operational strategy of policing in terms of time spent. Using data collected from systematic social observations of police officers, this research examines the activities that officers engage in during the time that they are not responding to calls for service and the catalysts for officer mobilizations (i.e. are activities self-initiated or directed?). The research is an effort to assess whether proactive policing strategies from the numerous movements in police reform and crime prevention have made it past administrative implementation to the front lines of policing.

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Updated 05/20/2006