Managing Police Patrol Time: The Role of Supervisor Directives
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Contemporary police practice advocates the importance of proactive policing activities. Proactive policing reforms emphasize self-initiated tasks during unassigned patrol time and directed activities based on supervisor review of crime analysis and problem identification. Our study analyzes data from systematic social observations of police patrol officers to examine how officers spent their discretionary time. We find that, on average, over three quarters of a patrol officers' shift is unassigned. During this time, officers primarily self-initiate routine patrol, or back up other officers on calls to which they were not dispatched. Just 6 percent of unassigned time activities are directed by supervising officers, dispatchers, other officers or citizens. Moreover, directives provided by supervisors are vague, general in form, and do not operationalize problem-oriented policing, community-oriented policing, or proactive policing strategies. We conclude that first, a very significant proportion of patrol officer time is spent uncommitted that could be better utilized doing proactive, problem-oriented policing activities, and second, supervisors need to provide patrol officers with much more detailed directives, based on sound crime analysis, to help capitalize on the under-utilization of patrol officer time.
Justice quarterly : JQ