Field Operations: Foundations

Chapter Seven focuses on police field operations. This involves the patrol function of the police. The goals of patrol include crime prevention and deterrence, apprehension of offenders, creating a sense of community security and satisfaction, and traffic control. Two critical developments occurred in the 1930s that changed the nature of the patrol officer. One was the increased use of the patrol car. The other was the development of the Uniform Crime Reports. The police have gone from a proactive approach to reactive approach. The police respond when called.

The two most dominant methods of patrol are by automobile and by foot. Controversy exists concerning the use of one-person or two-person patrol cars. Studies indicate that one-person cars make more arrests, filed more formal crime reports, received fewer citizen complaints, and were less expensive. The 1970s and 1980s saw a resurgence of foot patrol. The officers had been removed from contact with the citizens because of the patrol car. For foot patrol to be successful, it must be implemented in areas in which officers can interact with citizens. The size of the foot patrol beat should be small enough that it may be covered once or twice per shift.

One method used to determine the appropriate number of police personnel for a city is the comparative approach. This approach involves comparing one or more cities, using a ratio of police officers per 10,000 population unit. This method is the most frequently used. In allocating resources, location and time are the most important variables. Once these variables are known, then the department would know how best to deploy personnel. Computerized mapping assists some departments in helping officers focus on problem solving.

Police time may be better spent focusing on directed patrol and hot spots. Directed patrol is more proactive, using uncommitted time for a specified activity, and is based on crime and problem analysis. The police may use their time more effectively by focusing on hot spots, places where most crimes occur, and hot times, the times when the crimes may occur. The police will have to rely on research to establish the spots and times.

The police may be more proactive and initiate more contact with citizens. Crackdowns would be a way for the police to be more proactive. Crackdowns may be more effective if they are limited in duration and rotated across crime targets and target areas. The evidence appears to support the notion of an initial deterrent effect on some offenses, as well as support for the notion of residual deterrence. This occurs when crime reduction continues even after the crackdown has ended.

Another area of proactive enforcement by the police was with guns and gangs. Several studies have been conducted with the police cracking down on illegal weapons and violent behavior by gangs. Quality-of-life policing is based on the broken-windows theory. The police will not tolerate even minor crimes. This should improve the quality-of-life in the neighborhoods and indirectly lead to a lower rate of serious crime.

Analysis of police pursuits have also called for agencies to adopt policies regarding when to pursue and when to back away. Police departments are encouraged to develop proper policy and guidelines regarding police pursuits, either on foot or in a vehicle. Some departments have a violent felony only pursuit policy. Others utilize a restrictive policy or a judgmental policy. A few agencies discourage all vehicle pursuits.

In addition to the patrol function, the police have an investigative function. The patrol officers may conduct the initial investigation but it is the detective, or investigator, that handles the follow-up investigation. The detective is to determine if a crime has been committed, to identify the perpetrator, apprehend the perpetrator, and to provide evidence to support a conviction in court. Investigations must change to some extent with respect to the threat of terrorism. Police investigation may need to become more proactive. Also, investigation units need to integrate themselves with the rest of the department and redirect their functional focus. Detectives should abandon crime control through apprehension as a principle goal of investigations. They should focus on justice. Detectives should look for clear crime patterns and utilize problem solving strategies to prevent crime.