Research on police decision-making and the use of discretion predominantly relies on official records or qualitative interview and participant observation data. Pioneered by Albert J. Reiss, Jr. in the 1960s, systematic social observation is a field research method simultaneously gathering quantitative and qualitative data in a natural setting. Data collection procedures are stipulated in advance reducing bias and allowing for scientific inference, replication, and measurable process outcomes as the observations recorded are independent of the observer. Although three large scale studies have been conducted in the United States to understand police behaviour, this ‘gold standard’ is used infrequently due to methodological challenges in an applied setting. The current research is the first sole observer and non-U.S. study conducted with a Canadian regional police service. Discussion of methodological innovation, challenges, and process are based on the experience of collecting data on 406 police–citizen encounters involving 568 citizens over 637 observational hours. To assist future researchers, the method and data collection using modified instruments as well as the challenges of resources, police cooperation, bias, reactivity, field role, and dynamics of conducting research as a female in an insular, male-dominated setting are explored.
Quality & Quantity – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 26, 2012
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