This study examines how patrol officers respond to citizens' requests that officers control another citizen—by advising or persuading them, warning or threatening them, making them leave someone alone or leave the scene, or arresting them. Data are drawn from field observations conducted in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1996 and St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1997. Officers granted the request for the most restrictive form of control requested by the citizen in 70% of the 396 observed cases. Several factors were modeled to determine their influence on officers' decisions to grant or deny the most restrictive request. These factors include legal considerations, need, factors that attenuate the impact of law or need, the social relationship between the requester and target of control, and personal characteristics of the officer. Multivariate analysis shows that the most influential factors were legal considerations. When citizens requested an arrest, the likelihood that the police would be responsive dropped considerably. However, as the evidence of a legal violation against the targeted citizen increased, so did the odds of an arrest. Officers were less likely to grant the requests of citizens having a close relationship with the person targeted for control, disrespectful of the police, or intoxicated or mentally ill. The race, wealth, and organization affiliation of citizen adversaries had little impact on the police decision. Male officers, officers with fewer years of police experience, and officers with a stronger proclivity to community policing, had significantly greater odds of giving citizens what they requested. The implications of the findings for research and policy are discussed.
Criminology – Wiley
Published: May 1, 2000
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