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How Officers Spend Their Time with the Community

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 16 Issue: 3 Dated: September 1999 Pages: 483-518
Date Published
36 pages

This article explores similarities and differences between the tasks undertaken by generalist patrol officers and community policing specialists.


The article examined data from field observation of police patrol officers at work in Indianapolis, Indiana and St. Petersburg, Florida. Community policing specialists were much more able to choose the work they did and the people they encountered. Specialists used their discretion to spend less “face time” with the public and more time “behind the scenes” than did patrol generalists, and to engage a higher-status and less problem-ridden clientele. Community policing specialists in both sites spent less time in encounters with citizens than did patrol generalists, and more time on problem solving and personal activities. Specialists in both sites were relieved of responsibility for responding to 911 calls and other citizen calls for service. The article recommends empirical examination of the extent to which the division of labor between generalist patrol officers and community policing specialists contributes to a safer, more contented community. Notes, tables, figures, references

Date Published: January 1, 1999