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What Is Patrol Work?

NCJ Number
Police Studies Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: (Winter 1982) Pages: 13-22
Date Published
10 pages
Study data show how officers spend their time on patrol, what problems patrol officers handle in encounters with citizens, and what actions officers on patrol take to control some citizens and help others.
In addition to previously reported data, this paper also uses data from the Police Services Study, which contains data on patrol operations in 60 neighborhoods served by 24 departments. On the average, about 5 hours of an officer's 8-hour shift are spent at the officer's discretion, while 3 hours are spent on assigned tasks. An average of just over 3 hours are spent driving around 'on patrol.' An hour is spent on officer-initiated contacts with citizens, and about 1 1/2 hours are spent on citizen contacts stemming from dispatches. Generally, about 40 percent of patrol problems involve a response to some reported or suspected crime. The other 60 percent of the problems are about equally divided among disorders, traffic problems, and requests for other sorts of assistance not related to crimes. Asking questions is perhaps the most common activity of patrol officers in interaction with citizens. Threats of force are considerably more common than the use of force or the exercise of arrest powers. More commonly, however, officers lecture or persuade those whose behavior they seek to change. Officers also frequently provide reassurance, information, or some form of physical assistance. Tabular data, 3 notes, and 9 references are provided. (Author summary modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1981