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Responsiveness in Urban Service Delivery - The Case of Policing

NCJ Number
E B Sharp
Date Published
35 pages
A model of responsiveness of policymakers to public opinion in which five types of responsiveness are identified is applied to urban police departments, and the focus on satifying public demand is challenged.
Five types of responsiveness which describe the extent to which the authorities are willing to hear the concerns of a protest group, and the degree to which those demands are met, are access, agenda, policy, output, and impact. Thus, in the 'consumer model' which guides most discussion of police responsiveness, the police services are evaluated on the basis of the extent to which citizen demands are met. However, this concept of responsiveness poses serious problems. They include confusion as to whether the police administrator should be directly accessible to citizens, or should be receptive to their demands as they are filtered through the city hall. Other problems arise about how unarticulated interests should be dealt with and the conflict between the consumer model of responsiveness and definition of policy priorities based upon administrator's professional judgment. These problems often result both in token actions by the police to appease the public opinion and in lack of real dialogue between the police and citizens. To avoid them, the consumer model of responsiveness should be synthesized with a professional model, with its emphasis upon independent judgments of need. Thus, a police department should be viewed as responsive when it actively encourages citizen input of many types (access), and when it seriously considers citizen preferences and informs citizens about factors that they might not consider (agenda responsiveness). The final decisions are a result of a balance between professional judgments of need and and citizen preferences (policy responsiveness). This decisionmaking process, rather than objective indicators of the quality of life (impact analysis) should be the subject of responsiveness evaluation. Footnotes and 24 references are included.