This article contrasts two observational coding strategies measuring police-community meetings.
Police involvement in community meetings, especially neighborhood associations, school groups, and business groups, is common. Characterizing the interactions that occur in these meetings is important for understanding potential variation in this co-production strategy. To help assess the use of a community meeting observation methodology, observational methods in the Police Community Interaction Project (PCIP) and the Chicago Community Policing Evaluation Consortium were compared. The goal of this research was to highlight how subtle but important differences in the conception and research strategy may affect findings and conclusions about police-community interaction. The two observational coding methods were issue-specific and global; and the sampling strategies were continuous and periodic. A listing of trade-offs between the two methods is provided. The choice of method should begin with a thorough assessment of the strategic and/or theory-testing goals for observing police-community meetings. It was found that the more complex, time-consuming, and costly approach involves issue-specific coding and continuous observations of community meetings. Issue-specific coding (coding interaction characteristics of every issue presented in a police-community meeting) and continuous observations are consistent with the classic theoretical approach to community action. Issue-specific coding and continuous observations also provide strategic planning benefits. The less complex and generally less expensive mode for observing police-community meetings entails global coding and periodic sampling. To create a global measure of how police and the community interact in a meeting requires that the observer summarize what occurred in the meeting across all issues presented. The primary critique for these methods is the potential creation of less valid measures of police-community interaction, or data more prone to erroneous interpretation. It is concluded that the most beneficial aspect to global coding and periodic sampling is the efficiency of these methodologies for providing data describing an entire department or a city. 2 tables, 4 figures, 8 notes, 28 references