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Arrest Discretion of Police Officers: The Impact of Varying Organizational Structures

NCJ Number
Richard F. Groeneveld
Date Published
168 pages
This study examined the features of police organizational influence (policy, process, training, and values) that bear upon an officer's arrest discretion in the field.
The study found that on the dimensions of policy and process, the trend toward controlling the actions of police officers through formal rules continues to be a prevalent and legitimate method in managing officers' arrest discretion; however, the research raises some question about whether such policies are effectively communicated to rank-and-file officers. Also, a significant number of police agencies surveyed were averse to involving the community in the rulemaking process for the use of arrest discretion. Most of the agencies surveyed relied heavily on their field training programs to provide officers instruction in arrest procedures. Many scholars, however, recommend that such training include scenario-based, classroom training. The study's primary recommendation is for an agency to have a clear and consistent communication of expectations for appropriate officer arrest behavior. Further research is recommended for the most effective ways to achieve this. The study methodology involved a survey of all police departments in the United States with 200 or more sworn officers. A total of 147 completed questionnaires were returned out of 211 questionnaires mailed. The short questionnaire solicited information on measures of departmental influence on arrest discretion. 16 tables, 3 figures, 122 references, and a subject index