U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Dial-A-Cop - A Study of Police Mobilization

NCJ Number
C D Shearing
Date Published
242 pages
Focusing on police responses to assistance calls, this 1971 study of Toronto's Dial-A-Cop program examined reasons for citizens' deciding to call the police, the kinds of requests for service, and the decisions and work practices of switchboard operators.
An analysis of taperecorded telephone conversations, officer estimates of calls they received and made, a review of complaint cards, and fieldnotes of approximately 1,000 citizen-initiated police contacts were used. Of the estimated annual 8-10 million calls for police assistance, 52 percent were citizen reports of 'trouble,' including Part I and Part II offenses, domestic disturbances, and interpersonal conflicts. Caller profiles were constructed using sex, socioeconomic class, types of accents, and age, among other variables. Although complaint officers had no discretion and were required to dispatch patrol units when requested, only 82 percent of the calls referred from the switchboard resulted in dispatching patrol units. The formal rule was violated, because complaint officers felt they had to assert their professionalism as well as protect patrol officers from unnecessary work. Supervisors, required to uphold the formal rule, were often sympathetic to the complaint officers' dilemma. Conversations between callers and complaint officers were analyzed according to occurrence, length, type of trouble, and interchange between citizen and officer. Complaint officer attitudes, caller attitudes and perceived competence and deference, seriousness of the report, and weather conditions contributed to the complaint officers' decisionmaking. A proposed 'police connection' would serve as an advocacy referral service to appropriate serve as an advocacy referral service to appropriate nonpolice agencies, which could act as 'troubleshooters.' Training to improve complaint officers' conversational styles, employing bilingual complaint officers, and using only police officers and not civilians as complaint officers would improve the Dial-A-Cop program. Extensive tabular data, a 96-item bibliography, figures, and chapter notes are provided.