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Transferring Trouble - The Initiation of Reactive Policing

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Dated: (July 1981) Pages: 257-278
B Jorgensen
Date Published
22 pages
Analyses of all incoming and outgoing telephone and radio conversations from a 16-hour period in a large suburban police department in central Canada demonstrate that all trouble announced to the police potentially may involve chargeable matters and thus is police work until proven otherwise.
The 16 hours of calls resulted in the monitoring of 820 telephone conversations, 210 dispatches, and 53 resulting reports. All communications officers (CO's) were experienced police officers or trained cadets charged with screening calls. No occurrence reports were issued for 133 dispatches, most of which involved minor matters. All fires, impaired drivers, and firearms dispatches received reports. Occurrence reports were issued for 94 percent of the theft, 80 percent of break and entry, and 50 percent of assaults and mischief/vandalism dispatches. Only 16.9 percent of the occurrence reports did not resemble the original caller-CO conversation, and 26 percent of the 77 occurrence reports differed in content from the message dispatched. The transfer of trouble within the police department in this study was not merely a mechanical repetition by CO's of caller requests, but was an interpretative and dynamic process governed by departmental procedures, departmental expectations, and applicable legislative requirements. Most callers believed their call was in some way a police matter. Communications difficulties arose in some cases because of language difficulties, the caller's emotional state, or the officer's manner or attitude. These findings, illustrated by excerpts from calls, belie the notion that calls can be classified into service work or police work based on the initial presentation of the trouble. Finally, mobile officers also affect police responses since they can volunteer to answer dispatches sent over the radio, thus expressing disagreement with the CO's assessment of the number of officers needed to handle a situation. Tables and 32 references are supplied.