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Variation in Police Patrol Practices: The Precinct as a Sub-Organizational Level of Analysis

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: 2007 Pages: 257-276
Kimberly D. Hassell
Date Published
20 pages
This study explored whether patrol officers believe that police practices vary by precinct and whether the precinct acts as a sub-organizational level of analysis in police organizations.
Results indicated that a significant proportion of police patrol officers believed that police practices varied by precinct. The variation was perceived to be caused by: (1) individual officer personality and level of experience; (2) culture, nature, and expectation of the citizens; (3) nature of calls for service, higher call loads, and officer safety concerns; and (4) command and precinct rules/norms. The author concluded that the precinct is an important level of analysis within police organizations. The findings underscore the importance of examining variation in police behavior within organizations at the precinct level of analysis. Future research should continue to focus on the organizational processes that occur at the sub-organizational level of the precinct. The research involved a multi-method ethnographic study in which observational fieldwork was conducted at a midwestern municipality police department containing four precincts over a 6-month period between July and November 2003. The researcher systematically recorded the nature of police-citizen interactions, the reason for the interactions, the response time, the number of officers involved, and the disposition of the interactions. Additionally, interviews were conducted with 76 officers across 4 precincts during the course of the fieldwork. Data were also gathered from official agency documents regarding the types and nature of crimes and their magnitude in each of the four precincts. Descriptive statistics and thematic analysis were used to examine the data. Figure, notes, references