Police Patrolling Methods


Policing is an integral part of all civilized societies. For a society to be maintain peace and order the police must have demonstrate effective patrol. Over the years many departments face the same dilemma; how to effectively and efficiently patrol force while maintaining the safest working conditions possible for its officers. There have been several studies conducted in order to find the most effective patrol methods and crime prevention strategies.

Several operational studies have been conducted within the Kansas City Police Department, the most well known being the Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment which was conducted between 1972 and 1973 by the Kansas City Police Department. The experiment tested the assumption that the likelihood of a crime being committed could be reduced by the presence (or potential presence) of uniformed officers in marked cars. It was also the first study to demonstrate that research into the effectiveness of different policing styles could be carried out responsibly, ethically, and safely.

Another internal study conducted by the Kansas City Police Department was their Strategic and Target Oriented Plan, conducted in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, which attempted to produce the most effective workload and patrol strategies to combat the rise the almost 40% increase in Part I offenses. In the early 1990s the Kansas City Police Department conducted another study, the officers were told to proactively patrol neighborhoods with an emphasis on seizing illegal firearms. The officers did this by increasing traffic patrol. A follow up study was conducted in 1995 in order to gauge public opinion of the experiment. In the 1950s Stanley Schrotel published a paper detailing the pros and cons of foot patrol vs. motorized patrol. Studies have also been conducted involving the effectiveness of one-man vs. two-man police patrol cars, the most notable by Frank Day. Studies of one vs. two man police patrol cars have also been conducted in New York, San Diego and Kansas City.

Kansas City Police Department

The first of the Kansas City Police Department evaluations is the Preventative Patrol Experiment. The department wanted to test whether the likelihood of a crime being committed could be thwarted by the presence of the likelihood of a police patrol being present. The experiment was designed to study the impact routine police patrol had on the incidence of crime, the public’s reaction to police patrol and the public’s fear of crime. Three controlled levels of preventative patrol were used; “reactive” and area which received no preventative patrol, “proactive” in which police visibility was increases two to three times the usual, and “control” an area where police patrol activities remained normal. (Brown, Dieckman, Kelling, Pate 1974;7) The study utilized 15 beats evenly divided among the three study variables. (Brown et al 8) Findings were produced on the effect the experimental conditions had on the types of crimes (burglary, auto theft, larceny-theft of auto accessories, robbery, and vandalism) traditionally considered to be deterrable through preventative patrol. (Brown et al 1974;9) The study revealed that the three experimental patrol areas used had no significant impact in the level of crime, citizen’s attitude toward police patrol, citizen’s fear of crime, or officer response time. The study did however show that officer’s non committed time (60% in the experiment) could be used for purposes other than routine patrol without a negative impact on public safety. (Brown et al1974;vii)

Between 1978 and 1981 the department conducted “Strategic and Target Oriented Patrol Plan” experiment. Fiscal stress was very high in Kansas City as was the rate of Part I crimes being committed, which made the department look for a way to meet their obligations with existing resources. The “ten-plan” was the first response to the dilemma, it attempted to compensate for lack of patrol by applying an overlap of personnel during peak workload hours. (Caron, Curtin 1984:252) The goal of the “ten-plan” was not achieved due to the continuing increase of calls for service. Next the department decided to reorganize the beats in order to best meet demands while distributing work evenly throughout the area. The plan called for 65 percent call for service commitment level, which means that if 65 percent of an officer’s time was used was used in a particular beat during a particular shift then he would be assigned full time to that beat while the other 33 percent of his time would be used random patrol, administrative activity, etc… (Caron 1984:255) The department also aimed to reevaluate its patrol strategy to allow field officers to handle calls for service and report duties effectively while allowing for proactive attacks on specific crime problems. The department reviewed several alternative patrol strategies.

Two concepts emerged as primary alternatives to existing protocols, which were deemed ineffective by the Preventative Patrol Experiment, police specialist and sector-planning. The police specialist concept divided the patrol in two teams, “A” and “B”. Team “A” consisted of single officer cars dispatched to prepare reports arising out of service calls, while also being available to handle emergency calls. Team “B” consisted of one or two officer cars dispatched to handle calls for service to events in progress. Sector planning grouped beats together with near to equal workloads and a sector sergeant deployed officers to these areas based on monthly crime trends. (Caron 1984:257) The new strategy was named the “Strategic and Target Oriented Patrol” (or S.T.O.P). After six months of operation the study found that, with few exceptions, the plan resulted in a timely response to peak-hour calls for service there was also a more than 10 percent drop in Part I offenses. Supervisors were also able to measure individual officer performance.

In the early 1990’s the department aimed to locate and seize illegal firearms by using directed patrol. The strategy looked to utilize officers who were free from responding to calls for service and directed them to use aggressive means of traffic enforcement in high crime areas in order to seize firearms. The strategy produced striking results. The increase in traffic enforcement led to an astonishing 65 percent increase in the seizure of illegal firearms and a 50 percent decrease in gun-related crime. (Chermak, McGarrell, Weiss, Wilson 2001:119) In 1995 a follow up study was conducted in order to gauge public opinion about the gun control strategy. According to surveys the public thought the police did not show discrimination or show aggression in any manner towards the citizens they stopped, while observing a high level of legality in their basis for stopping the individuals. It also showed the patrol did not increase community tension and was supported in advance and in results by the majority of citizens interviewed. One group who was not surveyed was the offenders who were stopped by police and their illegal firearm seized. It was also found that nearly 1/3 of offenders who were arrested did not live in the Kansas City area. (Shaw 1995;708)

The multiple experiments conducted by the Kansas City Police Department provide very useful strategies that could be employed by other departments across the country and even the world to efficiently operate.

Foot Patrol vs. Motorized Patrol

Foot patrol is performed almost always by uniformed officers on foot, while in some larger cities it is performed by mounted police and in some cases on bicycles. (Schrotel 1954:46) The rationale behind foot patrol was to engage the officer in a friendly relationship with his clientele. Foot patrol however has no guarantee that the desired relationship will be forthcoming, while imposing definite limitations on the effectiveness of the officer’s area served and quality of service. (Schrotel 1954:47) Fatigue is another serious limitation of foot patrol, once the officer arrives on the scene he me be, “out of breath or ill prepared for an arduous effort.” (Schrotel 1954:48) Schrotel also details the advantages of motorized patrol over foot patrol. He states motorized patrol amplifies the power of police patrol through superior mobility, maneuverability, and speed of movement. While used in conjunction with advanced communication, motorized patrol is the most effective method. (Schrotel 1954:49)
One Man vs. Two Man Patrol

In 1977 the San Diego Police Department decided to study the effectiveness of one and two man police patrol cars. The study used stratified sampling which considered the patrol area, watch, and former staffing to select 44 patrol units, and assigned half to two man patrols and the other half to one man patrols. The overall performance of both groups pertaining to type and frequency of calls for service activities and officer initiated activities proved to be about equal. (Boydstun, Moelter, Sherry 1977:5) The study had concluded with several findings. The overall efficiency of one officer patrol units clearly exceeded that of two unit patrols even though single officer patrols required more backup support. The study also found that two officer units required less time to service calls than one officer units, but the relative time savings per minute was not enough to offset the overall cost per minute. One officer patrols seems to have an advantage in safety over two officer patrols, with an equivalent amount of exposure one officer patrols experienced less involvement in resisting arrest and equal involvement in assault on officers and other officer injuries. (Boydstun et al 1977:6)

Frank Day conducted a study of police departments around the country in regards to one vs. two man patrols. He found one man patrols are more economically sound, cover a wider area effectively, provided more efficient officer performance, and enhanced safety with proper training. The only disadvantage is securing the investment to purchase and equip more cars, and training officers to transition to one man patrols. (1956:704-706)

Kansas City Police Department attempted to recreate the results of the San Diego experiment within their own department while also attempting to expand its findings. The Kansas City Department found that two officer cars responded faster to calls but explains that the reason for this is due to the fact that one officer cars need to wait for backup. It is well known however that officers do not always wait for backup. The study also concluded that two one officer cars respond more rapidly than one single officer car. (Kessler 1985:58-60) New York City also wanted to test the feasibility of using one man patrol cars. The study found that an equivalent response time could be reached with one man patrols. This study however should be considered tentative because of the limited data available for NY’s two man patrol. The study also failed to account for an overbearing workload on the dispatchers being able to contact a patrol and send them a call for service. (Green 1984;970)

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