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Compliance on Demand: The Public's Response to Specific Police Requests

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 33 Issue: 3 Dated: (August 1996) Pages: 269-305
Date Published
37 pages

This study assessed citizen compliance with specific police requests for orderly, legal behavior in 346 encounters observed in Richmond, Va., a city that is implementing community policing.


Data on police-citizen interactions were collected in 1992 during ride-along observations with patrol officers. Field researchers observed in each of the city's patrol beats on all three shifts for more than 1,200 hours. They took brief field notes on police-citizen interactions and debriefed officers following certain encounters. They interviewed officers about their views of community policing during the ride-along. In 346 of the 1,627 police-citizen encounters, observers noted that officers told the citizens to do one or more of the following: discontinue illegal behavior, leave another person alone or leave the premises, or calm down or cease disorderly behavior. Observers noted how the citizens responded to each request that police made. Citizens were compliant in 78 percent of the encounters. The effects on compliance of several potential influences were estimated in a logistic regression model: instrumental factors concerning the calculation of outcomes for the citizens, factors related to the legitimacy of the police intervention, personal characteristics that reflected the citizens' social status and predisposition to compliance, and the officers' skill and work orientation. Significant effects were found in each category of variables, but the results were in some cases contrary to expectations. Legitimating factors, citizens' social status, and police skills and work orientation showed particularly strong effects. The implications of these findings for future research are discussed. 7 tables, 22 notes, and 58 references

Date Published: January 1, 1996