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How Police Supervisory Styles Influence Patrol Officer Behavior

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2003
18 pages
Publication Series
This report examines the way in which police supervisory styles influence patrol officer behavior within the community.
Three main research questions are addressed in this report: (1) What types of supervisory styles are prominent in the field? (2) How do supervisory styles influence patrol officer behavior? (3) What are the resulting implications for departmental policy and practice? Field observations of the Indianapolis Police Department and the St. Petersburg Police Department, as well as interviews, identified four types of supervisory styles: traditional, innovative, supportive, and active. None of the four styles was noted as ideal; each had its drawbacks and limitations. The report details aspects of each style and then identifies the active supervisory style as the most influential on patrol officer behavior. Researchers found that an active supervisory style resulted in patrol officers who were twice as likely to use force against suspects. Patrol officers who had an active supervisor were also more likely to be proactive in their policing activities and spend more time per shift engaged in problem-solving and community-oriented activities. Overall, the research revealed that police supervisors best lead by example, which is the hallmark of the active style. However, supervisors must take care to present a positive example and avoid negative behaviors, like the unlawful use of excessive force. Study limitations include the fact that data were generated from only two police departments in urban areas.

Date Published: June 1, 2003