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Police Officers' Attitudes, Behavior, and Supervisory Influences: An Analysis of Problem Solving

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 41 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 131-166
Date Published
February 2003
36 pages

This study examined the impact of police officers’ and supervisors’ attitudes toward community-oriented policing on the amount of time police officers spend conducting problem-solving activities while on duty.


The authors analyzed data collected as part of the Project on Policing Neighborhoods (POPN) study in order to examine how perceived hierarchical controls influence police officers’ activities while on duty. Although the use of discretion is inherent in police work, a certain amount of constraint on that discretion is viewed as a necessary control mechanism in a democratic society. As such, the authors analyzed whether perceptions of supervisors’ attitudes and priorities would affect the way in which police officers conduct their work. The POPN study is a multi-method study, utilizing both direct observation and structured interviews with patrol officers and field supervisors, of police patrol in two police departments: Indianapolis, IN and St. Petersburg, FL. Analysis of the POPN data revealed that officers’ perceptions of their supervisors’ attitudes about problem-solving activities affected the amount of time officers devoted to these activities. The data further revealed that officers’ own attitudes toward community-oriented policing functions were unrelated to the amount of time spent on these activities while on duty. Officers’ attitudes were also found to be weakly correlated with their supervisors’ attitudes. However, the data indicated that in many cases, officers’ perceptions of their supervisors’ attitudes toward community-oriented policing were inaccurate. As such, the authors suggest that police administrators could have more control over police officer discretion by training field supervisors to clearly articulate their priorities for community policing and problem-solving police work. Table, references

Date Published: February 1, 2003