This study examined the extent to which problem-oriented policing (POP) strategies were used by ordinary police officers in one police agency.
POP is widely described as one of the most challenging policing strategies implemented at the local level and many wonder whether ordinary police officers have the time and knowledge to engage in the POP process, which combines scanning, analysis, response, and assessment (SARA). This study sought to describe the reality of everyday, street-level POP as it is practiced by generalist patrol officers of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). Interviews were conducted with 320 patrol officers assigned to regular patrol duties during 2000-2001; interviews focused on POP activities and attitudes. Questionnaire data were also obtained from 267 patrol officers and sergeants who answered questions about attitudes and beliefs about the effectiveness of POP in practice. Overall, the findings indicated that police officers tended to engage in small-scale problem-solving rather than the full-fledged SARA process recommended by POP. Responses to disturbances generally included traditional enforcement strategies coupled with one or two nontraditional initiatives. The results indicate that after 15 years of POP promotion and implementation efforts within the SDPD, POP use by patrol officers was scant and resembled something other than the ideal SARA model. The authors suggest a clearer distinction between everyday problem solving and problem-oriented policing needs to be made in order to further the use of POP strategies within police departments. Table, figures, footnotes, references