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Impact of Community Policing at the Street Level: An Observational Study in Richmond, Virginia, 1992 (ICPSR 2612) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

This study's purpose was twofold: to investigate the nature of police patrol work in a community policing context and to field-test data collection instruments designed for systematic social observation. The project, conducted in Richmond, Virginia, where its police department was in the third year of a five-year plan to implement community policing, was designed as a case study of one police department's experience with community policing, focusing on officers in the patrol division. A team of eight researchers conducted observations with the police officers in the spring and summer of 1992. A total of 120 officers were observed during 125 observation sessions. Observers accompanied officers throughout their regular work shifts, taking brief field notes on officers' activities and encounters with the public. All of an observed officer's time during the shift was accounted for by either encounters or activities. Within 15 hours of the completion of the ridealong, the observer prepared a detailed narrative account of events that occurred during the ridealong and coded key items associated with these events. The study generated five nested quantitative datasets that can be linked by common variables. Part 1, Ridealong Data, provides information pertinent to the 125 observation sessions or "rides." Part 2, Activity Data, focuses on 5,576 activities conducted by officers when not engaged in encounters. Data in Part 3, Encounter Data, describe 1,098 encounters with citizens during the ridealongs. An encounter was defined as a communication between officers and citizens that took over one minute, involved more than three verbal exchanges between an officer and a citizen, or involved significant physical contact between the officer and citizen. Part 4, Citizen Data, provides data relevant to each of the 1,630 citizens engaged by police in the encounters. Some encounters involved more than one citizen. Part 5, Arrest Data, was constructed by merging Parts 1, 3, and 4, and provides information on 451 encounters that occurred during the ridealongs in which the citizen was suspected of some criminal mischief. All identification variables in this collection were created by the researchers for this project. Variables from Part 1 include date, start time, end time, unit, and beat assignment of the observation session, and the primary officer's and secondary officer's sex, race/ethnicity, years as an officer, months assigned to precinct and beat, hours of community policing training, and general orientation to community policing. Variables in Part 2 specify the time the activity began and ended, who initiated the activity, type, location, and visibility of the activity, involvement of the officer's supervisor during the activity, and if the activity involved problem-solving, or meeting with citizens or other community organizations. Part 3 variables include time encounter began and ended, who initiated the encounter, primary and secondary officer's energy level and mood before the encounter, problem as radioed by dispatcher, and problem as it appeared at the beginning of the encounter and at the end of the encounter. Information on the location of the encounter includes percent of time at initial location, visibility, officer's prior knowledge of the initial location, and if the officer anticipated violence at the scene. Additional variables focus on the presence of a supervisor, other police officers, service personnel, bystanders, and participants, if the officer filed or intended to file a report, if the officer engaged in problem-solving, and factors that influenced the officer's actions. Citizen information in Part 4 includes sex, age, and race/ethnicity of the citizen, role in the encounter, if the citizen appeared to be of low income, under the use of alcohol or drugs, or appeared to have a mental disorder or physical injury or illness, if the citizen was representing an establishment, if the citizen lived, worked, or owned property in the police beat, and if the citizen had a weapon. Also presented are various aspects of the police-citizen interaction, such as evidence considered by the officer, requests and responses to each other, and changes in actions during the encounter. Variables in Part 5 record the officer's orientation toward community policing, if the suspect was arrested or cited, if the offense was serious or drug-related, amount of evidence, if the victim requested that the suspect be arrested, if the victim was white, Black, and of low income, and if the suspect represented an organization. Information on the suspect includes gender, race, sobriety level, if of low income, if 19 years old or less, if actively resistant, if the officer knew the suspect adversarially, and if the suspect demonstrated conflict with others. Some items were recoded for the particular analyses for which the Arrest Data were constructed.

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions; consult the restrictions note to learn more.

    Access to these data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a Restricted Data Use Agreement, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Ridealong Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS2:  Activity Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS3:  Encounter Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS4:  Citizen Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS5:  Arrest Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.

Study Description

Citation

Mastrofski, Stephen D., and Jeffrey B. Snipes. IMPACT OF COMMUNITY POLICING AT THE STREET LEVEL: AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, 1992. ICPSR version. Lansing, MI: Michigan State University [producer], 1998. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2002. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR02612.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (91-IJ-CX-0030)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   arrests, citizen attitudes, community policing, law enforcement, police community relations, police departments, police effectiveness, police officers, police patrol, police performance, police training, Richmond, United States, Virginia

Time Period:  

  • 1992

Unit of Observation:   Parts 1 and 4: Individuals, Parts 2, 3, and 5: Events

Universe:   All patrol officers in the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department in the spring and summer of 1992.

Data Types:   event/transaction data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) Detailed description and instructions for using the CODIT software package is available separately (Snipes and Ritti, 1993). (2) Narratives from this project will be available once the Secure Data Enclave at ICPSR becomes operational. (3) The user guide, codebook, and data collection instrument are provided by ICPSR as Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided on the ICPSR Web site.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   At the time of this study there had been no systematic accounts of American street-level police work conducted in a community policing framework. This study's purpose, therefore, was twofold: to learn something about the nature of police patrol work in a community policing context and to field-test data collection instruments designed for systematic social observation. The project, conducted in Richmond, Virginia, where its police department was in the third year of a five-year plan to implement community policing, was designed as a case study of one police department's experience with community policing, focusing on officers of the patrol division. The instruments were designed to capture the enduring features of police work (e.g., "encounters" between police and public), plus other features that might arise out of the new directions of community policing (special community policing "activities," such as dealing with community groups and problem-solving). Additionally, the project attempted to introduce several data collection refinements, including a detailed accounting of how officers spent their work time, debriefing officers after some of their encounters with the public, and employing a coded data entry system using CODIT, a specially developed software package for IBM-compatible personal computers. The methods used guided field researchers in their observations to systematically record information on what police officers do, how they interact with members of the public, and what the immediate consequences are on the scene. The researchers also sought to capture how and where officers spend their time when not engaging the public. The data enable researchers to learn more about differences in how the officers reacted to community policing, their degree of support for the community policing "environment" provided by the program, how officers exercised their discretion, what accounted for variations in officer behavior, and how citizens responded to police.

Study Design:   The methods and instruments employed for this study were derived from the systematic social observation process used as a means of applying methodological rigor to "quantitative" research. Observations were conducted in the spring and summer of 1992, providing a cross-sectional picture of patrol practices during one brief time period. A team of eight researchers conducted observations: the principal investigator, the site director (a graduate student), and six observers (three graduate students, two recently graduated honors undergraduates, and one currently enrolled undergraduate). The race/gender breakdown of the research team was three white males, two Black males, and three white females. The field researchers were employed full-time on the project during field observation. Observers reported to the precinct station at least 15 minutes before roll call, reporting to the sergeant in charge of the incoming squad. Observation began at the beginning of the official start time of the shift and ended when the officer ended his or her tour of duty. A total of 120 officers were observed during 125 observation sessions. Officers were given a brief, one-page description of the study before observations began and fuller explanations of the project, including information on confidentiality and legal issues, as soon as time permitted. Observers accompanied officers throughout their regular work shifts, taking brief field notes on officers' activities and encounters with the public, generally at times and in a manner that would not distract the officer or citizens. All of an observed officer's time during the shift was accounted for by either encounters or activities. Observers also interviewed officers about their views of community policing at convenient times during the ridealong (usually at the beginning as part of the introduction to the study). Within 15 hours of the completion of the ridealong, the observer prepared a detailed narrative account of events that occurred during the ridealong and coded key items associated with these events according to a protocol available on personal computers at the research office. The study generated five nested quantitative datasets that can be linked by common variables. Part 1, Ridealong Data, provides information pertinent to the 125 observation sessions or "rides." Part 2, Activity Data, focuses on 5,576 activities conducted by officers when not engaged in encounters. Data in Part 3, Encounter Data, describe 1,098 encounters with citizens during the ridealongs. An encounter was defined as a communication between officers and citizens that took over one minute, involved more than three verbal exchanges between an officer and a citizen, or involved significant physical contact between the officer and citizen. Part 4, Citizen Data, provides data relevant to each of the 1,630 citizens engaged by police in the encounters. Some encounters involved more than one citizen. Part 5, Arrest Data, was constructed by merging Parts 1, 3, and 4, and provides information on 451 encounters that occurred during the ridealongs in which the citizen was suspected of some criminal mischief.

Sample:   Richmond, Virginia, was chosen as the research site because it was a medium-sized center city that was experiencing many of the problems for which community policing was designed. The Richmond Police Department was selected because it expected all officers to engage in its practices and had initiated implementation of its community policing program more than two years prior to the research project's data collection. To obtain a representative sample of police patrol behavior, each beat and special unit was observed. The sample reflected a race and sex profile similar to that of the entire patrol division.

Data Source:

observations

Description of Variables:   Variables from Part 1 include date, start time, end time, unit, and beat assignment of the observation session, and the primary officer's and secondary officer's sex, race/ethnicity, years as an officer, months assigned to precinct and beat, hours of community policing training, and general orientation to community policing. Variables in Part 2 specify the time the activity began and ended, who initiated the activity, type, location, and visibility of the activity, involvement of the officer's supervisor during the activity, and if the activity involved problem-solving, or meeting with citizens or other community organizations. Part 3 variables include time encounter began and ended, who initiated the encounter, primary and secondary officer's energy level and mood before the encounter, problem as radioed by dispatcher, and problem as it appeared at the beginning of the encounter includes at the end of the encounter. Information on the location of the encounter includes percent of time at initial location, visibility, officer's prior knowledge of the initial location, and if the officer anticipated violence at the scene. Additional variables focus on the presence of a supervisor, other police officers, service personnel, and bystanders and participants, if the officer filed or intended to file a report, if the officer engaged in problem-solving, and factors that influenced the officer's actions. Citizen information in Part 4 includes sex, age, and race/ethnicity of the citizen, role in the encounter, if the citizen appeared to be of low income, under the use of alcohol or drugs, or appeared to have a mental disorder or physical injury or illness, if the citizen was representing an establishment, if the citizen lived, worked, or owned property in the police beat, and if the citizen had a weapon. Also presented are various aspects of the police-citizen interaction, such as evidence considered by the officer, requests and responses to each other, and changes in actions during the encounter. Variables in Part 5 record the officer's orientation toward community policing, if the suspect was arrested or cited, if the offense was serious or drug-related, amount of evidence, if the victim requested that the suspect be arrested, if the victim was white, Black, and of low income, and if the suspect represented an organization. Information on the suspect includes gender, race, sobriety level, if of low income, if 19 years old or less, if actively resistant, if the officer knew the suspect adversarially, and if the suspect demonstrated conflict with others. Some items were recoded for the particular analyses for which the Arrest Data were constructed.

Response Rates:   Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   None.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File UG2612.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2006-03-30 File CB2612.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.

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