Improving policing: The impact of neighborhood-oriented policing on officers' attitudes toward the public
Progressive police administrators are searching for new methods of organizing departments. A spate of empirical research found the assumptions of the professional model to be invalid. Two experimental approaches have emerged in response: (1) improve the information processing capacity of departments, (2) organize ways to improve interaction between officers and citizens. The most important information for solving crimes is provided by citizens to field officers. Departments that cultivate good relationships with the community will be more effective than departments that insulate officers from the community. Effective policing requires a service style that is less aggressive and more responsive to citizens. This approach is resisted, however, by officers steeped in the traditional police subculture, who prefer a crime-fighting style. One problem for neighborhood-oriented policing is motivating street officers to adopt a service style.
It has been argued that contact between field officers and the community improves officers' understanding of their constituents. Officers learn to antagonize people less and to elicit more information from people which improves a department's performance. This study examines the proposition that officers in programs that encourage citizen contacts become more accepting of a service style of policing.
With a survey of 1,107 respondents, a comparison was made of the attitudes of officers working in neighborhood-oriented policing programs to other officers. Officers in the neighborhood-oriented policing programs were more service-oriented. They had more contacts with citizens and knew more people. From these contacts, officers obtained more information from citizens, and they were more responsive to citizens' concerns. Officers also obtained more information on suspects, and they acted on this information. Therefore, the capacity for coercion was more important since they encountered more suspects. While most officers agreed that aggression inhibits citizen cooperation, officers were more aggressive in dangerous areas. The perception of danger was based on situational variables rather than the programs or activities.