National Center for Community Policing
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
MSU is an affirmative-action, equal opportunity institution.
This publication was made possible by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation of Flint, Michigan, to the National Center for Community Policing, School of Criminal Justice, at Michigan State University. The information contained herein represents the views and conclusions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Mott Foundation, its trustees, or officers.
Copyright © 1986 The National Center for Community Policing
Community policing, often called simply 'foot patrol,' continues to be the subject of much research, from varying perspectives. A number of studies focus on how citizens view foot patrol. Others examine how business people and researchers perceive such programs. Work has also been done comparing foot patrol officers and motor patrol officers in terms of relative job satisfaction and perceptions of personal safety. Foot patrol has even been analyzed concerning the differences between how black and white citizens see the program.
Much of the information on the Flint Neighborhood Foot Patrol Program has been based on interviews with a variety of groups, dating back to the early experimental days of the program in the early 1980s. Because of the need to update some information, a publication entitled Community Policing A Taxpayers Perspective was issued recently. In addition, it became apparent there was also a need to look again at those who are closest to the program the officers themselves who actually perform in these jobs. The goal was to interview these officers and ask critical questions so that they could express themselves about the program,(1) then compare this information with the early responses given by officers when the program first began. It was felt this information would be helpful in analyzing community policing from the perspective of the foot officers. Then this information could be used to identify and perhaps clarify some problem areas, and the resulting information could be disseminated to those interested in such programs.
This study examines some crucial issues in community policing, from the officer's perspective, including:
Since the interviewers were police personnel from other jurisdictions, some officers remained suspicious that this survey was connected in some way to the grand jury investigation, despite repeated assurances to the contrary. The interviewers said they felt the officers answered the questions quite truthfully, but that this explains why many failed to offer comments in detail, especially during the early phase of each interview.
Chart 1 provides the data for the following statements: of the 57 officers interviewed, 27 worked the day shift and 30 the afternoon shift. (There are no officers on the night shift.) The average number of years in the Flint Police Department was 11. 1. All but one officer interviewed (98 percent) spent at least some time in motor patrol. A total of 28 percent had been in the traffic division, 10 percent in special operations, 9 percent in community relations, 7 percent in vice/narcotics, 5 percent on jail detail, the same percentage in training, 3 percent in court duty, and one officer (2 percent) had been in gang detail while another had served on a task force. On average, the number of years in foot patrol was 3.4 years, and the majority (88 percent) chose the assignment voluntarily. Only 12 percent were assigned involuntarily. Of the officers interviewed, 58 percent had chosen their foot patrol area, while 42 percent had not.
Ideally, all foot patrol officers should be in the program because they want to be there. Those who express a commitment to foot patrol by choosing the assignment tend not only to deviate little from what is expected, but they also tend not to require close supervision. While not as important as choosing assignment to foot patrol, if an officer can be matched to an area where he or she feels most comfortable and where the community is most receptive, it can be an effective way of accommodating the officer and enhancing his positive feelings about the assignment. Unless doing so interferes with departmental operations, allowing officers to choose their beat areas can be an effective motivator.
It should also be noted that when these data are compared to research done in 1983, the figures show that today a slightly larger percentage of officers had volunteered for the foot patrol assignment, and a substantially higher percentage today had the opportunity to select their beat areas. (In 1983, 84 percent volunteered for foot patrol, compared to 88 percent today. In 1983, 44 percent chose their beat areas, compared to 58 percent today.)
Typical duties and hours spent
on specific duties
Chart 2 illustrates the breakdown of activities per beat area. The average number of hours each officer patrols during an average week is 17.1 hours. Attendance at community meetings requires 2.6 hours; handling complaints, 6.7 hours; organizing neighborhood groups, 2.2 hours; arrests, 2.7 hours; "other," 7.5 hours. The "other" category includes such duties as handling paperwork, visiting homes, making business checks and contacts, checking and tagging abandoned cars, visiting school areas, and working with juveniles.
The most typical duty in an eight-hour shift, in normal weather, as reported by the officers interviewed, is walking the beat, cited by 40 of the 57 officers interviewed, or 70 percent. The next most frequent duty reported is working on complaints or following up complaints, as reported by 48 percent of the officers. Also, 42 percent cited handling paperwork at their offices; 26 percent visit homes or people on the street; 19 percent make business checks and contacts; 17 percent check abandoned cars and tag them; 16 percent patrol or visit school areas; 12 percent work with juveniles; 10 percent attend community meetings; and 10 percent answer service requests.
As Chart 2 illustrates, great variations appear in the responses among different foot patrol officers. For instance, the number of hours per week spent on patrol ranges from a high of 31.5 hours for the officer in beat area 33, down to a low of 2.0 hours for the officer who patrols beat area 16. Time spent on community meetings ranges from a high of 10.0 hours a week to a low of 1.0; time on complaints ranges from 20.0 to 2.0 hours; on organizing neighborhoods, from 15.0 to 0.0; arrests, from 20.0 to 0.0; and "other," from 20.0 to 2.0.
What this reflects is not only the uniqueness of the officer's approach to the job of neighborhood foot patrol, but also how the types of problems and the officer's response to them can shape time spent on the five main areas of activity. For example, one neighborhood may suffer a particularly large number of problems with juveniles, therefore the officer there devotes a greater share of his time to such concerns, perhaps as reflected in patrol time or in attending community meetings with young people. In another area, the pressing concern may be breaking and enterings, which would be reflected in more time spent handling complaints and making arrests. It may also illustrate that some officers are doing "what they want to" because supervision may be lax. This issue will be addressed later.
Activities that deserve more time
Question. 11: If you had more time, what activity should be increased (or started):
Thirty-two percent of the officers had no comment, either because they felt sufficient time was available for the tasks that needed doing or because of at least initial reticence, as explained earlier. Of those who did indicate a need to spend more time on certain activities, 19 percent said more time could be devoted to working with juveniles. A total of 10 percent said surveillance deserves increased attention. Nine percent reported arrests deserve more time and the same percentage said organizing neighborhood block clubs and Neighborhood Watch programs is where they would spend more time if they had it.
In descending order, 5 percent cited working with the elderly, 3 percent said investigating drug problems, and 3 percent also said investigating and developing information deserve more time. Activities cited by a single officer (2 percent for each) included: education of the community, following up on complaints, contacts with neighbors, crime prevention, safety presentations, and traffic improvement.
Obviously, a foot patrol officer cannot perform every worthwhile activity, because his or her role must reflect a general consensus of what the residents want done and what can be accomplished. While it remains important for each officer to solicit comments from residents and business people concerning what they would like their neighborhood foot patrol officer to do, obviously it should also be made clear to the community that the officer cannot perform a single individual's specific bidding, but must instead order priorities according to the most pressing needs expressed overall. In most cases, as supported by other studies, it appears the foot patrol officers' activities reflect community concerns and that the officers are meeting the needs of the constituents they serve.
Strengths and weaknesses of foot patrol
Question 12: What are the strengths of foot patrol?
The greatest number of officers, 44 percent, said personal contact on a one-to-one basis between officers and citizens, while 21 percent cited the trust between officers and citizens. In essence, these two responses are intertwined, since they reflect the fact that the close contact between officers and residents is what fosters such trust, and that the trust makes the contact worthwhile in terms of shared information.
Sixteen percent cited the fact foot patrol has more time to spend on important problems as the main strength of the program. A total of 14 percent said the public relations benefits inherent in foot patrol lead to more public support. The same percentage mentioned foot patrol officers are better able to know the residents' problems and to identify problem people within the community. Better service was cited by 12 percent and 10 percent said better community relations. In descending order, responses cited by less than 10 percent of the officers interviewed included: flexibility of schedule, personal autonomy, lack of direct supervision, working with and improving attitudes of juveniles, availability for mobilization to emergencies, greater opportunity for crime prevention, and greater opportunity for residents to become familiar with officers.
In the "other" category, elected by 5 percent, comments included: more training at the academy, the element of surprise for kids, and the development of community goals and objectives.
Question 13 of the survey reversed the previous question to ask: What are the weaknesses of foot patrol?
While 9 percent cited no weaknesses, a substantial one-third said lack of mobility and poor response time are foot patrol's major weaknesses. It should be noted that this "flaw" is inherent in the definition of foot patrol and that this demonstrates why foot patrol must always be used to complement motor patrol, rather than as a replacement for motor patrol. Motor patrol is designed to maximize mobility and provide a quick response time. Foot patrol excels in providing one-to-one contact between officers and citizens in an environment that fosters trust, which is something motor patrol cannot readily achieve. Previous research done comparing motor and foot patrol in Flint showed that more than nine of 10 contacts with citizens on the part of foot patrol officers were nonadversarial, while the reverse was true for motor patrol more than nine of 10 interactions between motor patrol and citizens were adversarial.
The next weakness in the foot patrol program most commonly cited by the officers interviewed is inadequate or inconsistent supervision, while 10 percent complained there is too much paperwork. Nine percent said the program's biggest weakness lies in the misperception by the public of the role foot patrol officers are supposed to play. Seven percent said being assigned to duty away from their beat area detracts from performance. (This reflects special assignments, such as working downtown parades and festivals.)
In descending order, other weaknesses cited by fewer than 7 percent included: poor horizontal communication among foot patrol officers, foot patrol should be on all three shifts, lack of accountability of foot patrol officers, weather hinders foot patrol activities, political influences of (special interest) groups, motivation problems of foot patrol officers, and poor vertical communication between foot officers and upper command levels.
A total of 16 officers cited problems tabulated under "other," including:
Changes in perceptions since motor patrol duty
Question 14: Since you have been in foot patrol, has your perception of foot patrol changed from when you were in motorized patrol? If so, how?
A significant majority, 72 percent, said their perceptions have changed, while only 19 percent said they had not.(2)
Of the 41 officers who said their perceptions about the program are different now, the vast majority, 93 percent, find the program more worthwhile than they anticipated when they were in motor patrol. The most commonly noted difference, cited by 15 of the 41 officers (37 percent), is that they had not understood the value and the merits of foot patrol and the positive effects it has on the community when they were in motor patrol. Motor patrol officers do not see the long-term relationship that can be built with the community, and how this relationship can provide information to prevent and control crime.
Next most common response, cited by 14 officers (34 percent), is that foot patrol involves more work than they had previously thought. Indeed, other research shows that motor patrol officers often deride foot patrol as being "easy duty" and "not real police work," as if those who volunteer to participate are therefore shirkers. However, when officers who share such bases become foot patrol officers themselves, most discover how demanding the job truly is, that it's not easy to organize block clubs and deal with people's problems day in and day out. They learn how much of a challenge it can be to achieve positive results in communities where citizens are often unaware of the role they must play in preventing and controlling crime or they are unwilling to help deal with these problems.
A total of 10 percent said the experience in foot patrol shows them that foot patrol officers can spend more time with people than they thought when they were in motor patrol. Another change, noted by 7 percent, is that foot patrol produces positive changes in their personal lives, specifically that they feel better about themselves, they have "calmed down," and they have a more positive attitude than they did in motor patrol.
Of the small number whose perceptions changed in a negative way (7 percent), a total of 5 percent cited lack of supervision, while 2 percent noted lack of delegation of authority and responsibility to foot patrol officers. Again, lack of supervision was raised as an issue; however, it's unclear whether the officers were concerned because they felt they themselves wanted more supervision, or because they felt other officers needed more. Supervising foot patrol officers is difficult, especially if an officer is unmotivated or he views the job as a chance to have a day shift job, with autonomy, so that he can take advantage of the system. Couple an unmotivated or lazy officer with a supervisor who is not performing effectively and you create an opportunity for problems in any community policing program. First, this combination reduces effective performance and that negatively alters the perceptions of the community toward the police department. Second, that perpetuates the stereotype held by many motor officers that foot patrol is really a luxury and not real police work.
Of the 11 officers who said their views of motor patrol had not changed, eight (73 percent) had "no comment," while three (28 percent) said the perceptions of the program were positive both before and after they entered foot patrol.
Training -- actual and ideal
The next two questions in the survey pertained to training of foot patrol officers specifically, what kind of special training existing officers received and then what kind of training they felt they should have.
Question 15 asked: What training have you received that pertains specifically to foot patrol?
While 28 percent said they had received no special training at all, 72% said they had had some special training for the job.
Of those who said they had received specific training, 31 percent reported attending a special three-day seminar at Michigan State University. This training option included seminars on the history of community policing, techniques and methods of involving the community in the crime-prevention and crime-solving process, special techniques foot officers can use to diagnose community needs, how to link problem citizens to appropriate social services in the community, and the methods of organizing block clubs and neighborhood associations. In addition, the program offers information and training in media relations, labor management issues, human relations, and communications. Guest speakers from community policing programs across the nation, from cities such as New York and Miami, also provided information on their programs, including methods of operation.
Again, of those who said they had received some special training, the greatest percentage (56 percent) said the training consisted of a two and one half day program presented by the Flint Police Department specifically designed for foot patrol officers. This program covered topics ranging from learning Flint ordinances, to identifying community resources, to understanding how to interact with other units of the Flint Police Department.
The second most common form of special training, received by 39 percent, involved a brief orientation, ranging from two hours to half a day. These sessions typically provided an explanation of the role and function of foot patrol officers, with experienced Flint foot officers on hand to answer questions. The remaining 7 percent said their training consisted of learning about the duties, roles, and functions of foot officers on their own, by reading materials about foot patrol or studying various materials on community policing.(3) All this special community policing training was, of course, in addition to the basic police academy training each officer must complete before becoming a sworn officer of the Flint Police Department.
As these results show, training among Flint foot patrol officers varied widely. Some received intensive instruction, with detailed and specific information about the roles, duties, and issues of the foot patrol officer job. Those who attended the three-day Michigan State University conference were also exposed to information about other programs nationwide. 0n the other end of that spectrum are foot officers who simply had to learn what they could on their own, while a substantial number received no training at all.
Question 16 asked: What additional training would be helpful to you as a foot officer?
One third (33 percent) offered no suggestions, but two-thirds (67 percent provided specific suggestions that fall into three broad categories.
Category One includes an update on laws and ordinances. Many foot patrol officers said they want training to keep them current on all laws not just laws specific to foot patrol. For instance, they need information on OUIL (Operating Under the Influence of Liquor) and traffic tickets though these offenses are typically the province of motor patrol. What foot patrol officers said they also want is constant updating about city services, since these constantly change and they play an important role in the community policing officer's function as the community's linkage person to other agencies. Foot patrol officers also requested continuing information concerning city organizations, ranging from the Salvation Army to mental health and employment services and agencies.
Category Two involves training in public speaking and organizational skills. Because foot patrol officers do a great deal of public speaking, both to groups and one-to-one, they said they want assistance in fine-tuning these skills. In addition, they also stress the need for more emphasis in training on human relations skills in general. In particular, they require more information about how to organize block clubs and recreation programs. A number said they want training in how to organize programs and activities for the elderly, including information on how to maintain and sustain such programs.
Category Three discusses the need for increased training in conflict management. Many officers expressed great concern that they need more help in learning how to deal with spouse abuse, child abuse, tenant problems, and general family problems. In addition, many officers said they would benefit from structured opportunities for interaction among foot patrol officers, so they could share experiences and identify what does and does not work in the field. The officers also said they require more knowledge, assistance, and experience in identifying psychological problems among residents, so they can make appropriate referrals.
Traits of a good foot patrol officer
While these results help identify what foot patrol officers regard as important in training officers for community policing, it is also important to select the right kind of individual for the job.
Question 18 asked: What types of people make the best foot officers? (Note: Question 17 was eliminated because of duplication.)
According to the officers themselves, the most important characteristics a foot patrol officer should have include:
Feeling of belonging in community
Question 19 asked: Do you feel you are more a part of the community than when you were a motor patrol officer? Why?
Community involvement and good community relations are routinely cited as two of the primary benefits of foot patrol. So it was not surprising that 84 percent of the officers said "yes," while 11 percent said it is the same, and only 5 percent said "no." Concerning why they felt more a part of the community, 40 percent said foot patrol officers know people better, can communicate better, know people by name, know their problems, and know which citizens are law-abiding and which are likely violators. A total of 39 percent said they feel more a part of the community because of the one-on-one daily contact. A variety of other responses demonstrated how the feeling of "us" against "them" dissipates in foot patrol as compared to motor patrol. For instance, 10 percent talked about the positive response from the community, saying that the residents care about foot patrol, accept and trust foot patrol, and know and appreciate their foot patrol officers.
A total of 7 percent said they felt more responsible for people on their beat than motor patrol officers do. The same percentage cited greater involvement in community groups in the area. Again, the same percentage said foot patrol provides an opportunity to solve residents' problems, even those that aren't criminal, but personal.
A total of 5 percent said they have become attached to people in the beat, creating an atmosphere of friendship. One officer noted that foot patrol offers an opportunity to deal with good people and not just with complaints. Another noted dealing with people in non-emergency situations fosters a feeling of being part of the community.
Throughout these interviews, it was evident that foot patrol officers feel better about themselves because they have a stake in the communities they serve and can develop a rapport with citizens that allows them to feel they are helping friends.
Benefits in getting to know people
Question 20 asked: What are the benefits of getting to know the people in your area?
Of the 57 officers interviewed, 81 percent replied that foot patrol officers receive more information from residents because they know them better and are trusted. Also, 26 percent said foot patrol officers become more aware of problems in the neighborhoods and problems between people; therefore, they are better able to help because they understand the context of situations they face.
Another benefit, listed by 17 percent, is that residents keep foot patrol informed and there is more cooperation between police and citizens. Increased trust between citizens and officers was mentioned by 14 percent. Smaller percentages of officers cited job satisfaction (5 percent), an increased sense of security for both police and residents (3 percent), more friends (2 percent), assisting in organizing neighborhoods (2 percent), and the officer's attitude toward the community becomes more positive (2 percent) and the reverse (2 percent).
In some ways, assigning numerical values and drawing firm lines between certain categories seems pointless, because the responses overlap. Building trust, improving communication, and enhancing cooperation are part of the seamless fabric that binds the officers and the community together through this personal interaction. The basic conclusion that should be drawn from these data is that, for foot patrol, familiarity with residents breeds not resentment but rapport.
Help residents will provide officers in trouble
Question 21 asked: How active will the residents in your beat area be in helping you if you are in trouble?
Foot patrol officers were almost unanimous that "their" constituents would come to their aid. Seventy percent said residents would be very active in their behalf, while 28 percent said they would be somewhat active. Only one officer said residents would not be active at all.
This is one area where current results differed dramatically from those obtained during the 1983 survey, and it shows how confidence and rapport build over time. In 1983, of the 64 officers interviewed, only 28 percent said residents would be very active, while more than twice that percentage say so today. In 1983, 62 percent said residents would be somewhat active, and 9 percent said residents would not be active at all.
It is also interesting to note that in 1983 these figures were considered as dramatic evidence of the trust building between foot patrol officers and residents. In 1983, these responses were compared to those from 50 motor officers interviewed. Not one of those 50 motor officers said citizens would be very active in their behalf. Sixty percent (30 officers) said residents would be somewhat active, and 40 percent (20 officers) said residents would not be active at all.
Again, this indicates foot patrol officers benefit from the close communication and interaction with residents. Not only do they benefit from increased communication, trust, and ultimately, more and better information, but they also feel safer in their neighborhoods and feel they are viewed as valued professionals and friends.
Question 22: Do you feel safer as a foot patrol officer than you did as a motor patrol officer? Why?
Obviously, this question relates to the previous query, so not surprisingly, 70 percent of the foot patrol officers interviewed said they felt safer, while only 30 percent said they felt no safer in foot patrol than when they were in motor patrol. Of those who felt safer, 45 percent cited the fact they were less likely to receive volatile emergency calls in foot patrol. Next most frequent response was that the foot patrol officer feels more comfortable in the community because of mutual caring (35 percent). Some noted they were in a relatively low-crime neighborhood (12 inal justice system today
Question 23: Do you feel community residents get more involved with the criminal justice system today than in the past? Why? Why not?
Seventy-four percent thought community residents are more involved today, while 25 percent disagreed, and 2 percent gave no answer. Of those who said residents are more involved today, one-third (33 percent) said residents today are more likely to give information to police and to make formal complaints. For that, foot patrol deserves at least some credit. Also, foot patrol officers and the foot patrol program itself were cited as the reason more citizens are involved today by 29 percent of the respondents. Another 24 percent said that community programs that provide support and allow residents to participate account for this improvement. Four officers, 9 percent, said the difference can be attributed to increased awareness that the criminal justice system and the police cannot do the job alone. The same percentage said increased involvement today is a direct result of the rising crime rate, while 17 percent simply indicated "other" reasons, without elaborating further.
Of the 14 foot patrol officers who said residents are less involved now, the greatest percentage, 29 percent, said people only get involved when it affects them personally. Fourteen percent said people basically do not want to get involved, when the same number said that people have no confidence in the judicial system. Individual officers also expressed individual views. One said people "have had it too good too long." Another said many more people today fear being identified as filing a complaint. One officer insisted people will not get involved today even when they have a problem. Individual officers also said people feel the system does not address their needs, crime rates are higher than ever, and "people stay to themselves."
Obviously, while the vast majority feel citizens today are becoming more involved in the criminal justice system, the foot patrol officers who disagreed either see the glass as half empty, instead of half full, or they used this opportunity to express frustration because of their desire to enlist more cooperation. It is easy to see why any recent negative experience, such as someone refusing to sign a complaint, could easily taint an officers perceptions, at least temporarily.
Causes of friction between residents and police
Question 24: What are the causes of friction between some community residents and the police?
This question elicited an unusually broad age of responses. The answers most frequently given, by 28 percent, were so diverse they fell into the "other" category. Next most common, cited by 26 percent, is that friction stems from the residents' lack of understanding of the police. These officers said that citizens often do not understand the role and function of the police, nor do they understand the constraints on officers and their authority. A total of 17 percent said slow response time to calls for service causes friction. An equal number said friction arises because many citizens simply do not like "cops," often because of negative encounters in the past, perhaps when a police officer had their car towed or issued them a traffic ticket.
Sixteen percent said they felt friction stemmed from misunderstanding on the part of both police and citizens. A total of 7 percent said they felt tension is created when residents are not satisfied with the way officers have handled previous complaints or problems. Five percent said friction occurs because of "uncalled for" harassment of citizens by officers. An equal number cited prejudice, either racial or sexual. Reasons cited by a total of two foot patrol officers (3 percent) include: lack of communication, negative attitudes officers exhibit toward citizens ("us" against "them" or people are jerks"), media (bad press); and the fact some officers do not do their jobs.
Examining these responses, it is obvious that foot patrol seeks, by its very design, to address crucial concerns. For instance, the daily one-on-one contact is likely to reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions on both sides. Also, this interaction helps reduce the "us" against "them" bias, and the study The Impact of Foot Patrol on Black and White Perceptions of Policing (Robert C. Trojanowicz and Dennis W, Banas, No. 4 in the Community Policing Series, 1983) details how foot patrol helps reduce racial tension. On the other hand, opportunities exist for police and citizens to clash, and foot patrol officers, because of their involvement in the community, are much more likely to hear citizens' complaints than their motor counterparts. The fact that they are on a more friendly basis makes it more likely they will sense friction among residents that motor officers might be totally unaware of.
How the criminal justice system affects foot patrol
Question 25: How do the other components of the criminal justice system (courts, prosecution, corrections) affect your job?
A third of the 57 respondents (33 percent) said the overall effect the system has on foot patrol is negative. Comments included that the system is: too lax, not strong enough, too lenient, people have lost faith in the system. Twenty-three percent said the system interferes with police work directly. For example, laws restrict the police officer and make his job more difficult. Officers also said that the system does not back up or support the officer; people challenge the officer's position knowing they will find sympathy in court, and this affects the officer's attitude on the job.
Seventeen percent said that because Flint lacks a jail, there is not enough space available to house offenders, which interferes with the job. The same percentage discussed problems with the courts, such as that the courts impose sanctions that are too lenient-just tickets or fines. Other complaints about courts and judges included the perception that sentences are not uniform and the judicial system is too lenient on juveniles.
The system takes too long, because it's bound up in red tape, according to 10 percent. Three percent cited a need for new laws, especially for juveniles, and an identical percentage said prosecution is too lax, specifically the result of plea bargaining. In addition, one officer said that problems for foot patrol officers occur when people have a negative interaction with the criminal justice system, because foot patrol is perceived as part of that system. An additional 9 percent fell into the "other" category.
One of the 57 officers failed to answer the question, while four (7 percent) said the criminal justice system does not affect their jobs.
While no doubt some problems exist, it is because foot patrol officers have more direct contact with citizens that their job allows them to mobilize the efforts of the community toward solving problems. On the other hand, when there is resulting friction between the motor patrol officers and the community because of other elements in the system, motor patrol officers lack any mechanism to make changes for the better. Indeed, much of the friction between the police and community residents may well stem from citizens' frustration with other elements of the system. At least foot patrol officers have an opportunity to discuss with residents how they can work together to make the system more responsive and effective overall.
Advantages and disadvantages of being in foot patrol
Question 26: What are the advantages for you being in foot patrol?
Foot patrol officers listed numerous advantages in the job. Some answers were personal and pragmatic. A third (33 percent) said weekends off were an advantage, while 30 percent liked the flexible schedule. Thirty percent also said they appreciate the freedom, independence, and autonomy, the sense of being their own boss. An altruistic 17 percent said that assisting the community and helping people solve their problems is an important advantage of the job. In addition, 12 percent said foot patrol is more relaxed less stressful, more healthful, and less frustrating.
Seven percent said having more time to spend with people is an advantage while 5 percent said the opportunity for creativity is a plus, and an equal percentage cited increased job satisfaction. Three percent praised working with good supervisors, and an equal percentage liked being on first shift. In the "other" category, elected by 19.3 percent, the eleven officers listed varied reasons: more recognition for hard work, a sense of accomplishment, improved understanding of people, "keeps me out of trouble," trust, getting the information, vacation preference, change, requires better service to community, allows more selectivity on the job, and more mobility.
Some of the advantages cited are self-serving, while others reflect great commitment to the goals of the program. Obviously, if officers elect foot patrol for its flexible schedule and weekends off, potential problems can result if that also means they do not keep in touch with the community or attend special events on weekends. That shows why supervision is such a crucial part of any successful community policing program.
Rotation between motor patrol and foot patrol can keep a program on track, because it provides the greatest number of officers a chance see how community policing works. It also does not allow an officer intent on abusing the system to become entrenched.
In the 1983 research, only 68 percent of motor patrol officers said there was an advantage in being in foot patrol, compared to 87 percent of foot patrol officers. Obviously, being in the program helps officers see the benefits. In that research, autonomy, the ability to implement their own ideas, job flexibility, increased job satisfaction, and morale were cited as important advantages. In addition, those interviewed three years ago noted advantages such as better understanding of the problems in the community and methods of dealing with them. A previous publication in the community policing series compared job satisfaction and the morale of motor and foot officers (Robert C. Trojanowicz and Dennis W. Banas, Job Satisfaction, publication No. 2 of the Community Policing Series, 1985). In most cases, foot officers displayed much more job satisfaction and better morale.
Question 27: Are there any disadvantages for you being in foot patrol?
The majority (53 percent) said there are no disadvantages, a positive sign of job satisfaction. A total of 47 percent said there are disadvantages, and of those 27, 18 percent cited the fact foot patrol officers do not earn as much money as other officers, because they do not collect as much overtime for court appearances. Fifteen percent said the job fails to provide them enough experience handling emergencies and other patrol duties, so that they risk losing touch with certain police procedures if they become too involved with the social service aspects of the foot patrol job.
Eleven percent said they felt they did not have as much credibility in the eyes of other officers because of being in the foot patrol program. This relates to the bias discussed before, where motor patrol officers promulgate the myth that foot patrol duty avoids "real" police work. Another 11 percent cited lack of transportation (having to walk or use their own car) as a disadvantage. Two officers complained beat areas are too large, while an equal number said foot patrol means becoming so involved that it becomes hard not to take the job home with you.
The majority (56 percent) listed individual disadvantages grouped in the "other" category: too many people know you, stress, too much paperwork, unrealistic expectations from management, falling behind in awareness of changes in the law, lack of communication with other units, greater need for self-control, extra time going to meetings, doing more community than police work, taking complaints more personally, not having a partner, low status of foot patrol, and some disliked second-shift duty.
What these responses show is how the stress in foot patrol differs from that in motor patrol. Foot patrol officers know they have to produce results, because they will be back in the same neighborhood, day after day. In motor patrol, the officer normally in and out of the situation quickly; in foot patrol, the officer's involvement is much more intense, over a far longer period of time.
Obviously, the point is that each job has its own rewards, its own drawbacks and stresses. In the 1983 research comparing responses of foot and motor patrol officers, motor officers thought there were more problems inherent in being a foot patrol officer than foot patrol officers themselves reported. In that study, again, motor patrol officers said foot patrol officers were not doing "real" police work and were therefore losing touch with the department. The motor officers' perception was that foot patrol officers were doing more social work than law enforcement. Foot patrol officers, however, disagreed; the majority saw no disadvantages of said the advantages far outweighed any disadvantages in the job.
Effects of politics on the job
Question 28: Does politics affect your job? How?
Nine of 10 foot officers (91 percent) said politics does affect their jobs, while only one in 10 disagreed. Of the 52 officers who said politics does play a role, one-fourth (25 percent) said some departmental decisions are made on the basis of political expediency rather than on the specific merits of the situation. They felt decisions are made to insure that politicians look good and to keep the political constituency happy. Nineteen percent said the priorities in their particular beat or those of the entire foot patrol program are affected by political pressure or political issues. Also, 11 percent said that the city administrators often gives in to citizens' demands for fear of losing voter approval of millage funding.
Ten percent of the officers insisted groups that are very active politically can affect decisions beyond what their numbers should command. Another 6 percent felt elected politicians foster bureaucracies that bog the system down in red tape and paperwork.
A sizable number of concerns fell in the "other" category, which comprised 21 percent of the total. Among those, an individual officer blamed political problems on the fact the mayor is elected. Another said some politicians use the threatened elimination of foot patrol as a club to force voters to pass the millage. Another said the city fathers expect more out of foot patrol than other units. In addition, an officer said politicians take away some powers the police should have. Policies inhibit being able to do the job properly, according to one officer. Another said policies change because of the people involved, not because of the merits of the situation.
Interpreting these results is difficult, because the rights of the taxpayers should not be ignored. Our system of government requires the consent of the governed; indeed, foot patrol itself is designed to encourage citizen participation and to allow them a voice in setting priorities for the kind of policing programs that residents want in their communities. On the other hand, if special interest groups gain so much power they dictate the agenda, while the rights of common citizens are ignored, then political pressure can cause serious problems for foot patrol officers.
Changes in the program since the beginning
Question 29: Is the foot patrol program different today than when it stated in 1979? How?
More than two thirds (72 percent) said the program is different today, compared to only 3 percent who said "no." A total of 26 percent either chose not to answer or failed to answer because they had no basis for comparison. Of the 40 who said "yes," 37 percent said the program is better organized now, that is has more structure, is more formalized, and is better established. Thirty-two percent said supervision (management) is better now, and that there are tighter controls. Another 30 percent said officers are now held more accountable and that they have more duties and responsibilities than before.
Four of the 40 officers (10 percent) noted the program has expanded, with more beats, more officers. On the negative side, 7 percent said there is less flexibility today, fewer options, less autonomy, and that the administration restricts innovation. The previous two findings appear to be linked, because the larger a program becomes, the less opportunity for innovation and, of course, supervision becomes more difficult. When bureaucracies grow, they follow a standard dynamic, and the Flint foot patrol program grew substantially larger than it was in the early days.
One fourth (25 percent) of those who noted changes cited individual concerns grouped together under "other." Some cited positive changes; attitudes of other officers in the department are improving, residents are more favorable about the program, more emphasis on police work, more residents know and trust officers, more of a team effort, and more flexibility today. Only two comments were blatantly negative; more paperwork and more political. Other comments are subject to interpretation: handle more complaints and attitudes of foot patrol officer vary more today.
Resident's perceptions of foot patrol's advantage
Question 30: What do you think the residents would say is the greatest advantage of foot patrol?
Almost half, 49 percent, said citizens would say foot patrol's major advantage is the familiarity with the officer, the personal contact and communication one-to-one, as well as the trust such closeness fosters. Approximately one-fourth, 24 percent, said residents would say having their own officers, a public servant who responds to their needs, would be the greatest advantage. A total of 12 percent said access to the officer and his availability would be what most residents would cite, while 17 percent said it would be the quality of foot patrol service: officers respond better and problems are resolved more quickly and more effectively.
Four officers, 7 percent, said citizens would cite an increased feeling of safety, while 5 percent said the officer's visibility would be acknowledged as the greatest advantage. Two officers, 3 percent, felt citizens would say increased information sharing. One officer said it would be knowing more about how a police department works and another cited home contacts.
Obviously, many comments relate to the officer's closeness to the community he or she serves.
How the program can be improved
Question 31: How can the foot patrol program be improved?
Most officer's comments (39 percent) fell into the "other" category, ranging from changing the hours, to tightening accountability, to providing radar certification. Two referred to continuing friction with motor patrol officers: assigning motor officers to foot patrol for two weeks and working out conflicts with motor officers. Some suggestions were more far-ranging, such as having two or three officers specialize in community organizing in different areas or that training should be on-going, to maintain motivation. Others were relatively trivial or limited, such as one officer suggesting that foot patrol would be improved if officers were allowed to grow beards.
Seventeen percent of the comments fell into the general category of increasing or improving communications between residents and community, including more meetings. It should be noted that while improved communication is a hallmark of the program, foot patrol officers see this as a continuing challenge that requires constant effort.
Fourteen percent thought the officers should have some sort of vehicle, such as a motor scooter or motor bike.(5) Seven officers, 12 percent, felt the division would be improved by adding more officers and decreasing the size of the beat areas. They also suggested that two officers should be assigned in some areas to handle special problems or projects, from drug abuse to organizing activities for the elderly and the young.
As these comments demonstrate, many officers feel the size of beat areas should be reduced, or more officers should be assigned to help shoulder the load. It should be noted that beat area size did increase dramatically when the program was expanded to cover the entire city of Flint. Initially, the experimental program covered only part of Flint; when the program went citywide sooner than anticipated, beat size increased, because of budget constraints. Tension always exists between the optimal and the affordable, but especially in foot patrol, expanding beats too much risks undermining the close contact that is integral to the success of the program.
Of greatest concern, however, was that 12 percent thought supervision should be improved and that supervisors should strive for closer contact with officers, so that they would understand their problems and deal with them more effectively. On the other hand, 7 percent said officers should have more autonomy and flexibility. Obviously, on the one hand, the program must allow the officer independence, and highly motivated officers do well when they can accept maximum responsibility. Conversely, give an unmotivated or devious officer too much autonomy and too little direct supervision and you can expect long-range problems.
Direct positive changes in community
Question 32: What positive community changes have you made as a foot officer?
Only one officer failed to claim making some specific improvement. Eighteen officers, 32 percent, said they had organized community crime prevention programs, such as a crime watch, a block club, or a police cadet program. Next most common accomplishment listed, by 30 percent, was that they had improved relations between police and citizens and had also improved the attitudes of citizens toward police in general. Slightly more than a fourth, 26 percent, claimed working with juveniles: to improve their attitudes toward police, to help kids in general, and to form police athletic leagues. Nineteen percent said they had organized clean-up projects and environmental improvements designed to improve the quality of life and make the community a more beautiful place to live. Reducing crime by working with people was cited by 16 percent. Eight officers, 14 percent, said they had helped people become involved in solving their own problems. In that capacity, they acted as a catalyst to help people recognize problems and see how they could work with their neighbors to solve them.
A direct improvement claimed by 10 percent was that they had created a bond of trust with residents that makes citizens more willing to report crime. Three officers (5 percent) cited increasing residents' perceptions of safety and an equal number said they had improved race relations. Many officers (23 percent) opted for the "other" category, with achievements ranging from fostering neighborhood pride, to forcing criminals to move elsewhere, to creating community cohesiveness. Some claimed developing specific activities, such as tours, newsletters, and field trips. One officer said he had become a "professional" counselor.
Of note is the fact that even though this survey was conducted when many officers were reluctant to talk, because of the Grand jury investigation discussed earlier, on this question, the officers truly opened up. The personal pride in their achievements and in the impact they had made in their neighborhoods overcame their reticence.
Resident's perceptions of the police department since foot patrol
Question 33: Do the people of Flint feel better about their police department than before foot patrol? Why?
Almost all officers (96 percent) said Flint residents feel better about the department as a result of foot patrol. Only one officer said "no," while another had no comment. Of the 55 officers who "yes", many cited different reasons; however, 46 percent attributed the positive change to personal contact, that residents know their officers better and benefit from one-on-one contact. The resulting positive feelings on the part of residents are then generalized to the entire Flint Police Department.
Twelve percent said the people feel they are now a part of the police department, and being involved with the department makes them feel better about the department in general. The same percentage also said it is foot patrol itself that makes people feel better about their police department. Five officers (9%) said that the fact the millage funding for foot patrol passed by a larger margin than the first time signifies people feel good about their police department, as reflected in their support of the foot patrol program.
Most of the other comments were related to these same basic themes. For instance, 5 percent cited the improved service citizens receive from foot patrol. An identical number cited improved community and public relations because of foot patrol. One officer said it was trust that makes people feel better.
Eleven percent of the comments fell into the "other" category, including: better communication, how motor officers are being impacted by the foot patrol approach, that foot patrol officers are perceived as fair, that foot patrol makes residents feel the department is concerned with public safety, that foot patrol has helped reduce the crime rate, and that people now tend to criticize a specific officer without generalizing about the entire department.
Despite the constraints discussed earlier that resulted from the on-going investigation, the survey shows that many officers are eager to talk about the plusses and minuses they perceive in the Flint foot patrol program. Overall, they are quick to cite the program's successes and their personal achievements. Foot patrol officers also demonstrate a high degree of faith in the program, insisting that it produces numerous positive changes in the beat areas and also in police-community relations.
It should be noted that no matter how satisfying a job is, any job always
includes frustrations. No doubt some of the comments fall into the "gripe"
category, yet what comes through is that there is a strong overall commitment
to the program on the part of the officers involved. They have inculcated
the values associated with making a foot patrol program work, including
the willingness to involve themselves in the community and develop one-on-one
rapport with residents through sustained communication.
|* 1 = Days
2 = Afternoons
** 1 = Motor Patrol 2 = Community Relations 3 = Jail 4 = Foot Patrol 5 = Special Operations
6 = Traffic 7 = Training 8 = Vice, Narcotics
*** 1 = Chose Assignment or Beat Area 2 = Did Not Choose Assignment or Beat Area
2. What is your beat area? ____________________________________
3. What shift do you work? Days________ Afternoons_____________
4. How long have you been with the department?
5. What units in the department have you been assigned to
(and for how
6. How long have you been in foot patrol?_________________________
7. Did you choose your assignment?_____________________________
8. Did you choose your beat area?______________________________
9. What are your typical duties in an eight-hour shift during
10. How much time do you spend in a given week on the following?
__Patroling on foot ______ hours
__Community bsp; ______not at all active ______somewhat active
22. Do you feel safer as a foot patrol officer than you did as a motor
23. Do you feel community residents get more involved with the criminal
justice system today than in the past? Why? Why not?
24. What are the causes of friction between some community residents
25. How do the other components of the criminal justice system affect
job? (courts, prosecution, corrections)_________________________
26. What are the advantages for you being in foot patrol?______________
27. Are there any disadvantages for you being in foot patrol?___________
28. Does politics affect your job? How?___________________________
29. Is the foot patrol program different today than when it started
30. What do you think the residents would say is the greatest advantage
31. How can the foot patrol program be improved?__________________
32. What positive community changes have you made as a foot patrol
33. Do the people in Flint feel better about their police department
before foot patrol? Why?___________________________________
34. Sex________________________ Race______________________
THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.
*Assistance in the development of the questionnaire was provided by
Professor David Carter.
An Evaluation of the Neighborhood Foot Patrol Program in Flint, Michigan
A Manual for the Establishment and Operation of a Foot Patrol Program
Perceptions of Safety: A Comparison of Foot Patrol Versus Motor Patrol
Job Satisfaction: A Comparison of Foot Patrol Versus Motor Patrol Officers
The Status of Contemporary Community Policing Programs
The Impact of Foot Patrol on Black and White Perceptions of Policing
Uniform Crime Reporting and Community Policing: An Historical
Performance Profiles of Foot Versus Motor Officers
Community Policing: A Taxpayer's Perspective
Implementing a Community Policing Model for Work with Juveniles:
An Exploratory Study
Community Policing: Training Issues
Community Policing Programs: A Twenty Year View
Community Policing: The Line Officer's Perspective
The Foot Patrol Officer, the Community, and the School: A Coalition
Community Policing: Defining the Officer's Role
Foot Patrol: Some Problem Areas
An Evaluation of a Neighborhood Foot Patrol Program
If you wish to receive a copy of a Center publication,
please contact us at the address or telephone numbers given below:
National Center for Community Policing
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
560 Baker Hall
East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1118