CONCERNS ABOUT SAFETY, OBSERVER SEX, AND THE DECISION TO ARREST: EVIDENCE OF REACTIVITY IN A LARGE-SCALE OBSERVATIONAL STUDY OF POLICE*

Authors


  • *

    This research was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (Grant 1999-IJ-CX-0059). This manuscript is also based on data from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods (or POPN), directed by Stephen D. Mastrofski, Roger B. Parks, Albert J. Reiss, Jr., and Robert E. Worden. POPN was supported by Grant 95-IJ-CX-0071 by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Special thanks to Steve Mastrofski, Celia Lo, Ida Johnson, John Watkins, Bob Bursik, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Address all correspondence to Richard Spano, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Alabama, Box 870320, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487

  • Richard Spano is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama. His research interests include field research methodology, life course explanations of criminal behavior, and disentangling the impact of situational, neighborhood, and organizational factors on police behavior.

Abstract

Data from a large-scale observational study of police examined the impact of an observer's presence on patrol officer arrest behavior. One major theme within the descriptive data on reactivity (concerns about safety) was described as a series of anecdotes and specified in terms of its prevalence. Consistent with hypothesized effects, patrol officers who expressed concerns about safety were less likely to arrest suspects. Additional analyses also revealed that patrol officers were less likely to arrest when accompanied by female versus male observers and that there is a different pattern of acclimation that is contingent on a combination of observer sex and concerns about safety. The implications of these findings and suggestions for future research will also be considered.

Ancillary