Situational Policing

By Nolan, James J.; Conti, Norman et al. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Situational Policing

Nolan, James J., Conti, Norman, McDevitt, Jack, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"


"That depends on where you want to get to."

The Cheshire Cat

--Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

A recent study explored whether community policing could work in different types of neighborhoods. The analysis found it successful in some communities, but not in others. Of the 15 participating Chicago police beats, the researchers rated 9 excellent or reasonable and 6 struggling or failing. Although the study's findings prove enlightening, the research question itself garners even more interest for it suggests that community policing should have similar benefits in different types of neighborhoods. (1)


To this end, the authors present a theoretical framework to help police decide what type of community policing strategy could work best in specific neighborhoods. Making this decision requires an identification of the ultimate goal of policing (i.e., its desired end). This holds particular importance because it provides the basis for evaluating competing strategies and the ultimate measure of police effectiveness. Through the Situational Policing Model, the authors hope to present a clear and observable desired end state for officers as they work to respond to neighborhood crime and disorder. Choosing the right road, or policing strategy, depends on where the police are heading. Once this destination becomes set, officers will be better able to decide which roads most likely will get them there.



For over 20 years, the Broken Windows Theory--that neighborhood disorder leads to serious violent crime--has influenced policing. (2) Many authorities believe that physical and social disorder serve as predictors of violent crime. To this end, practices, such as zero-tolerance and order-maintenance policing, have become popular. (3)

More recently, researchers have raised important questions about any causal link between disorder and crime because they say the two are, essentially, the same thing. In other words, disorder is crime--they just differ in seriousness. These experts suggest that disorder and crime stem from the same societal problem (i.e., weakened informal social control). (4) They argue that it is not disorder that predicts crime but the level of collective efficacy--"the cohesion among residents combined with shared expectations for the social control of public space"--that predicts both crime and disorder. (5) Put another way, residents feel liable for safety and upkeep in some neighborhoods more than others, and this feeling of shared responsibility relates to the level of crime.

In a comprehensive study of 196 Chicago communities, these researchers found that not only was neighborhood-level collective efficacy the most significant predictor of crime and disorder but when collective efficacy and structural characteristics, like poverty, population density, and mixed land use, were taken into consideration, the connection between disorder and crime all but disappeared. These findings have implications for modern policing policies and practices.


Collective efficacy characterizes the neighborhood as a whole. The social sciences have established that groups, organizations, and entire societies have collective properties, like efficacy. Much of the knowledge about the dynamics of collective entities comes from studies of small groups, an emerging focus of scientific analysis starting in the 1940s and continuing today.

For example, these studies pointed out that many groups pass through, regress to, or get stuck in identifiable developmental stages. (6) For their purposes, the authors suggest that at any point in time, a neighborhood can exist primarily in one of three.

1) Dependence: The group depends on the leader for direction and the members share the assumption that the individual is competent and able to provide effective leadership. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Situational Policing


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.