Police Patroling, Resistance, and Conflict Resolution
Carlene Wilson National Police Research Unit, Australia
Helen Braithwaite The Flinders University of South Australia
Police patrol work is commonly perceived to be a dangerous undertaking, principally because it involves contact with potential and actual offenders. However, although the potential for officers to experience confrontation in their daily activities is certainly high, officers are only rarely assaulted, and full compliance by suspects to officers' requests or no contact at all with potential offenders are much more frequent outcomes ( Wilson & Brewer, 1991). This is not to negate the fact that officers sometimes are placed in dangerous situations in which a conflict escalates to the point where injury is sustained by police, suspect, and/or bystander. By attempting to develop an understanding of the variables that distinguish these dangerous encounters from the more frequently occurring benign interactions, risk to both officers and the public can be minimized.
A considerable body of research in the past 2 to 3 decades has focused on the identification of those variables that impact upon the probability that conflict will escalate and, more particularly, the likelihood that a police officer will experience physical resistance. This research, originating from a wide range of criminological, sociological, and psychological perspectives, highlights a range of environmental, situational, personal, and interpersonal variables that contribute to the risk for the officer on patrol. This chapter provides an overview of these research results, focusing primarily on those variables over which the individual police officer and/or the police organization can exert some control, as opposed to variables like offender characteristics which, while having a significant influence, are largely destined to remain outside of the realm of police influence.