"Drop the clipboard and help me!": The determinants of observer behavior in police encounters with suspects

Richard Spano, Michael D. Reisig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Much of the knowledge about police behavior on the streets is based on observational research. Little research, however, had examined the impact of reactivity in police observational data. One theme in the field research literature was that observer behavior could act as a source of bias in observational data. This article uses data from a large-scale observational study of police to predict this form of reactivity during encounters with suspects. In other words, "Are observer effects triggered by situational factors (i.e., dangerous suspects or situations) or a function of observer characteristics?" Results from a two-level hierarchical logistic model indicated that observers with higher academic rank (e.g., advanced graduate students), lower grade point averages, and more conservative attitudes toward criminality were less likely to get involved in police work during encounters with suspects. The implications of these findings for recruiting and training police researchers are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-629
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Volume34
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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