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be, in terms of service to people.To begin, I identify sixcharacteristics that Americansassociate with “good service”from their police, adapted from ageneral characterization of servicequality in the private sector(Parasuraman et al., 1988). I willthen turn to some evidence onhow well American police areproviding these services, and willconclude with a reform agendathat promotes policing forpeople.
What Policing forPeople Means
is the ﬁrstelement of policing for people.Americans want their serviceproviders to pay attention tothem. Putting 100,000 moreofﬁcers on the street has appealbecause it increases the capacityof America’s police forces to bemore attentive. It is nowfashionable to denigratepreventive patrol and reactivepolicing, but they remain popularbecause Americans want policewho are “around.” What appealsto the public about communitypolicing is the promise thatoutreach programs will increasethe public’s access to the police.Neighborhoods ﬁght to keeptheir community policing ofﬁcersnot just because they grow fondof the individuals, but becausetheir presence demonstrates thedepartment’s commitment toserve them.
is the secondelement of policing for people.People expect a degree of predictability in what police do.They want service that is timelyand error-free. McDonald’ssucceeds not because the cuisineis superb but because the food ispredictable and more-or-lesserror-free. When it works well,911-service is like McDonald’s. Itis not a ﬁve-star restaurant, but itprovides service fast, fulﬁllingbasic “people-processing” needsto deal with problemsimmediately (Mastrofski andRitti forthcoming).People also want
. Americans expect more of their police than mere adherenceto bureaucratic rules (Bordua andReiss 1967, 297). They expect“client-centered” service. Thiscan mean giving clients what theywant, but clients themselves oftenconstrue it more broadly. Agood-faith effort by an ofﬁcer isoften appreciated as much as afavorable outcome. Citizens aredelighted, and often surprised,when their police see a jobthrough to completion, checkingback later to see how thingsworked out. Police can beresponsive even when they deny acitizen’s request, by explainingthe denial. G. K. Chestertonobserved, “Many a man wouldrather you heard his story thangranted his request.” Andsometimes about all the policecan do is “pick up the pieces”after some traumatic event. Whencitizens are traumatized, whateverelse police might accomplish, itcosts little to offer some measureof comfort or reassurance.The public wants
—service providerswho can get the job done. Whenyou get your car repaired, youexpect the mechanic to knowwhat he or she is doing. Whenyou call the police to report atheft, deal with a domesticdisturbance, or quell a noisy partynext door, you expect theresponding ofﬁcer to know howto deal with the situation. Thepublic judges police competenceprimarily in terms of the tangiblethings they can readily observe.They do not use crime statisticsor other so-called outcomemeasures. They watch the ofﬁcerat work and make judgmentsabout his or her ability to get the job done.
Police can be responsive evenwhen they deny a citizen’s request, by explaining the denial.