Patrol units are the most essential part of any police force. Patrol makes up the majority of police time. There are many types of patrol units, and every police force allocates their officers differently. Some of the types of patrols include foot, bicycle, motorcycle, air and water patrols. Each type of patrol has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Also, each type of patrol has certain aspects where it is more effective in or better suited for a particular task.
Almost all police departments in the United States have foot patrols. However, while this is true, foot patrols only account for four percent of all the patrols in the country ("The Police on Patrol" 4). Foot patrol is the oldest form of police patrol. There are many benefits to having foot patrols as part of a department. One of the main benefits of foot patrols is the contact the officers have with the citizens in the area that they are assigned to. This is extremely advantageous because it allows the officers on patrol to develop a relationship with the citizens, which causes the people to be more trusting of the officers and more likely to come to them with information regarding crimes committed. Another advantage of foot patrols is that they are proactive in nature. They try to seek out the small problems and address them before they escalate into larger problems and crimes (Hess and Wrobleski 106). Finally, according to the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, while foot patrols may not reduce crime, it does reduce the fear of crime by citizens because they see their communities as safer.
Foot patrols also have their disadvantages. One of the most obvious disadvantages is the lack of mobility. Because they are on foot and do not have a patrol car to get around it, they are not able to cover a large area and cannot respond quickly to calls in surrounding areas. Also, they are not able to pursue suspect in vehicles.
Motorcycles and bicycle patrols have many of the same advantages. Both types of patrols offer access to tight spaces such as narrow alleys and high traffic situations. They also offer a large amount of maneuverability, which is advantageous in congested areas where tight turns are important to getting to a scene or pursuing suspects. For motorcycles this could include traffic-ridden highways, and for bicycles it could include concerts and sporting events. An additional advantage to both bicycle and motorcycle is their visibility. Officers on motorcycles have been icons for a long time, and bicycle patrols are very visible, especially in larger cities such as Chicago and Las Vegas where bicycles are used in large quantities to patrol the streets. Additional advantages of bicycle patrols include their cost effectiveness, their ability to approach stealthily, and their lack of pollution. Also, like foot patrols, they are likely to have a more positive relationship with the community because of their close proximity to them ("Benefits of Bicycle Patrol Officers").
These two types of patrols also have similar disadvantages. Both bicycle and motorcycle patrols are extremely vulnerable and can be dangerous to ride. If a suspect is being pursued by one of these types of patrols begins firing at the officers, the officers have nothing to protect them. Also, they have limited availability in bad weather due to their lack of covering, and do not have the capacity to transport large amounts of equipment, evidence or prisoners (Hess and Wrobleski 109). An additional disadvantage to bicycle patrols is that no matter how in shape an officer is, they can get winded very easily on hot, sticky days, which would cause their effectiveness to decrease.
Air patrols are not a type of patrol that is used by a lot of police departments. This could be due to the fact that they are the most expensive form of patrol. This is because they have high costs in not only purchasing them, but also in maintaining and operating them...
Cited: Benefits of Bicycle Patrol Officers. Police Bike Store. 23 Nov 2006.
Hess, Kären A. and Henry M. Wrobleski. Police Operations: Theory and Practice.
Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth. 2006.
One-Officer Versus Two-Officer Police Cars in Winnipeg. Feb. 2001. Frontier Centre for
Public Policy. 27 Nov 2006. http://fcpp.org/main/publication_detail.php?PubID=178
The Police on Patrol. 26 Nov 2006. http://www.umt.edu/sociology/Hollist/332%20lecture
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