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NCJ Number: NCJ 213004   Add to Shopping cart   Find in a Library
Title: Police Officers' Decision Making and Discretion: Forming Suspicion and Making a Stop
  Document URL: PDF 
  Dataset URL: DATASET 1
Author(s): Geoffrey P. Alpert ; Roger G. Dunham ; Meghan Stroshine ; Katherine Bennett ; John MacDonald
Date Published: 10/2004
Page Count: 151
  Annotation: Based on observations and debriefings of police officers in Savannah, GA, this study identified factors that caused officers to make stops of individuals and vehicles.
Abstract: Characteristics of the person stopped were not found to be a significant factor in why an officer decided to make the stop. Officers were equally likely to stop individuals who were male or female, Black or White, or of low or high socioeconomic status based on appearances. In most of the cases where stops were made, the behavior of the suspect was what concerned the officer. Appearances of individuals and vehicles only became important in stops when they matched descriptions of suspects for traffic violations or crimes that had been reported. In the majority of cases, the behavior was associated with driving a vehicle rather than being a pedestrian. Officer observation of a traffic violation, obvious efforts to avoid the officer, and acting nervous in the officer's presence were common behaviors that caused officers to stop individuals. Time and place were not significant in officers' decisions to make stops. Officers did not make stops impulsively based upon initial notice of an individual or vehicle. Stops were not usually made until after continued observation confirmed an initial suspicion that a stop might be required. During the summer and fall of 2002, field observers accompanied officers in each of the city's four precincts and on all three shifts. Observers went on 132 tours that involved 174 occasions when officers contemplated and/or made stops of vehicles and pedestrians. Observers were trained to watch for the interactions between the officer and suspect, to document what they saw, and to note the sequence of events. Structured questionnaires guided observers in debriefing officers about their decisions related to making stops. Extensive figures and tables, 5 references, and appended study forms
Main Term(s): Police discretion
Index Term(s): Police decisionmaking ; Stop and frisk ; Vehicle stops ; Reasonable suspicion ; NIJ grant-related documents ; Georgia (USA)
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
Grant Number: 2001-IJ-CX-0035
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Country: United States of America
Language: English
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