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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69579 Find in a Library
Title: Rural County Sheriff - An Issue in Social Control
Journal: Criminal Justice Review  Volume:4  Issue:2  Dated:(Fall 1979)  Pages:97-111
Author(s): S Decker
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Pine County, a rural county in central Indiana, was observed for 3 months to discover the impact of community and political structures upon styles of policing; these styles were compared to urban policing.
Abstract: Interviews and data records provided the basis for the study: records kept by the sheriff, and notes taken in the county court were analyzed; members of the sheriff's department, other law enforcement agents in the county, and citizens were interviewed. The general form of disposition was found to be through informal resolution in the field. The primary style of enforcement may be termed consensual patrol, combining service and watchman patterns. The style arises from a common definition of order shared in a homogeneous community whose enforcement needs are geared to the maintenance of the normative order. Informal patterns of interaction and disposition characterize this policing style, which is itself an outgrowth of the community and its conceptions of reality and social control. Since the citizens reported the great majority of crimes to the police, they could exert some control over the nature of police response. The crucial distinguishing variable between Pine County and urban areas is the integration and commitment of Pine County officers to the rural value structure. Because the officers are themselves prototypical residents of the county, the communication of citizen preferences to the police need not take place through formal mechanisms. Those behaviors defined by the community as innocuous and petty seldom receive a formal sanction in spite of their illegal status. On the other hand, behaviors perceived by the community as threatening to their daily pursuits (domestic troubles and felonies) receive more attention from the sheriff. In the rural community there is much greater convergence of citizen and deputy perceptions of the proper actions in a specific situation than in urban areas. Consequently, police behavior is consistent with citizen expectations. Several case studies and 15 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): County police; Indiana; Patrol; Patrol procedures; Police attitudes; Police community relations; Police discretion; Rural policing; Sheriffs
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