Police responsiveness to service-related requests

Michael T. Rossler, William Terrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Policing research has generally focused on easily measured outcome factors such as response time, force usage, and arrest. Empirical studies examining outcomes important to public legitimacy, such as police responsiveness, are less prevalent in the literature. Using observational and interview data from two medium sized cities (Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida), the present inquiry examines how officers respond to noncoercive citizen requests for service during encounters, and the impact that situational and officer characteristics have on their willingness to comply with requests. Results indicate that officers comply with a majority of citizen requests, and even when they do not comply they often provide an explanation why. Encounters involving respectful citizens, wealthier citizens, White officers, and St. Petersburg officers were all more likely to result in compliance, while officers were less likely to comply with requests from younger and older citizens. Moreover, encounters involving White citizens, a greater number of citizen bystanders, and officers with a higher level of education all reduced the likelihood that officers would provide an explanation for denying citizen requests. Policy implications and recommendations for future research and theoretical development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • discretion
  • police
  • police-citizen encounters
  • responsiveness
  • service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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