Purpose – This article seeks to look at the police officer on patrol. It aims to explore three categories of work undertaken during periods of un-tasked patrol where officers can self-direct their work.
Design/methodology/approach – Informed by empirical data from an ethnographic study of front line community policing in Britain, the categories of work are illustrated through the profile(s) of officer(s) whose actions best support each style.
Findings – The coming together of officers with different skills and the propensity to undertake different types of police work can broaden the community policing philosophy as well as the practice itself. While an expansive policing mandate can be used to justify and explain the pursuit of preferential areas of police work by the patrolling officer, findings also uncover evidence of the persistence of police practices and attitudes that alienate certain community groups.
Research limitations/implications – Given the sustained popularity of localized policing models, further ethnographies are needed to broaden the analysis of patrol work particularly as additional research of this kind conducted with different groups of officers may well reveal evidence of different patrol styles.
Practical implications – If the full potential of community policing is to be recognized then the police service needs to encourage front line officers to devise ways of learning about, making contact with, and working with, the diverse groups that comprise local communities. However, introducing new policies and working practices needs to be accompanied by attitudinal and behavioural change.
Originality/value – The paper presents a new and original set of patrolling styles of the police officer.