The Police: The Culture of a Social Control Agency

By Hubbard Taylor Buckner

B. S. (University of Louisville) 1959

M. A. (University of California) 1964


Submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of


in Sociology


in the


of the





Neil J. Smelser, Chairman

Irving Piliavin

Stewart E. Perry


Copyright 1967, 2004






This electronic version of the 1967 Thesis was scanned in, optically recognized, and corrected in 2004.  No changes of wording or grammar have been made; it is exactly as written in 1967.  In the original text underlining was used both for emphasis and for italics, now emphasis is supplied by bolding and foreign terms and book titles are in italics.  The original Thesis was double spaced, now it is single spaced.  The original Table of Contents only listed the Chapter Titles, now it has all sections. Typographical errors and spelling errors that occurred in the original text have been corrected, and an out of place page in the Bibliography has been put back in alphabetic order.  For the purpose of quotation, the pagination of the 2004 Adobe Acrobat PDF edition should be used, unless the original is available.  H. Taylor Buckner, South Hero, Vermont, August 6, 2004.  



The Police: The Culture of a Social Control Agency. i



Sources of Data. 3

Anonymity. 4


Three Levels of Social Control 6

Primary. 6

Secondary. 7

Tertiary. 8


Level of Social Control, Severity of Sanctions, and Interaction Frequency. 11

When Social Control Breaks Down. 13

Sub-Cultural Institutionalization of Deviance. 15

The Police Mandate: A Mixture of Laws and Customs. 16

The Police as Agents of Social Control 19

Conclusions. 21


Secondary or Tertiary Control? A Dilemma of Tertiary Agents in Interactive Situations. 24

Police Officers' Assumptions Regarding Neighborhoods. 27

Neighborhoods are associated with different types of crime and have different reactions to criminal activity. In his patrolling, the officer is advised to look for certain types of criminal activity which are often associated with specific areas. 27

Police Officers' Assumptions Regarding Individuals. 30

Some Origins of Cultural Expectations of the Public Regarding Police Action. 32

Conditions Supporting and Undermining the "Legal" Conception of Police Behavior. 33

The Officer Reacts to the Assumed Power or Status of the Offender. 34

The Officer is Presented with Extra-legal Requests. 38

The Officer's Emotional Involvement 39

The Officer's Own Interactive-Institutional Relationships Affect His Action. 40

Self Interest May Lead to Corruption. 41

Secondary Control by Tertiary Control Agents: Interactive Institutions and Legal Intervention  42

Three Types of Extra-legal Social Control Provided by the Police. 45

Alcoholics. 45

Mentally Ill 46

Family fights. 49

Interactive Institutional Control of Police Behavior: Secondary Control Over Tertiary Control Agents  53

The Police Institution and Various Community Institutions. 57

The Newspaper. 57

Sports and Other Public Events. 59

Restaurants. 59

Businessmen. 60

Transportation Companies. 61

Influential Groups and People. 62

The Community in General. 62

The Police and Other Legal System and Government Institutions. 63

Criminals. 63

Informers. 64

Jail 66

Traffic Violations. 66

The City. 67

Other Police Agencies. 67

District Attorney, Public Defender. 68

Probation and Parole. 69

Institutionalized Transactions as a Social Control for the Patrol Officer. 69

Conclusions. 70



Situations Where the Officer Can Do Something About the Complaint 74

Situations in Which the Officer Can Do Nothing About the Complaint 76

Situations in Which the Officer Can Do Nothing but Take a Report 77

Situations Where Official Action Would Make Matters Worse. 78


Visibility. 82

Strategies of Perception. 83

Incongruity Procedures. 85

Strategies for Uncovering Evidence of Criminality. 86

Reaction Time Assumptions. 87

Use of Reaction Time Assumptions to Mislead. 88

Attending to Reactions to Assess Guilt 89

Severity of Police Disposition by Youth’s Demeanor 90

Creating Situations to Test Reactions. 91

Interpretation of Common Acts with Attention to their Possible Criminality. 91

Perceptions and the Range and Nature of Contacts with the Public. 93

Danger 95

Perception of Habits Associated with Criminality. 97

Organizing Perceptions. 98


Police Games of Cops and Robbers. 100

Citizens' Games of Cops and Robbers. 103

Criminal Games of Cops and Robbers. 104

Conclusions. 105


The predictability of the outcome of a social situation seems to depend on five factors. 107

Controlling Situations on the Street 109

Force. 113

The Internalization and Acceptance of the Possibility of Killing Another 117

Force and Solidarity. 120

External Solidarity. 122

Internal Solidarity. 123

Force as Interpersonal Power. 125

Force as A Weapon to Get Results. 127

Force and Danger as Fun. 128

Controlling Situations without the Necessity of Using Force. 130

Control of Situations Through Electronic Communications. 132

The Microwave Peyton Place. 134

The Radio and the Authority Structure. 136

The Radio and Patrol Patterns. 138

Controlling the Interrogation Situation. 140

Control of the Situation in Disturbances and Riots. 143

The Funnel of Betrayal in the Arrest Situation. 145

Conclusions. 148

Possibly Relevant Realms of Knowledge Accessible to the Police Officer. 152

Legal Knowledge. 152

Non-Legal Knowledge. 154

Moral Knowledge. 156

Habituated Knowledge. 157

Interactive Institutional Transaction Knowledge. 159

Some Situational Factors Relevant to the Choice of Decision Paths. 159

The "Attitude" of the Offender. 159

Situational Demands. 161

Situations. 164

The Traffic Stop. 164

Report Taking. 165

Family Fights. 166

Neighborhood Disputes. 166

Real Crimes, Felonies. 166

Conclusions. 167


Law as a Weapon. 171

Multiple Charges and Police Discretion. 172

Transformations of Reality in the Legal Process. 173

Divergent Realities Produce Divergent Typifications of Acts. 174

The Officer's Typification is Compared With Common-Sense Typification. 176

Linguistic Objectifications Must be Accurate or Transformation is Defective. 178

Preparations for Transformations by Officers and Defendants. 179

Appeal Tests Questions of Law.. 180

The Process is the Sanction. 181

Criminal Behavior with Hard-to-Gather Admissible Evidence. 183

Arrests to Remove Disorderly Persons. 184

Conclusions. 186



Impressing the Public that the Police are Doing their Job. 191

Secrecy in Police Operations. 195

Strategic Reserve. 198


Deceit to Gain Information from a Suspect 201

Deceit to Justify Field Interrogation. 202

Deceit to Keep a Suspect from Being Informed of Surveillance. 203

Deceit to Control Distressing but Legal Behavior. 203

Deceit to Justify or Gain Right to Search, Otherwise Illegal 204

Deceit to Justify an Arrest, Otherwise Illegal or Difficult 206

Deceit to Gain an Admission or Confession. 208

Deceit to Get Admissions Signed. 213

Deceit to Convince the Defendant to Plead Guilty. 214

Conclusions. 214



My Position in the Westville Police Department 228

Calibrating the Instrument - Personal History and Values. 230

Honesty. 231

Benefits and Limitations of Participant Observation of the Police. 233

Checks. 236

Expenses. 237

Books and Articles. 238

Theses. 241

Newspaper Articles. 242






            A number of questions are often asked about things the police do which cannot be answered by examining any formal description of the police job.[1] Questions such as: "Why do policemen sometimes not enforce the law when it is being broken?"; "Why do policemen sometimes react to demeanor and other legally irrelevant aspects of an offender's behavior? "; "Why do people who admit their guilt sometimes come out better than people who stand on their legal rights?";

"Why do policemen often under-enforce the law in Negro neighborhoods? "; "Why do policemen harass unusual looking people? "; "Why do the police sometimes do nothing when a crime is reported to them?"; and, "Why are policemen often closemouthed and isolated from civilian social activities?!' cannot be answered if one thinks of the police as ministerial officers of the law obeying only legal requirements.


            Instead of answering such questions in the usual manner, which involves an ad hoc answer to each, I would like to develop a few simple principles which throw light on all of these problems. Instead of suggesting that police officers are lazy, capricious, bigoted, stupid, ultra-conventional, and authoritarian, all of which have been mentioned as answers to the questions posed above, I would like to suggest that all of these behaviors are responses to the influences and tensions inherent in the role of a formal social control agent involved in interactive situations.




            The police as formal agents of legal social control exercise a large amount of extra-legal and sometimes illegal social control be­cause they are expected to deal with many situations which are violations of custom or morality but not of law. These expectations of police action held by the public are relevant to the police because the police themselves are largely controlled by interactive institutions established with segments of the public rather than by any formally granted legal mandate. Laws require less than custom in most cases, and the police mandate is no exception. The police are confronted with violations of customs they themselves adhere to and, whether or not the violation is also one of law, their response is conditioned by their interpersonal commitments. Their dispositional decisions thus take into account moral, customary, and legal aspects of the behavior, as they interpret them, and the result is a form of social control which is only tangentially and sporadically related to law.


            This thesis may be stated as a series of hypotheses about social control, police behavior, and public behavior:


            1. Interactive institutions imply the existence of reciprocal typifications of behavior. In order for the institution to persist and continue to reward the participants, the people involved in the institution must act toward each other as the other expects they will. This behavior becomes the "customary" and "moral" behavior expected of the individuals involved in the institution and deviation is punished by the primary control of conscience or the secondary control of interpersonal sanctions. Formal social controls, tertiary controls, in the form of laws, are established to set minimum requirements for behavior which does not appear to be satisfactorily controlled by custom and morality. Laws tend to be minimal and universal abstracts of common customs. The police are empowered, by law, to enforce these minimal requirements but not the more comprehensive customs from which the laws were abstracted. This means that many violations of custom and morality may take place that the police have no legal warrant to correct.


            2. Individuals generally control themselves to fit into the interactive institutions in which they are involved. If their behavior is not so controlled, the institution is disturbed and the others either do not know how to react, or react negatively, excluding the deviant from the institution and its rewards. Institutions can arise around any mutual activity, but the most universal and important institutions appear to center on the production and management of life needs in the areas of labor (occupation), sex (family), and territory (neighborhoods, countries). If a person is excluded from these institutions, he will have difficulty in surviving. The police occupation is largely controlled, as is any other occupation, by the interactive institutions established with the public it contacts. These institutions frequently require the police to respond to demands for social control in areas of custom for which they have no legal warrant.


            3. Violations of morality, customs, and laws come to the attention of the police through complaints, their own perceptions, or, occasionally, the challenges of the violator. Some of these violations can be processed within the structure of law, others cannot.


            4. Before the decision on how to process the violation can be made or completed, the police must bring the immediate situation under their control and keep it there. A number of strategies are used to control situations. The use of force and the solidarity of the police may be used to control the situation. This use of force may or may not be legitimated by legal rules, or it may be made to appear to be so legitimated.


            5. Officers take personal, moral, customary, and legal considerations into account in deciding what to do about the various situations they face. Their behavior cannot be predicted unless the nature of all of these elements is known.


            6. Legal solutions involve many requirements as they are the officially contemplated, recorded, reviewed, and sanctioned course of events. Legal solutions allow adversary contention to take place wherein the accused can effectively contend that he is actually innocent, that the police overstepped their prescribed methods, or that his behavior is not that proscribed by law. The difficulty or impossibility of proving a legal case, especially when the act may be a violation of custom but not law, combined with the feeling of the complainant, and sometimes the officer, that a wrong has been committed, causes the officer to search for un-counterable control techniques outside of the law which will control the behavior involved. Sometimes a partial, unreviewable invocation of the law is used as a control.


            7. Where there is no legal solution, the police may attempt to evade the demands of the public for control of a violation by the use of impression management and secrecy about their operations. They may also use deceit to establish control where they have no legal warrant to do so.


            8. Thus the police enact social control for social and personal ends using legal weapons when they are effective and extra-legal ones when they are not. The end result is that some of the various customs of conventional society get roughly the social control that is more or less expected, but not always through the established legal channels. Most of the social control provided by the police is thus customary and subject to the variations, vagaries, and discrepancies of a continuously changing and largely unplanned set of understandings which exist in an uneasy dialectic with formally enacted rules.


            Each chapter in this work is devoted to one of these hypotheses.


Sources of Data


In order to study the police as agents of social control, I utilized several sources of data.


            First, I went through the appropriate ten-week (two nights a week) training program to become a Westville Police Reserve Officer. I then worked as a police officer (again about two nights a week) for the next thirteen months, keeping careful field notes for the entire period. The problems and limitations inherent in this participant observation are discussed in the methodological appendix.


            Second, I used the other studies which have been done in Westville Police Department by other sociologists as sources of observations and data inaccessible to me in my position. I used these studies as data and have largely re-interpreted their observations in my own framework of social control theory.[2] I have also used most of the other police literature cited herein in a similar manner. Very often other writers have made observations which fit into my framework, though they have been using them for other ends or have been making other arguments.


            Third, I have ridden on patrol with two other police departments, one in Westville's state, one outside. Additionally, I have had many discussions with the officers of two other departments, one a small department in a high prestige community, the other the San Francisco Police Department. The officers from San Francisco were enrolled in a seminar on the theoretical study of the police process which I conducted at San Francisco State College. One of these officers, John W. Minderman, has read the entire first draft of this thesis and has commented extensively on many points. I have incorporated many of his comments as footnotes and I have followed many of his suggestions for changing a word or two without specific citation. I am greatly indebted to him for his expert and conscientious criticism and comments. His help has improved the accuracy of many points contained herein.


            Fourth, I have corresponded with officers from several other police departments regarding specific problems. Where their comments are not sensitive, I have cited them by name, where they might be sensitive, I have covered their identities.




            I have adopted several unscholarly conventions in this thesis to protect my informants. First, I have not cited any laws by their section numbers, because to do so would pinpoint Westville's state. Consequently, I have avoided making esoteric legal points and have had reference to codes which were derived from common law. Second, I have not given the dates of any of my field notes as the officers involved could be identified by the department from existing records of assignments. Third, I have disguised the identity of officers who have provided me with written or verbal comments on various possibly questionable practices. Their cooperation could cost them their jobs so the least I can do is to insure their anonymity and thank them for their help. The necessity for these conventions will become apparent as one reads the thesis.



            "Social Control" covers all of the processes which prevent and correct deviance. Almost every facet of social life has at one time or another been considered as an example of social control.

            Social control originates in interactive human relationships. Both formal social control and. the social control implicit in socializa­tion are derived from the habituations and institutionalizations which arise from repeated interaction. [3] When two people interact with one another over a period of time, they come to take for granted the behavior of the other in an ever-widening circle of situations. This behavior which is taken for granted then need not be a matter of much concern to the participants because they consider it to be the "typical" behavior of the other, an expected part of their relation­ship, and they can give their attention to more problematic aspects of their environments. Behavior which has reached this state of habituation is said to be "reciprocally typified" between the two people. In order for "reciprocally typified" behavior to arise, a condition must exist wherein participants are brought into regularized contact, over a period of time, dealing with essentially similar problems each time.

            These conditions particularly exist in the social areas of labor, sex, and territory.[4]

            When people must coordinate their behavior to produce some product, they quickly typify the behavior of the other in the situation so that they can count on the other's efforts to aid rather than hinder their own. Thus work, employment, is a major source of control over the behavior of the person engaged.

            People who live together and raise children also interact repeatedly, intensively, and over a long period of time. They develop understandings about what is to be expected from each other in various situations. The family provides a great amount of control over the behavior of its members.

            People who live in close proximity to one another, in the same territory, neighbors, often find that they have interests in common which require coordinated action. The longer a person lives in a given territory, other things equal, the greater the number of interactive institutions he becomes involved in, each of which constitutes a social control over his behavior.

            While new institutions are being created all of the time by the processes of repeated interaction, a child does not create his own institutions, at least at first. A child is born and raised within the structure of existing institutions, and far him they are objective facts independent of his own existence. He is "socialized" into "the way things are" by his contacts with his already "enculturated" parents. [5]  As he grows up he contacts other people and has experi­ences on his own which extend and modify the culture passed on to him by his parents. Then he creates new institutions based on his own relationships. Still, he cannot create the entire social world on his own; most of it exists independent of himself awaiting his discovery. When he enters a new situation, he will tend to find out what the customs are for that situation before creating some idiosyncratic innovation. The existence of an institution, or custom, which implies reciprocal typification of behaviors, constitutes an important social control over the individual's behavior, because, in order to gain what­ever advantage the institution offers, he must behave more or less as the others involved expect he will behave.

            An individual presumably is somewhat committed to institu­tions he himself helped to establish. He had good and sufficient reason, experienced personally, to establish the reciprocal typification of behavior in the first place, and he can think back to these reasons whenever he wonders why he is doing what he is doing. However, the institutions which he encounters as established going concerns may not appear to be so clearly justified by his own experi­ence. If he has been well enculturated, socialized, by his parents, he will have been introduced to the appropriate social legitimation, raison d'etre, for most relevant institutions and he will behave as expected most of the time. It is not enough to depend on proper socialization, or on "self-evident" justifications, to insure compli­ance with important institutions, or customs, which affect many other people, because the socialization of some individuals may be defective, and the justifications of some institutions may not seem all that self-evidently important to all members of society. This being the case, customs which appear to be important for all to follow without exception may be abstracted and enacted as laws and equipped with a formal agency or organization whose purpose is to insure conformity to, or to punish deviation from, that law. Such laws can only be concerned with customs of some importance and some universality. Formal social control agencies generally do not interfere with idiosyncratic typifications unless they directly affect some widely accepted institutionalized standard of conduct. Thus the police are usually unconcerned with how people feel about or, within limits, with what they say to their employers, wives, or neighbors. Should a person decide, however, to "cut on" another person, an important institutionalized expectation is breached, and the social control agency charged with supporting this institution may be expected to take some action. Since agencies are not present, they can only act when some deviation comes to their attention, which means that con­formity depends on socialization, and formal agencies are limited to punishing violations. Agencies, however, may attempt to gain their ends by aiding in the socialization of individuals so that they will not have to punish them later.

            Contingent upon these three processes, reciprocal typification, socialization, and the establishment of formal social control agencies, there are three kinds, or levels, of social control. These have been identified by Georg Simmel as morality, custom, and law. [6]

Three Levels of Social Control


            Primary social control, or morality, is provided by the individ­ual himself. As a child grows up, he abstracts from the specific ad­monitions and punishments he receives in his interactive institutions the idea that certain forms of behavior are prohibited, not just by one person or another, but by everybody. He soon comes to feel that this is a general prohibition, which applies to himself as well as to all others. He identifies with the generality of others, that is, with a society.[7]   Since this process is bound up with the learning of language, his own identity, and "reality", as it is understood in the only world available to him, it is a very important guide to behavior. Long after he has grown to understand the relativity of cultures, there will still be certain ways of acting which are "right" and comfortable (these form his "ego ideal"), and other ways which are "wrong" and un­comfortable (these form his "conscience"). Since the guides to behavior learned as a child are insufficient to guide an adult through his life, a general mechanism for learning and internalizing new rules is part of an individual's primary socialization. One consequence of this is that rules which come from people and institutions (e. g., tertiary social control agencies) that the child has learned are legitimate rule makers in themselves are respected and made part of the adult's own primary social control.


            Secondary social control, or custom, comes from the inter­active relations in which a person engages. The people with whom he must interact are the most important for the regulation of his behavior in the ordinary course of affairs. Thus the people he meets in the course of earning a living, raising a family, and living in a certain area are the people with whom he must get along. If his behavior is disturbing or unpredictable to these people, that is, if it constitutes a problem for them, they will usually respond by attempting to get him to follow the patterns they have come to expect are "typical" of him or of properly demeaned people "like" him, which fit into their institutionalized relationships without disturbing the routine and un­attended nature of the relationships.

            Take, for example, the social control implicit in work. First, the worker is required to be at a certain location at a certain time every day of the work week. This means he cannot do anything else at that time, it means that he can only go a certain distance away at night and have any hope of returning for the next day, it means he must get some sleep most nights before going to work, it means that he must not drink heavily just before going to work, it means that having a regular living place will be more convenient than constantly moving around, and it means that he has the money and the stability to be married. Further, it means that he must devote his energy while at work to those activities required of him. Generally, he cannot drink, fight, gamble, sleep, make love, or in other ways disattend his work without some consequence, such as being dismissed, which would cause his family to go hungry and his house to be taken away from him. Further, should he engage in illegal activities in his off-work hours which result in his imprisonment, even for a short time, or in notoriety, or in a "record," he may lose his job and find it quite difficult to get another.[8]  Having a job also exerts control over the dress and demeanor of its occupant, controls which often extend into non-work areas of his life and life style in general. Similar social controls inhere in marital and neighborhood institutions. All of these institutions usually reinforce one another with regard to the important forms of behavior so that deviance which affects one also affects the others, causing most people to conform enthusiastically. As will be mentioned later in more detail, it is possible that people will come loose from these institutionalized behavior patterns, for example, by being unemployed, unmarried, and homeless. In such a position, a commitment to conformity is difficult to maintain as there are few rewards for conforming and few punishments of any consequence for not conforming. [9]


            Tertiary social control, or law, is enforced by formal social control agencies such as the police, the courts, social workers, churches, psychiatrists, and mental hospitals with the ratios varying from society to society. Their control takes two forms, actual control over the behavior or disposition of a concrete deviating individual, and the symbolic control of their mere existence. The agency stands as an objectification of the importance of the enforced institutions. In a simple society these two aspects are not highly separated, but in a complex society the concrete manifestation of the institution in enacted roles is seen only by a very few people, usually those being processed and the processors, so the symbolic content stands separate and sub­ject to manipulation and "image" making. For example, the police attempt to appear to be omnipresent in order to deter crime, but actual criminals know that the police are anything but omnipresent because they have had contact with the enacted roles on a personal basis.

            The following table should make the relations between the levels of social control and the source, agent, and sanctions involved at each level more clear. The root source of social control lies in the interactive institutions built up around co-ordinated activity. What is necessary in this area comes to be taken by the individual to be what is right and moral. What is moral and customary within a social system may then be enacted into formal laws. In most areas of human conduct, the primary, secondary, and tertiary prescriptions are in accord; that is to say, morality, custom, and law agree on what is proper. Occasionally disparities arise when what is customary is not thought by some to be moral or when something illegal is customary and not considered immoral. These disparities lead to difficulties for the agents who enforce the rules, because, in the ordinary course of events, the agents at the different levels work together, and a con­flict of rules produces a potential conflict of agents.








Socialization of ego by ego and alter so that ego fits in with the interactive institutions in which ego is involved. Ego ideal, and conscience.

Intra-active self which examines prospective and retrospective con­sequences of decisions and acts.

Neg. Guilt, shame, doubt,
Pos . Feeling good, pride, satis-
faction, at peace with self and


Interactive institutions which come from Reciprocal typifications and expectations around common activities and other Coordinated behavior.

Alters involved with ego, or for whom ego's behavior is important.

Neg . Ostracism, hatred, exclusion from activities, emotional
Pos . Acceptance, survival, friendship, love, employment,
and emotional support.


Group processes which lead to the enactment of laws and other written, abstract. regulations.

Legally authorized agents. Police, mental hospitals, social work­ers, administrators.

Neg . Fines, imprisonment,
death, “treatment," and other handicaps on survival.
Pos . "Awards," citations of merit, community well-being.



At both the primary and secondary levels of social control, there are a rich variety of positive and negative sanctions which can be, and are, employed to insure the conformity of the actor to the important institutions in which he is involved, and his own internalized understandings of proper conduct. If the actor conforms to these in­formal rules, he "gets along" well with others and with himself. If he does not conform, he has more difficulty in leading a placid and productive life because the others will not continue to associate with him, making it difficult to survive, or he will be tortured by self-doubts and guilt over his activities which will show up in a variety of mal-adaptive psychological and somatic responses. When people move about between various systems of customs, they increase the probability that their socialized sense of morality will not be exactly congruent with the customs they are coerced to obey, and they thus become rela­tively uncommitted to those particular customs. Similarly, when people holding to a set of institutions find themselves in conflict with laws which prohibit these institutions, all of the positive and negative sanctions of the primary and secondary social control systems may be brought to play to counter the imposition of law. In the United States Prohibition was one of the more dramatic examples of such conflict, but lower class customs of casual marriage and violence are continu­ing, if unspectacular, demonstrations that a society which is built up from diverse interactive institutions may not produce laws which support equally all of the various customs of divergent groups in the society.


When laws are enacted, the basic and minimal elements of the institutions which are important to the lawmakers and their reference publics are abstractly stated as the rules for all to follow. Penalties for not following these laws are annexed and some formal agent of "society" is employed to see that these minimal standards are kept. Since laws rarely require a specific performance (rather, a specific abstention) from individuals, and the assumption is that if primary and secondary social controls are working as they should, there will be no violation of law, there are generally only negative sanctions to insure compliance. Law thus, de facto, relies on primary and secon­dary controls in most cases to insure conformity. For a number of reasons, which seem to reduce to divergent institutionalizations and consequent divergent socialization, secondary and primary controls may not support tertiary controls and large segments of the public may be relatively unmotivated to obey particular laws. While the negative sanctions associated with the laws may cause such people to look around for a police officer before doing what they want to do, the sanctions do not create any reason for actively doing something which such people are not personally and customarily inclined to do.


The agent charged with tertiary social control thus faces the dilemma of attempting to inhibit certain forms of behavior and encourage others without any legitimate means for doing so. Should the behavior occur, he can invoke the law and thus sanction the actor, but, when customs differ from law, this is rarely an effective producer of motivation to conform. Its only effect may be to produce another person who hates the police. Since the agent of tertiary control is himself an actor, and since he is at that instant in an interactive situation with the violator, or potential violator, he may, and often does, forget about his possible legal sanctions and attempt to use the secon­dary sanctions which are available in the situation to insure conformity to his tertiary rules. He may praise, curse, sympathize with, threaten, support, denigrate, or ostracize the offender (To be truly effective the police officer must be involved in an interactive institutional relation­ship with the offender, not just a casual contact.), or he may point out to the offender that these are consequences to be expected from his  peers if he persists in his violation. (e. g. , "What would your parents think about your doing this? ") He may also attempt to engage the primary level of social control by telling the violator what he should do, that is, what the moral thing is to do (e. g., "A big strong man like you shouldn't hit a woman.")


Situations arise repeatedly where police officers must fall back to secondary and primary social control because the "rewards" which they produce are diffused throughout the community and unappreciated by specific individuals. For example, a citizen has no way of knowing that he might have been the next victim of a particular burglar or rapist that the police caught, and thus he does not feel involved in a transaction with the police except very remotely. The fact that the police caught a burglar who was going to victimize him is unknown to him and thus exerts little influence on his willingness to obey traffic laws.[10]  In interactive situations, the positive and negative sanctions are much more visibly related and thus motivation and prohibition are more closely joined. (e. g., One appreciates the benefits of living with a wife and thus takes many of her prohibitions seriously.)


Each level of social control has a somewhat different, though related and derivative, source. Each level has an appropriate agent of control, and each level has positive and negative sanctions to insure conformity to the rules of that level. The levels generally support one another, but conflicts in all permutations are possible since the basis for all control is interactive institutions, and these institutions arise out of experience and existential needs rather than in obedience to some master plan.


Level of Social Control, Severity of Sanctions, and Interaction Frequency.

The sanctions, rewards, and punishments which exist at each 1evel of control are of graduated degrees of severity. The primary level has the least severe punishments, in a physical sense, and the tertiary level has the most severe punishments. In spite of this, primary and secondary social control tend to be much more effective than does tertiary control. The reason is not hard to find. The closer and more frequent the contact between an individual and his sanctioner the less severe the sanctions which are needed, because closeness and frequency lead to certainty of sanctions. As Jeremy Bentham put it:

"Now, on the one hand, a lot of punishment is a lot of pain; on the other hand, the profit of an offense is a lot of pleasure, or what is equivalent to it. But the profit of the offense is com­monly more certain than the punishment, or, what comes to the same thing, appears so at least to the offender. It is at any rate commonly more immediate. It follows, therefore, that, in order to maintain its superiority over the profit of the offense, the punishment must have its value made up in some other way, in proportion to that whereby it falls short in the two points of certainty and proximity. Now there is no other way in which it can receive any addition to its value, but by receiving an addition in point of magnitude. Wherever then the value of punishment falls short, either in point of certainty, or of proximity, of that of the profit of the offense, it must re­ceive a proportional addition in point of magnitude."[11]

Taking these principles out of Bentham's context and applying them to the three levels of social control, it is clear that they operate here as well.

            If a person violates his own precepts, he knows it immediately. A small amount of certain guilt is ordinarily sufficient to keep him conforming.

            If a person breaches the expectations of an interactive relationship, it is highly likely that he will be discovered and sanctioned by the other, but it is not certain. This small amount of uncertainty requires that the punishment be somewhat more severe, an attack on self-esteem rather than guilt, ostracism rather than depression, assault rather than nausea.

            If a person violates a law, he has a fairly small chance of being caught, and the punishment will take a long time, so Bentham's logic requires that the punishments be more severe, as they in fact are. Additionally, it is often presumed that if a person breached an important institution knowingly, he was in some way free from the social controls of custom and morality, and thus must be controlled by law alone. Police officers dealing with juveniles, in fact, take the presumed existence of social control at primary and secondary levels into account in deciding whether or not to exercise the formal control of arrest. If the juvenile appears to feel guilty about his behavior, he may be considered "salvageable" and be reprimanded while if he is nonchalant and obdurate, he may be considered a "punk" and be arrested.[12] What the officer is actually assessing is the juvenile's apparent morality or primary control. The apparent ability of his family to provide secondary social control is assessed by determining whether other members are in jail, or whether a parent is missing.[13]  Here the officer is trying to assess the quality of the control of family customs over the boy's behavior, using indicators readily at hand.

            Any sanction may be countered by the individual and its impact somewhat blunted. The guilt of the primary level may be tempered by rationalizations or repressions. The ostracism of the interactive group may be countered by disaffiliation or withdrawal, or by adopting a charakterpanzerung (armor-plating of character) attitude toward all others.[14] The nature of the relationships, involving as they do close contact and possibly extensive reciprocal typifications, makes the attack of a spouse, employer, or neighbor a particularly effective one for disconfirming the subjective reality of the deviator, and one partic­ularly hard to reject.[15] The sanctions of formal social control agencies are hedged about with procedures which have the effect of making sure that everyone else accepts the validity of the sanction,[16] even if the offender himself neutralizes its impact on his own self-image.[17] It is possible to fight formal sanctions in ways impossible with informal sanctions, to appeal convictions time and time again. Each of these possibilities makes the certainty and the proximity of the sanction less and thus reduces its power to control behavior, and thus its effectiveness in the mind of the police officer.

            The state reserves to itself the legitimate use of force and violence. If secondary social control agents could use force and violence to coerce obedience to their own institutions, it is possible that society would have to be organized along feudal lines, creating small, warring societies within a larger society. The reservation of legitimate force to the society as a whole allows the formal agents of social control to limit the coercion at the secondary level to non-­lethal forms.[18] This means that the effective control of certain kinds of dangerous behavior is also reserved, practically speaking, to tertiary social control agents, whether or not secondary groups are affected by the violence. Thus the legitimate use of force provides a societal control over the possibility of deviant institutionalizations achieving the status of rebellion or states-within-states.

When Social Control Breaks Down

Each level of social control has the possibility of becoming ineffectual or of breaking down completely. The personal controls which a person customarily responds to may be abridged by alcohol, drugs, passion, ambition, or insanity. The interactive controls may be non-existent, as for homeless men, or may be abridged by alcohol, time, and location. Formal controls may be absent, ineffectual, or in disorder at a given time and place.

The most frequent way in which primary social controls are abridged, so far as the police are concerned, is through drunkenness. Drunks of various kinds make up the largest portion of the workload of most municipal police departments. In order for a drunk to come to the attention of the police department, he must be in public, without a sober companion, or overtly obnoxious toward a citizen or officer.[19] This happens more frequently to those with no place to stay than to those involved in institutionalized relationships with work, family, and neighbors. A person can get as drunk as he wishes, and so long as he stays out of the public view and, hopefully, within the control of some small social system, there is no danger at all of being arrested by the police.[20]


The secondary social controls of work, for those who have them, are weakened at night and on the weekends. For example, seventy percent of the patients seen in the psychiatric ward of a municipal hospital are night admissions.[21] The weekend is traditionally a time for staying up late, doing things, and drinking. This is a result, in part, of the fact that there is no work to get up for the next day and in part of the custom of paying some workers at the end of the week. In many middle class families the social control of the family takes up where the social control of work leaves off, but many lower class families appear to be so chronically conflict ridden that they provide no control (in this sense), and the neighbors are accustomed to family fights so they have made conflict part of their typification and are thus not effective in controlling the behavior. As a result of this breakdown in interactive control, the police often have to be called to deal with family fights on the weekends.


Thanksgiving is another time of loose social controls and many family fights, possibly because it brings families together to drink but without any program, such as gift exchanging, to divert the hostilities. Family trouble appears to involve, almost universally, people who are subjected to no other interactive control at the time, and whose personal controls have been abridged by drink. Family trouble itself is institutionalized in some families. Typically, every Friday night the husband comes home drunk after spending most of his paycheck. His wife complains, possibly throws something at him, with tears of frustration on her face. He hits her. She calls the police, who come. After some discussion, the husband leaves the house for the night. The agents of formal social control have acted at the informal interactive level for a family which could not control itself.[22]


For people who have somehow managed to become cut loose from interactive controls, the police act as social janitors, sweeping up the derelicts who have no one else to look after them. The danger of such uncontrolled persons being loose has long been recognized and formally taken account of by the law. A man without work, wife, or home is a man available for mischief, a man with nothing to lose, a man, in short, whose very existence is a danger to the peace of the community. Vagrancy laws cut right through to the heart of the matter. They make this status illegal. The developing awareness of civil rights has struck down most vagrancy statutes, or is in the process of doing so, requiring instead that a person commit a crime rather than constituting one by being free of social controls.

Arthur Stinchcombe has suggested that the importance of vagrancy statutes is that they define a person without access to private spaces as a person without legitimate connection to the social structure. It seems to me that the important aspect of attachment to a social structure for a social control agent is not whether the person is attached but whether he is controlled.[23] The requirement of an occupation, frequently found in vagrancy statutes, is an indication of control, not access to private spaces.


Social control of behavior is also weakened when the individual can isolate himself from those with whom he has reciprocal typifications. A homeless man is the prototype, but anyone can free him­ self of interactive social controls by driving a car. Unless a person is a professional driver, in which case the control of his employment covers his driving (and professional drivers have remarkably few accidents because of this), when he gets into a car he is free.[24] Unless the driver actually has his family or neighbors with him, there is no one to tell him what to do. He becomes a moral vagabond. He drives for a short distance and no one he sees knows who he is. The only social controls operating are his own primary controls and the random and sporadic control provided by police traffic officers. In a situation such as this, where for all practical purposes the primary control of the driver is the only control, and he can eliminate even that, an officer may attempt to assess from a driver's attitude whether or not he has functioning primary controls before applying a formal sanction (Chapter V).


Sub-Cultural Institutionalization of Deviance

To this point, I have mostly been dealing with the various levels of social control as if they all were working toward the same end. For most people, most of the time, this is probably true. Their primary controls lead them to do what is expected, and their secon­dary controls are congruent. The tertiary controls are not even an issue because their behavior is already controlled. In a complex society, however, people faced with different life situations may come to reciprocally typify behavior which is illegal.

"An upper-class child may learn the "facts of life" at an age when a lower-class child has mastered the rudiments of abortion technique. Or, an upper-class child may experience his first stirrings of patriotic emotion about the time that his lower-class contemporary first experiences hatred of the police and everything they stand for." [25]


When the morality and customs of a group are not congruent with law, a great many of the mechanisms for controlling behavior are chaotic. As Sykes and Matza have pointed out, delinquents are aware of the illegality of their acts but they have developed specific justifications which neutralize the criticisms of the tertiary social control system.[26] They intersubjectively objectify these justifications which are then available to consciousness should they be faced with the necessity of explaining their behavior to representatives of some formal social control agency.


It is also possible that a person should feel no guilt or shame about behavior which is disapproved of by those who interact with him. Such a lack of affect often signals for the intervention of formal social control agents, perhaps from a mental hospital.


Though it is quite rare, it is possible that a group would set up its own tertiary social controls and act as a society within a society. It has been suggested that the Mafia has done this.[27] Some large businesses approximate tertiary control over their employees, though generally without violence.


The institutionalization of deviant reciprocal typifications depends upon having a society complex enough so that such deviations are not immediately obvious to all those who are involved in conventional institutions.


“…the size and anonymity of the city decrease the chance of small social systems to control the behavior of their members in public. In a small village, activity in public places easily comes to the attention of the family, the priest, the employer, and the peers of the offender. Further, in large cities there are much stronger norms about "deliberately not noticing" the behavior of other people. This means that in cities, much more behavior is only inquired into by the police."[28]


This means, in the framework developed here, that the reciprocal typifications and institutionalizations of behavior which have been the genesis of all social control are rapidly becoming less important for conformity while internal primary control and formal tertiary control are becoming relatively more important.


The Police Mandate: A Mixture of Laws and Customs

The mandate of the police is made up of a number of accretions and avulsions to and from the basic requirements of keeping the peace and stopping crime. It is an historical product which varies from country to country, from state to state, and from city to city.

The police mandate as it is enacted consists of those things which the police routinely do which are not successfully challenged. It is through these routine performances that the police as an institution actualizes itself in society. It is these concrete manifestations of de facto legitimacy to which people and other institutions adapt themselves, not to some abstract statement of the proper role of the police in society.[29]

Since the mandate of the police is so complex and often con­tains somewhat contradictory requirements, it is very difficult to say whether and in what regard they are doing a "good" job. Michael Banton wrote:

"In the case of certain organizations it is fairly easy to agree on criteria of organizational efficiency. Armies are efficient insofar as they can defend national interests by military action; the fishing industry is organized to catch large quantities of fish at economic cost; motor manufacturers are efficient if they produce reliable and inexpensive vehicles, and so on. But the police have to meet many criteria and it is difficult to compare the value of success in one direction at the expense of shortcomings in another. For example, a police force which solved more crimes but which treated suspects with undue severity would be in one sense more efficient, but its activities would excite public protest. The police are given a variety of objectives but they are simultaneously subjected to a host of restrictions concerning the ways in which they may attain them, and the interplay between the ends and means is much more complex than in most organizations. The efficiency of the police may therefore be less important than their responsiveness to the community they are required to serve." [30]

The mandate of the police is extended into new areas in some states every time the legislature meets and enacts new laws. The underlying requirement for the creation of a formal police mandate to control certain behavior seems to be that it has become a matter of public concern,[31]  and that primary and secondary social controls are seen as being incapable of suppressing the behavior.


In order to carry out the demands of their mandate, the police have certain powers which are granted to them legally, and they assume other powers on which the law is effectively silent.


The legal powers granted to the police in themselves are not great, but, by routinization, organization to use these powers and an unfailingly liberal construction of the rights granted by these powers, the police convert them into important weapons.


They have the right to make an arrest for misdemeanors which occur in their presence when they have "reasonable cause" to believe that the offense has actually taken place. A citizen making the same arrest must be certain that the offense has taken place or he may open himself to suit for false arrest. The police have the right to arrest a person for a felony when they have reasonable cause to believe he committed one, whether or not, in fact, a felony has taken place. A citizen may arrest when he has reasonable cause to believe that felony has been committed by the offender, but a felony must actually have taken place or he again opens himself to suit.[32]


Additionally, laws give the police the right to persist in their attempts to arrest in the face of resistance and often make resisting an officer an offense in itself. In both of these cases, the citizen has almost. the same rights, but the police officer has somewhat more latitude. The conception of the police officer as being little different from the average citizen is a consequence of the American legal system's derivation from English common law. In some other countries the citizen has no right to arrest, and the police have a variety of special powers which set them apart from the citizenry.


The employment of these limited powers by the police is facilitated by their organization and equipment. Should a citizen arrest another, he is unlikely to be armed, he is unlikely to have a radio to call for help, and he is unlikely to have a safe way of trans­porting or keeping his prisoner until he can find a magistrate. Since it is a routine for the police, they have worked out a number of tech­niques for taking care of these contingencies. Consequently, they are in a much better position, practically speaking, to arrest people than the average citizen. In addition to these practical considerations, the police are the legitimate force-users and if a citizen knows, or should know, that he is being arrested by a police officer, it is illegal for him to resist. The police officer's view of reality is granted prece­dence by this law, and the arresting citizen has no counterpart.

The police assume the right to use discretion in enforcing the laws they have to enforce. They may decide for some reason to en­force one law and not another, or to enforce a law in one area but not in another. They may decide not to enforce minor laws if it would get in the way of enforcing major laws. They may decide not to enforce a law in a particular situation in order to give them bargaining powers. In some states this discretion is prohibited but practiced; in Westville's state, the law is generally silent on the practice. The use of discretion by the police is one of the major discrepancies between their formally legitimated behavior and the behavior actually employed.

There are other areas where the police may do things for which they have no formal legitimation but which they have "always" done. For example, there is apparently no law in Westville' state authorizing police officers to seize non-contraband articles for use as evidence in court, but they routinely do it.[33]

Since the police are agents of social control, and since they are responsive to the community institutions they interact with, they often are in the position of confronting behavior which is not illegal but which some part of the community wishes to get rid of, or which the officer, a member of the dominant community himself, finds offensive. All of the various deviations from the officially sanctioned view of reality are not illegal, sometimes because there does not ap­pear to be any way to make them so, other times because the behavior is too new to have generated enough moral indignation to have had laws passed. Some law can usually be found to process disagreeable people, even if it is not a law against what makes them disagreeable (Chapter VI). The police are aware that the primary and secondary social con­trols of these deviants do not conform with their ideas of proper controls, and they may invoke the legal process, at least partially, to sanction this behavior. Police patrols may be increased in an area, people may be arrested for minor acts which would normally be overlooked, and officer may go out of their way to find ways to harass these deviants. For example, one partner I worked with told me of something he had done shortly before I joined him. He saw a group of Hell's Angels riding through Westville and started to follow them. They drove absolutely legally for forty- seven blocks, which took him far off his beat, and then one dropped a cigarette to the road, a viola­tion of an obscure section of the Health and Safety Code. The officer then stopped and cited the Angel for this violation. He was a little defensive about it, however, because, as he pointed out, there is no where to put a cigarette out on a motorcycle.[34] In situations such as this, the police may be operating within their social mandate (that is, controlling offensive behavior) but outside of their legal mandate, or, at least, they may be using their legal mandate in service of their social mandate.

Finally, the police occasionally catch, arrest, and start through the legal system some serious violators. In these instances the reaction of the police to the crime is the beginning of formal tertiary social control as it is usually thought of. Although such activity provides the major formal justification of the police, it actually constitutes a small, but symbolically important, portion of their activities.

The Police as Agents of Social Control

The police support other social control efforts and agencies by many of their actions. They may support a secondary control agent by informing a violator, authoritatively, that should he not obey the controls of his family, he will be arrested. For example, in one case a 13-year-old boy was encountered when the officers responded to a disturbance call, which had been originally reported as a fight. It turned out that the "fight" was just a scuffle between brothers, but, in the course of investigating the complaint, the officer became aware of the fact that the boy had not been to school for five days, and his mother did not know how to cope with it. The officer sternly lectured the boy on his duty of obedience to his parents, then told his mother that she could contact the juvenile bureau if he refused to go to school on Monday morning, and a report of the present contact would be there to give them the background of the case. The officer had to exert quite a bit of effort to convince this thirteen-year-old that there were serious potential consequences of refusing to obey his parents. When the officer said he could be taken to juvenile hall, the boy said, "So what?" The officer said, "If you wise-off there, they put you in a little room and close the door until you decide to behave." After doing everything he could to reinforce the secondary control of the parents, the officer left.[35]


In some situations the police support one secondary social control system over another which seems to have gone awry. In responding to a family disturbance call, where it turned out a husband had been beating his wife, it became apparent that a possible solution was to help the wife leave with some of his relatives who offered to take care of her. Her husband was drunk, argumentative, openly hostile to us and to this proposal, but, by escorting her out and not arresting him, we shored up and assisted the secondary control sys­tem over the present emergency. Had we arrested him on her com­plaint, the reciprocal typifications of their marriage would have been damaged, perhaps in such a way that would have made the system incapable of dealing with its own trouble in the future by making it dependent on the intervention of the police, a tertiary agent.[36]


In other situations the police act as conveyors between some secondary control system and some non-legal tertiary control system. Thus the police assist in emergency mental illness apprehensions and in various medical emergencies. On one occasion my partner and I served an intemperance warrant on a husband that had been sworn out by his wife.[37] When we served the warrant, he was quite sober, but the civil nature of the proceeding was underscored by his being removed in an ambulance rather than in a police patrol wagon. (In San Francisco an officer in plain clothes, driving an unmarked station wagon serves all the mental illness petitions.)[38] Thus when the secondary control system required the help of a tertiary agent, the hospital, the police were called in to manage the transition of control.


In still other situations the police attempt to make relevant the typifications and thus the controls of another institution in which the offender participates in order to control his behavior in a situation where the present controls have proven insufficient.

"For example, when a Detroit officer reported to a family dispute in which a man had struck his wife, the officer told the man that he was acquainted with the man's employer and cautioned him that any further trouble might result in his losing his job. When the husband promised not to resort to physical violence again, the officer departed."[39]

The various institutions in which a person is involved generally are somewhat relevant to his behavior in other situations, but when they are remote, a person may not think of them in the heat of an argument. Thus when an officer can make them relevant, when he knows enough about the person to make the appropriate suggestion, he can often reinstitute control without acting as a formal control agent and in­voking formal sanctions. "Professionalization" of police work often causes the officers to be isolated from the informal systems and forces them to rely on the formal controls at their disposal.

            Symbolic support for primary and secondary controls is sometimes implicitly recognized by police writers in less formal terms;

"The most important work done by the police in preserving quiet and good order, however, results simply from the police being in existence. People are reluctant to 'tamper with the law' or to take advantage of their neighbors when they know that justice will be done. It is for this reason that police departments today strive to establish the reputation of invincibility, and to instill in the potential violator's mind a conviction that he 'cannot get away with it.'

This kind of public education by the police contributes more to law observance and general maintenance of the peace than anything else."[40]  

Not only is the potential violator deterred, but so also are the people with whom he interacts. If a person, such as a wife, has formed a set of reciprocal typifications with a potential violator, the presence of the police may convince her to attempt to dissuade her husband from illegal action because the presence of a higher level of social control poses a threat to her institutionalized adaptations should her husband be arrested. Thus a wife may argue against her husband stealing a car, not because she feels that it is particularly wrong but because she feels that the police will possibly catch him, put him in jail, and she will be without support. Though seldom consciously argued, the same effect is produced in other secondary control relationships. The enforcement of the institution requirements by the social control agency stands as a reminder of official "reality." This puts a damper on deviant reciprocal typifications which otherwise could undermine the institution by flagrant disregard of it.

The secondary level of social control, custom, is the major source of primary social control, or morality, and it continues to reinforce it very effectively. All of the potential reactions of a person's friends, work mates, neighbors, and family may come to mind when thinking of the consequences of violating some law. In addition, a person's socialized sense of propriety and "rightness" is upheld and reinforced by the rewards and possible sanctions of those people with whom he has established reciprocal typifications.


Each level of social control has its own area of proper control and higher levels traditionally have no warrant to interfere unless a lower level proves incapable of dealing with its own problems. The individual ordinarily gets to keep control over his own mind unless he demonstrates that he cannot, in which case his family, secondary level, attempts to cope. Only when they fail is the tertiary level--psychiatrist, police, or mental hospital--called in. (Of course, people without families or friends may go direct to the psychiatrist or hospital.) The family ordinarily gets to keep control of its own problems and arguments until a breach of the peace serious enough to be reported to the police occurs or until the members individually or collectively decide to seek the help of a social worker, psychiatrist, or marriage counselor. Much of the reluctance of the police to actually interfere in family fights and neighborhood disputes, even when minor laws have been broken, comes from the feeling that such matters are better settled by the participants to their own satisfaction without the strain which would be caused by legal intervention.[41]


            Because of his crucial location at the intersection of the secondary and tertiary social control systems, the officer often has to decide, like Maxwell's Demon, who is cool enough to be taken care of by the reinstitution of his own social controls, and who is hot enough to be a candidate for legal processing. Sometimes the choice is obvi­ous, when the crimes are great enough or minor enough, other times the choice may be dictated by the availability of secondary social control agents. If they are available, the offender is turned over to them, if not, he goes to jail or the mental hospital.[42] These decisions to invoke or not to invoke the legal process are made daily, and if the decision is not to invoke, it is rarely recorded.



Social control originates in reciprocal typifications of behavior which become institutionalized. The control is in the existence of the institution. Typifications usually arise in the areas of labor, sex, and territoriality. To gain the benefits of the institution, the person con­forms to the expectations of its members.


A child learns these institutions as "facts" in his socialization, but since all may not learn properly, or may not appreciate the necessity of the institution, and since many institutions may lead to different controls in a complex society, formal agents of social control be­come necessary.

Primary social control comes from the individual and his socialization. Secondary social control comes from the interactive relations a person is involved in and is basic to both primary and tertiary control. Tertiary social control comes from agencies which support important institutions. The various levels usually support one another in the absence of disturbing circumstances. Some problems are considered specific to each.

Each level has different rewards and punishments for the actor. Primary; guilt or good feelings. Secondary; praise, employment, or discharge and divorce. Tertiary; guidance (possibly) or prison, commitment, death. The rewards of tertiary control agencies are given to society as a whole rather than to individual actors (or, at least, the actors seldom know when they have benefited).


The control exercised at the primary and secondary levels is more efficient than that exercised at the tertiary level because, though the sanctions are less severe, they are more certain. Formal agents often use informal controls to accomplish their ends.


There are techniques to blunt control attempts by rationalization, withdrawal, or neutralization.


Tertiary agents as representatives of society as a whole keep the legitimate use of force, in part to keep secondary agents from establishing a feudal social order.


Social control breaks down when people are drunk, or unattached permanently or situationally to the controls of work, family, and neighborhood. The police sometimes have to substitute for secondary and primary control in family fights. Automobiles reduce secon­dary control and rely on primary and tertiary, making motorists into situational vagrants open to police control. The police sometimes act in lieu of conventional secondary controls for vagrants, sanctioning and occasionally protecting them.


It is possible that sub-cultures can have deviant typifications which they enforce with their own secondary and primary controls. The typifications come from their interactive experiences and may not be congruent with the typifications of the rule-making institutions in the territory. The existence of deviant secondary social controls depends on having a complex society, which also reduces the importance of all secondary controls.


The police mandate is unclear. There are the legally specified functions and the myriad of other functions which have accreted to or avulsed from these basic ones, in response to the demands of the community.


Others in the environment react to the mandate manifested in action, not to the formal mandate (though it may be important as an ideal).


The police are granted some legal powers to fulfill this mandate. They extend these powers by organization and discretion.


The police sometimes harass social deviants, either because the community desires it or because they themselves are offended. When these deviants are not breaking laws, the police stretch to find laws which they can apply, using them as weapons.


Finally, the police catch serious law-breakers and send them through the formal agencies of social control, the courts and prisons.


The police support secondary social control institutions, or support one over another, or convey deviants from secondary institutions unable to handle them to tertiary agencies, or attempt to make the secondary controls relevant to the offender.


The police are at the intersection of secondary and tertiary social control processes and often decide which way an offender will go.


          Most behavior is controlled by the participation of the actors in various interactive institutions which revolve around their work, their home life, and their neighborhoods. The social control which is provided by the police, a tertiary control agent, is generally congruent with the controls of custom, but occasionally discrepancies arise.

          In the first section of this Chapter, the dilemma of the police regarding the kind of social control they should provide is explored. Their choice is whether to attempt to control a situation using interactive sanctions and/or following the customs of the participants, or using the formal legal sanctions which are at their disposal. In many cases, perhaps most, non-legal elements of the situation, including the expectations of the participants, enter in as important determi­nants of the sort of control to be provided.

          In the second section, the ramifications of the provision of secondary control by tertiary control agents are explored, taking as examples the police dealings with alcoholics, the mentally ill and family problems.

          In the third section, some of the interactive institutions which are important for controlling police behavior are explored. These institutions provide secondary social controls over a tertiary social control agent. These interactive institutions, established with other institutions in the community, largely determine the nature and direc­tion of police action in many areas because they establish the behavior required of both parties involved in the transaction. These institution­alized exchanges, by making the police responsive to the community, often require the police to provide social control in areas of custom for which they have no legal warrant, and thus no special powers.

Secondary or Tertiary Control? A Dilemma of Tertiary Agents in Interactive Situations

"The ordinary citizen is not well informed about the true nature and extent of police powers."[43]

"When 'police violence,' for example, is under discussion, there is noticeable a clear-cut class attitude. The Top People tend to the view that if a man cuts up rough with the police and gets hurt, he has asked for and deserved what he got. (... ) The middle-class citizen tends to disbelieve all such stories, and is thus able fairly comfortably to dismiss them but is deeply shocked when one of them is proved true. The proles accept them as self-evidently true, (... ) and are genuinely surprised at any expression of doubt. The same is true of corruption and perjury, and other less clearly occupational lapses like burglary and fraud."[44]

          There are two conceptions of proper police behavior which correspond to the level of social control which they exercise, These are the "legal" conception, and the "interactive" conception. The conceptions consist of sets of expectations about the behavior of police officers in various situations; specifically, whether the officer should invoke secondary or tertiary social controls. To an extent, the "legal" conception is held by the middle class in our society while the "interactive" conception is held by the lower class, which results from their existential positions relative to police activity. William F. Whyte observed this pattern in "Cornerville:"

"There are prevalent in society two general conceptions of the duty of the police officer. Middle class people feel that he should enforce the law without fear or favor. Cornerville people and many of the officers themselves believe that the policeman should have the confidence of the people in his area so that he can settle many difficulties in a personal manner without making arrests. These two conceptions are in a large measure contradictory. The policeman who takes a strictly legalistic view of his duties cuts himself off from personal relations necessary to enable him to serve as a mediator of disputes in his area. The policeman who develops close ties with local people is unable to act against them with the vigor prescribed by law."[45]

William Westley found in his study that a police officer assigned to a beat in a slum area:

"... found that upon doing a favor for somebody he had to allow them to reciprocate the favor: to buy him something, a hat, a pair of shoes, a meal; and that when he refused to accept the return favor the people looked upon it as an attempt to hold something over them. In the slum jungle, law is particularly prominent and reciprocal incrimination is regarded as a pre­requisite to friendship."[46]

          In general, people who have had contact with the law, or people who live in social areas where such contact is common, believe the interactive conception of police behavior, and people who have not had such contact, except perhaps for traffic tickets, believe, more or less, in the legal conception. There are people, of course, who have never had an experience with the police themselves who have many of the negative expectations associated with the interactive conception because of their political commitment to causes which involve lower class people. Social workers, civil rights activists, VISTA volunteers, and other community organizers, though generally of middle-class extraction, have had enough vicarious experience so that they hold to the interactive conception. They tend to hear of the negative aspects of interaction with the police more often than the positive ones for a variety of reasons.[47]  Even so, middle class activists in lower class settings provide a demonstration of the existential basis of the two conceptions.

          The police officer is also aware of these two sets of expectations and he guides his action, in part, to take account of them. When he is in the street, he is not very visible to the command level of the police department so he can respond to interactive expectations. The command officers appear to know that he does this, in general, and they only get disturbed when it becomes too overt. A police captain interviewed before World War II by William F. Whyte said about the numbers racket:

"As long as it is kept quiet, the cop can't complain. We might say, "For God's sake, don't write them under my nose. Go in the back street." The police have to see that it doesn't become too open. Of course, if an officer accepts money to let them do business, that's a very serious thing." [48]

          The policeman is not very visible to people in the street (in the sense of knowing what he is doing) unless he is actually interacting with them, so he can occasionally follow the legal conception completely without "ruining" his street reputation. Thus the officer segregates the contradictory role expectations by maintaining low visibility and manages to adapt. As will be brought out later, the balance which is struck and the tension which it causes varies with the closeness of the officer to the public. Any course which he follows has its perils:

"A patrolman can therefore compromise his legitimacy while maintaining order in one of two ways; either by visibly betraying his obligation to enforce some rules of law or by fulfilling these obligations in ways that conflict with the moral standards of the local population. If he is too legalistic, he runs the risk of being perceived as arrogant and unjust; but if he tailors his standards to the practices of the neighborhood rather than to its ideals, he is looked down on for abdicating his responsibilities altogether."[49]


Police Officers' Assumptions Regarding Neighborhoods

          Neighborhoods are associated with different types of crime and have different reactions to criminal activity. In his patrolling, the officer is advised to look for certain types of criminal activity which are often associated with specific areas.

          On occasion, police departments go so far as to make building-by-building studies of the areas they deal with, scoring each block on the basis of its police hazards, and assigning patrol areas on this basis.[50]

          In addition, the officer can expect different customs regarding citizen's definitions of what ought to be considered a legal offense, and different levels of concern about the activity:

"A street fight in the upper-class residential section of a large city will result in numerous calls to the police. The same kind of activity in other areas may go unreported unless discovered by the police on patrol. The shot of a pistol, the scream of a woman, the tampering with a car, or the carrying of appliances through the streets in the dark hours of the morning--all indications of a possible crime--may bring residents pouring out into the streets in some areas, while not even arousing curiosity in others. These varied reactions, by the way, have important implications for the police administrator. He must make a difficult choice: to allow the indifference to dictate adoption of a lower level of enforcement in those areas in which such indifference exists, or to hold to a uniform city-wide policy of enforcement despite the lack of citizen cooperation in some areas."[51]

After the police administrator makes his "difficult choice" the officer in the field will make his easy choice. He will usually patrol looking for "good" crimes and overlooking almost all others unless a citizen actually complains. Even when a citizen complains, the officer is likely to share the neighborhood's lack of concern, and, as a conse­quence, take little action. When an officer new to a Negro "ghetto" beat in Westville gets excited over a battery, the cynicism and sarcasm of the older officers is immediate. One partner commented to me in this situation (while a new officer was calling over the radio for additional units to cover an area to look for a suspect) “Would you believe a man actually hit his wife, in Westville?"[52]  In other words, the officers have conformed to the interactive institutions with which they are in direct contact so often that they have become habituated to responding in that way in that situation. Another officer made it clear that he was simply taking a reactive position to law enforcement:

"If they want to sign a complaint and prosecute, I'll go all the way with them and help them all I can. But if they are just going to diddle around (i. e., not prosecute) like usually, I could care less. Why bother? "[53]

          A consequence of attention to objective indicators of criminality and to this negative assessment of the commitment to legal norms of the people in certain neighborhoods leads the officer to assume that certain types of people, and certain areas of the city (along with their inhabitants), are inherently suspicious.

"According to both gang members and patrolmen, residence in a neighborhood is the-most general indicator used by the police to select a sample of potential law violators. Many local patrolmen tend to consider all residents of "bad" neigh­borhoods rather weakly committed to whatever moral order they make it their business to enforce, and this transforms most of the people who use the streets in these neighborhoods into good candidates for suspicion."[54]

In many instances, the assumptions on which a police officer operates are based on an accurate assessment of pertinent aspects of the interactive reality available to him. This being the case, his assumptions are pragmatic and may not fit well with formal legal conceptions. On occasion, they may seem to be prejudicial, and in the strict sense are, but it is important to realize that he must make these pre-judgments to identify likely subjects for suspicion. One writer on police procedures suggests:

"Whenever you find that one (tavern or pool hall operator) was arrested for some illegal activity, you can be fairly sure that he is still involved in something illegal. Although a man's past record should never be used to persecute him, it would be silly to forget it in the naive belief that every person sent to jail or prison will be miraculously made honest by their experience. ... Use a man's past record as a basis for suspicion until his actions prove to you that your suspicions are groundless. To assume a man to be honest until you discover otherwise will brand you a 'chump'."[55]

Thus the patrolman in these cases operates on an interactive presumption of guilt, the opposite of the legal presumption of innocence.[56]

          Some neighborhoods may actually be organized along criminal lines, or criminal activity may be so important that the citizen who lives in the neighborhood is fearful of even reporting offenses of which he is the victim.[57] Naturally an officer working in such a neighborhood will have different expectations and will act differently toward the people than he would in a less criminal neighborhood.    One of my partners commented, as we were recovering a stolen car in the middle of a housing project, that we were, "In the heart of enemy territory." I looked around and saw sixty or seventy impassive, hostile faces looking at us and was inclined to agree.[58]

          It is often assumed by sociologists and other commentators on the legal scene that the higher the social class of a defendant, the better chance he has of getting off without harsh punishment. This observation is probably true for major crimes and the legal process seen as a whole, but for minor crimes and the situations of arrest, bail, and court appearance, the people who have experienced them most often know the most about them and consequently come out best. Particularly in recurring situations, the law may have been explained many times by many officers to the same person. Juveniles who have been processed know the ropes. They tend to be affectedly polite, cooperative, and silent, knowing that anything they admit can be used against them. They know that "special officers" or merchant policemen have only a citizen's powers of arrest, and treat them with contempt. They know that the Westville police usually do not transport prisoners in patrol cars, but use a wagon, and so will harass patrol officers mercilessly until a patrol wagon shows up, whereupon they scatter in all directions.[59]  One of the officers interviewed by William Westley also commented on this situation:

"I was amazed at the knowledge these people (in a slum area) have of the law. For example, if they take a beating, they know that they have to swear out a warrant before the policeman will arrest the other man. Nobody in Park Manor knows that."[60]

It has often been my experience in responding to a call about a family fight for the first words spoken to be, "He hit me and I want to arrest him." This indicates that the complainant knows that for a misdemeanor not committed in the officer's presence a citizen who witnessed the offense must make the arrest. I have no way of knowing how wide-spread knowledge of this point of law is in the middle class, but I think that it is rare. An important consequence of this knowledge of the law is that the officer cannot bluff knowledgeable people so easily.

Police Officers' Assumptions Regarding Individuals

          The legal conception of the police officer is hardest to fulfill when the officer gets to know routine offenders as individuals, that is, when he has established some interactive institutional relationship with the person. Knowing what he does about the individual's situation, the officer may make more sophisticated judgments about the disposition to be accorded in the individual case, judgments which take law into account only if it is useful and relevant. Egon Bittner observed the following with a mentally ill person:

". . . a young woman in agitated distress was taken to the hospital in part because her fiancé arrived on the scene and proposed to take over. Prior to his arrival the officers were about ready to leave the patient in the care of her mother and a neighbor who appeared to have a soothing influence on her. The entry of the fiancé seemed quite innocuous to the observer, but the officers gathered from his remarks that the arrangements he had in mind were not only not feasible but even destructive. The evaluation was possible because the officers knew many factual details about the places, persons, and arrangements the man envisioned."[61]

Personal knowledge of offenders may also make their various denials and misrepresentations transparent:

"At some point during adolescence, however, a gang boy becomes recognizable to patrolmen by name. And when this happens, there is no longer any real escape from constant surveillance by the police. Most of the techniques used to dodge the situation of suspicion are rendered useless. Even if precautions are taken, the boys usually find that they are still trapped. Their place in the situation of suspicion becomes permanent."[62]

The importance of interactive institutions in decisions about the use of tertiary controls may be seen from these following, incidents.

          My partner and I responded to a call regarding a family fight. When we arrived, the story was a usual one: the husband had awakened and found that his wife was trying to stab him with a pocket knife. The usual disposition in such a case would be to talk the incident out and when everyone seemed cooled off, to leave. In this particular case, however, I knew that just sixteen days before the man's wife had slashed open the back of his head while he was sitting at the dinner table, because I had participated in her arrest for "assault with a deadly weapon." Such being the case, we convinced the husband that he should leave the house for the night, or he might be killed, and my partner made the knife "disappear."[63]

          On another occasion, a partner commented when we got an assignment, "Mrs. Green is drunk again." When we arrived at the address Mrs. Green was indeed drunk, and I remembered that I had been there the week before with a different partner.

          On a third occasion, a return call to a family fight resulted in the husband leaving. There was some mention of a missing gun, and my partner later commented that the solution to that particular family's problems might not be far away. He said that if one shot the other then we could take the body to the morgue, the killer to jail, and the kids to the welfare department and the problem would be solved. The frustrations of returning again and again to a situation where nothing useful or permanent can be done may lead the officer to hope for some resolution, and not to worry too much about what it might be.

          On a fourth occasion, as we drove past a house, my partner stated that a four-generation police-problem family lived there. The great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and ten-year-old daughter had all been arrested numerous times, generally for prostitution. The family had been a problem for the Westville Police Department for more than thirty years, according to the stories my partner had heard. He had only been on the department for a few years and had only had an opportunity to arrest three of the four generations.[64]

          Problem families have also been observed in other cities.[65] The social control likely to be exercised by his family plays a large part in the legal disposition of a juvenile, if it is known to the officer.

"There is even some evidence to suggest that assessments about the type and quality of parental control are even more important factors in dispositions than any of the offense-related criteria. One of the main concerns of a juvenile officer is the likelihood of future offense, and this determination is often made on the basis of "the kinds of parents" a boy happens to possess. Thus the moral character of parents also passes under review; and if a house appears messy, a parent is missing, or a mother is on welfare, the probability of arrest increases. Similarly, a boy with a father and two older brothers in jail is considered a different sort of person from a boy whose immediate family is not known to the police."[66]

Some Origins of Cultural Expectations of the Public Regarding Police Action

          The "legal" conception of police behavior held by the middle class depends for its continuance on a certain separation from the realities of lower class life and street life in general. The middle class person may contact a police officer now and then and find the contact a pleasant experience because both he and the officer define the situation in non-criminal terms and the officer makes a conscious attempt to adapt his language and actions to the social status of the person he is dealing with. When a middle class person, who expects that other people will be dealt with by the police as he has been, sees the police fighting a drunk into the patrol wagon, he assumes that the drunk "started it.” He is unlikely to see much of this street life, though, because the paths of middle class and lower class people seldom cross either in space or time, and even should they physically cross, their meanings and expectations differ so markedly that they can hardly be said to be in the same place. A street is something for a middle class person to drive down, someplace to meet friends and carry on business for the lower- class person. The middle class person does not see the lower class world as he drives by, and the middle class person's car is part of the background for the lower class person. A contact with the police takes on its subjective meanings from the context in which it is carried out.

          To over simplify a situation which is actually quite complex, there are dealings with the police surrounded by "good" and "bad" conditions. There is a persistent ecology of conditions which goes a long way toward defining the nature of a police-citizen contact. Contacts which take place between the police and persons who "belong" in an area, during the day, which are citizen initiated, tend to be helpful and polite, especially if the area is middle class and residential. This is because nothing in the situation alerts the officer to the necessity of tertiary controls being applied. Contacts which the officer initiates, at night, with people who do not "belong" in an area, are likely to be punitive, especially if the area is lower class and industrial. Because the officer assumes that people in such situations are without reliable secondary controls. All of these elements do not need to be present to define the contact, and in some instances a person who belongs in an area will be more doubtful than a visitor, but, on the average, it is possible to predict that the behavior patterns of middle class people will tend to have them interacting with the police under "good" conditions and the behavior patterns of lower class people will predominantly cast them into "bad" conditions. Thus, quite independent of the characteristics of the individual, the experiences of people in different social classes will tend to reinforce the "legal" conception for the middle class and the "interactive" conception for the lower class.

          Should anyone wish to experiment to test the truth of these assertions, they could try, first, asking directions to a restroom from a police officer in a park on Sunday afternoon, and, second, walking slowly around in a lower class or industrial district with a suitcase at two a. m. The contacts will probably be quite different, but somewhat typical of the routine middle class and lower class police contacts.

Conditions Supporting and Undermining the "Legal" Conception of Police Behavior

          The "legal" conception (or tertiary social control agent exclusively) of police behavior requires that the officer function as an impartial, honest, uninvolved, dispassionate legal officer in all situations, in spite of any provocation. It serves a useful function as an ideal, even though it is never reached.

          The more separated the officer is from the public, the more easily he can approximate the behavior required by the "legal" conception. State police forces which are not in contact with individuals except for law enforcement purposes are much easier to keep corruption-free than are municipal departments.[67] When an officer walks a beat, he is in constant human contact with the people of his beat and he begins to respond to them as people with whom he has understandings rather than as legal problems. The patrol car officer is in less contact and consequently knows fewer people, and so treats more people as legal problems. When police operations are centralized and district stations are eliminated, officers may be assigned to different beats and different shifts around the city as the need arises, further cutting off contacts with the public.

          The officer who is in contact with the public may be seen as functioning as an agent both at the secondary level of social control and at the tertiary level, while the isolated officer functions largely on the tertiary level using negative legal sanctions instead of positive and negative, interactive ones. The "legal" officer is a rationally efficient bureaucrat carrying out his mandate without fear or favor. The "legal" image is a good one, for public relations conceived as an advertising man would think of it. It is "professional" appearing, and difficult to criticize except for its coldness. The officer who follows the "legal" conception most of the time may be an efficient police officer, or he may not. He is certainly going to limit his access to information from the underworld, and tips from friendly merchants, because he will have little contact with them.

          Support for the "legal" conception may be mobilized by a public opinion process started by a police scandal based on illegal "interactive" practices. A cry for reform may cause a police department to adopt rigid controls and "professional" procedures. Public opinion is not a constant, however, and unless there is a "blow up" the people in the community have no effective way of transmitting their day-to-day feelings about the police to anyone who has the power to do anything about it. The police adopt and maintain "legal" behavior in anticipation of the occasional serious mobilization of public opinion. When there are powerful community groups ready to make an issue of any police failure to live up to the legal conception, there is, of course, pressure within the department for the officers to behave accordingly.

          Incidents which affect opinion leaders are more likely to result in effective pressure on the police, for good or ill, than incidents affecting the powerless. Westley gave an example:

"The public, and, for the purposes of our case, we will represent it as the middle class club woman, in city X, long condemned the laxity in the enforcement of vice and gambling laws in city X, yet did nothing extraordinary to indicate their dissatisfaction in this area. However, when the police failed to immediately apprehend the murderer of one of their group, they raised a public outcry, organized and financed a powerful committee to investigate the police and politics in their city."[68]

          Support for the "legal" conception also comes from progressive police administrators who wish to adopt business-like techniques to improve the reputation, quality, efficiency, honesty, and prestige of police work. On occasion, their desires put them in conflict with the officer in the street who is being required to do something very difficult; be in contact with the public but react only in an official manner.

The Officer Reacts to the Assumed Power or Status of the Offender

          The "legally" oriented police officer treats everyone alike. No matter what the social position, race, or sex of the offender, the important consideration is the illegal act which they have committed. The head of the largest business in town and the shoe shiner on the corner are, and should be, equal before the law and its representative, the police officer. Both should be arrested if they break the law, and both treated with the same consideration and respect for their human dignity. Persons who have achieved the status of "criminal" can, of course, be treated with the appropriate precautions, but otherwise as any other person. This set of expectations is an ideal, but an ideal hard to reach in police service.

          One factor which makes the "legal" conception easier to sustain is for the officer to be unaware of the social status of his suspect. In order for the officer to act on the basis of an ascribed status, the fact that the person has such status must be known to him. This may come about if the officer is isolated from the public. It may arise as a consequence of the size of the city. It may arise if the officer is a stranger to the community he works in. In a small town, in a situation where the officer has contact with the public, in a community which is his home town, the officer will be aware of many, many people in the community, their positions, and their names even if he has not ever met them. In a town with one school, one bank, one hospital, and one large manufacturing plant, every teacher, banker, doctor, and manufacturer will be known to the police officer. He may not have met them, but when they identify themselves to him, their position and function in the community becomes instantly known. In such a community, an arrest may have disastrous consequences for the individual arrested, and this, too, is known to the police officer. He may decide not to arrest on this basis.[69] In a larger city, far fewer of the occupants of these positions are known to the officer, and he may feel nothing about the consequences of the arrest for their career. In a city with a hundred banks, dozens of schools and hospitals, and perhaps a thousand manufacturers large and small, such as Westville, there are many people who would get special consideration from a small town police officer who get routine and "legal" treatment. It takes far more status to get a "break" from the police in a large town than it does in a small one.

          One way in which a legal or interactive orientation is manifested is in the demeanor of the officer. Michael Banton wrote:

"... many of the policemen whom the author has observed on patrol, . . . , in practice adopt an impersonal manner with socially superior offenders and a familiar one with socially inferior offenders.''[70]

In my own experience, I have noted that the officers I have ridden with almost invariably, there have been one or two exceptions, will address a Negro complainant or offender by his or her first name and will use "Mr." or "Mrs." if the person is white. It is difficult to tell if this is a specifically racial reaction because Westville has almost no poor whites for comparison.[71]

          Another way in which an interactive institutional orientation is sometimes developed was observed when I was riding with an out-of-state police department. As we passed a downtown club where a debutante ball was in progress, I asked whether they were going to do anything about the fact that in a short while a great many drunk, under-age couples would be driving away from that party. One officer responded:

"Not me. I stopped a big shot once. Never again. The next morning he had me up before the chief accused of shaking him down for a hundred dollars. He sued, and I almost lost my job."[72]

When I have mentioned this incident to Westville officers, they have been incredulous, and unanimous in asserting that "it couldn't happen here." In general, middle class drunk drivers have a lower probability of being arrested than do lower class drunk drivers because the areas in which they drive are less likely to be frequented by police patrol units. Police cars are assigned on the basis of the need for their services, and this need is greater in lower-class areas so there are more units which can observe a lower-class person on his way home, and possibly arrest him if there is no other pressing business. Similarly, honest citizens in high crime areas are likely to be mistakenly stopped and treated as if they were criminals because the police officer ascribes criminal status to the entire area.[73] Street gatherings in such areas are dispersed where they would not be in a middle class area because the officer feels, often correctly, that this will prevent fights and disturbances.[74]

          Although the police officer may have some difficulty in perceiving the socio-economic status of the person with whom he is dealing, he has no difficulty in perceiving the race. Race is an important basis for interactive orientation in police work. Although Westville officers that I know never refer to Negroes publicly by any slang terms (it has been specifically prohibited by a departmental order),[75] in the privacy of the patrol car, Negroes are "animals," "cannibals," "orangutans," "spear chunkers", or "spear chuckers" to some officers. To a great many more officers, the Negro, complainant or offender, is an object of derision. It is quite common for officers to adopt an exaggerated southern dialect mocking the Negroes' typical complaints, when the subject comes up.[76] Additionally, some officers use a slang expression, "T. N. A." which means "Typical Negro Action," to dismiss almost any behavior they disapprove of. It can refer to a group of teen-agers dancing to a transistor radio on a street corner, to teen-agers verbally harassing the police as they drive by, or to the complaint of a woman who has just been hit by her boyfriend or husband.[77] The use of this term, "T. N. A.," signifies that the officer is bored by the act and considers it the product of a degraded person of whom better is not to be expected. Important as these negative attitudes are, the relation of the police officer to Negro crime and violence is more affected by several structural factors than by the individual officer's attitudes.

          Historically, the problem of crime and violence in the Negro community has been of relatively less importance to the police than crime and violence in the white community. In many instances, the police let customary dispute settling procedures, i. e, secondary social control, carry the burden without imposing formal legal sanctions. Albert Reiss and David Bordua wrote:

"Among the private arrangements that the police may allow to stand is the use of violence among subordinate or peripheral groups in the society. The most outstanding instance until recently has been the willingness of the American police to respect intraracial violence among Negroes, thus implicitly defining the Negro population in a sense as a group "without' the law."[78]

Or, as a southern Detective Captain said at the time of the First World War:

"In this town there are three classes of homicide. If a nigger kills a white man, that's murder. If a white man kills a nigger, that's justifiable homicide. If a nigger kills a nigger, that's one less nigger."[79]

The idea of professional police work, the ideal of proper, "legal" social control, requires that the protection of the law be extended into the Negro community and that the law be enforced on the basis of the violations rather than the interactive institutions of the participants. To the extent that this takes place, the apparent crime rate, the statistics of "Crimes Known to the Police," will increase in the Negro areas of the city as official action replaces private violence. At present, Negroes who live in predominantly Negro areas are victims of under-enforcement of the law far more than of over-enforcement.

          Almost all sociological writers on police work have mentioned the under-enforcement of law in Negro communities.[80] Even though the professional orientation is making a great deal of headway, two incidents in which I was involved show the pattern of legal under-enforcement still exists.

          In the first incident, my partner and I responded to a call regarding a family fight. There was a great deal of confusion. In addition to the complainant, a twenty-year-old Negro girl, there were about a dozen other women and children in the small apartment, all talking at the same time. The girl had been hit in the face and body by her "common-law" husband, a twenty-year-old Negro. He had beaten her, knocked her down, and "stomped" her in the face. She had a large lump on the forehead where he had kicked her. They had two children, both small and crying. The officer taking the report tried to convince the complainant to sign the complaint and to agree to prosecute, and had her reluctant consent to do so, until one of the other women present convinced her not to. She then refused to sign, and we released her husband from custody. So long as the offense was interpreted as a misdemeanor, this was the only legal course of action open. It would also have been possible to have interpreted the offense as "assault with a deadly weapon," a felony, because of the use of the shoes in "stomping," and to have arrested the offender on the officer's own complaint. This might well have happened if the people involved had been white. As it was, it was written off as a "west Westville battery," and no action was taken.[81]

          In the second incident, another partner and I were assigned to investigate a missing person report. When we arrived, it was midnight on a Friday night. The complainant, a thirty-four-year-old Negro woman, said that her nine-year-old boy had run away from the house about 6 p.m. that evening and had not come home yet. A missing child of that age at that hour is officially interpreted as a matter of urgent concern unless the surrounding circumstances indicate otherwise. In this case, because he had left with other boys his age (whom the mother did not know), the officer advised her not to file a formal report of a missing person, because the boy would probably show up in the morning and the result of filing a report would be that there would be police officers all over the area looking for him for hours. She reluctantly agreed not to file a report and we left. As we left, my partner commented on the smell of urine in the house, and on people who didn't know who their children's friends were. Had the complainant been white, and living in a good neighborhood, a missing person broadcast would probably have been made under the same circumstances.[82]

          People build their expectations of the police from their experiences with the police, the things they read, and the experiences they hear about from their friends and neighbors. Negroes in Westville have come to expect little from the police because of incidents such as the above. As the thrust toward the "legal" conception of police behavior continues, two results can be expected. First, some Negro complainants will get better legal service which they may or may not turn out to appreciate. (Should the husband have been arrested in the first incident mentioned above, the wife might have suffered in the long run, when he got out of jail.) Second, there will be increasing cries of "police persecution" and complaints about the "white man's law" being imposed on the black community, because many people not currently arrested will be going to jail, some for long terms. These people will prefer the "interaction" conception officer, who let things ride. The net effect may be a reluctance to call the police about interpersonal matters and an apparent reduction in the need for police services. Imposition of uniform legal standards appears to be inevitable in the long run because an increasing respect for legality in police work will gradually invade even the worst areas of the cities, even though at present neighborhoods tend to get the kind of law enforcement they desire and show they are willing to accept.

The Officer is Presented with Extra-legal Requests

          A great many people who hold to the "interactive" conception of police behavior expect the police officer to be generally helpful in his relationships to them. Many poor people use the police as the first port of call in times of trouble. The police are used where the middle class would call a family doctor, a marriage counselor, or a minister.[83] In many cases, the police officer arrives at the scene of some sort of disturbance and finds that there is no legal action to be taken, or that any legal action which could be taken will make the situation worse, and he is left in the position of being a relatively knowledgeable outsider who can suggest various courses of action to the people there. While a strictly legalistic interpretation of his duties would suggest that he ought to refrain from offering advice, in the human situation he faces, he can often be of some help, and can render a service to the public. Sometimes this is a referral to other agencies, sometimes specific advice. Depending on the officer and the situation, the advice may be given in a helpful or disgusted manner. I have seen officers suggest consulting a doctor, a psychiatrist, or the juvenile bureau of the police department. I have seen officers suggest that one person leave the house in order to avoid more trouble, and I have seen officers suggest that couples get a divorce, stop drinking, and be more tolerant of each other. The advice does not appear to be of very high quality, often, but it may be better than any other the people involved could get at the moment, and they may know the police officer better than they know any professional counselor.

The Officer's Emotional Involvement

          According to the "legal" conception, the police officer should carry out his duties in a rational and emotionless manner, with dignity and impartiality. Police officials sometimes feel, according to Banton, that patrolmen are "insufficiently dignified both on the street and in their dealings with citizens."[84] And that the public will not believe the officer important if he does not appear so. As one police writer put it:

"The public looks upon these (uniformed) officers of the law as reflecting the law in all its aspects. Thus, if a policeman is uncouth in the way he applies the law, the citizen will think that not the policeman alone but the law, as well, should be changed. Moreover, the conduct of a policeman in uniform is extremely important with reference to the reputation of the entire force."[85]

          On the other hand, the officers themselves know that a friendly approach is likely to allow them to define the situation in such a way that they will not have to fight with a suspect.[86] On occasion, an officer may fake affectivity by, for example, swearing at an offender so that he can be "punished" without the necessity of arresting him which, of course, is an interactive sanction.[87]

          Regardless of the "legal" conception, it is to be expected that on occasion even the most dispassionate officer will become personally outraged at some turn of events, and when he does so, he may use his legal police powers in service of his own emotions. Officers may not even have to misuse their powers, they may simply choose to use them where in their own discretion they would usually not do so. Thus persons who curse at police officers can expect that, at the least, their infraction will be viewed and reported in the most serious light possible.

          People who have had experience with police officers know that they get affectively involved in their work. One writer on "policemanship" suggests:

"Respect is the key. If you treat police officers with respect you will have less trouble in your relations with the police than if you do not. If you cause or permit a police officer to feel that you do not respect him or his department, you may be beaten up, arrested roughly or shot."[88]

This is too strong a view, but it is one that is held by many people the police deal with.

The Officer's Own Interactive-Institutional Relationships Affect His Action

            The "legal" conception police officer enforces the law without regard for the relation the suspect has to him or the police department. If the Mayor's car is parked illegally, it gets a ticket, if the policy is to only accept cash for bail, the check of the most influential man in town will be refused.[89]

            Generally, the one group of people who most benefit from their interactive relation to the police officer consists of other police officers. Police officers do not usually write tickets for other officers. One officer referred to this practice as the "Policemen's Protective Association," others as "professional courtesy." Some police officers take advantage of their marked patrol cars to drive at high speed in the city, some routinely run red lights even on non-emergency calls; as one officer put it: "Who is going to arrest me?"[90] Off duty, police officers make a point of identifying themselves if they are stopped, and they usually get special consideration.[91] Sometimes officers leave their Arrest form books or Field Interrogation books on the dashboard of their private cars so that other officers will notice and not write them parking tickets. Other officers leave their official calling cards on the dashboard for the same reason.[92] None of these techniques is fool-proof, however, because some officers do not play the game and others do not notice. Officers consider it almost a "right" of the job. Banton mentioned that the southern officers that he interviewed were usually able to avoid tickets.[93]

          So long as police officers can use discretion in any case at all, it must be expected that persons who are in a particular interactive relationship with the officers will benefit from this discretion. It was explicitly stated in training that one should not arrest one's own grandmother for drunk driving, and implicitly this protection is extended to all those who are law-enforcement "relatives" as well, because secondary sanctions can be brought to bear on officers who "misuse" their powers by fellow officers.


Self Interest May Lead to Corruption

          The "legal" conception police officer serves the city he works for and the public interest in general. He does not use his office for private gain. The rules of practically every police department prohibit the accepting of gratuities, engaging in politics, drinking on duty, and arresting in his own disputes.[94] In many cases, the officers themselves are highly critical of other officers who engage in this sort of activity because they feel, correctly, that it does more to degrade the image of the police than any other activity. In Chicago, ". . . most policemen reacted to the new system with relief," when O. W. Wilson stopped bribes.[95]  In Westville at the beginning of the Christmas season, a memorandum was distributed to all members of the department reminding them of the regulation which prohibits accepting gifts and gratuities. The possibility of big or important graft does not appear to exist in Westville, or in many police departments in Western states.

          Some of those who hold the "interaction" conception of police behavior feel that the police officer is, or should be, open to bribes. In relatively honest police departments, bribes of money are out of the question for most officers. There is simply no congruence between the amount of money which is likely to be offered and the amount it would have to be for the officer to risk his relatively high-paying and secure job.[96] If an officer's superiors are "on-the-take" the officer can be as well, but if they are not, then the interactive institutions will not support him and the officer must evaluate each bribe offer in terms of whether it is worth his job, and the possibility of ever getting another one.

          The police officer is probably more honest than the average worker who comes from a similar background. Yet, a great deal of concern is manifested over police criminality. This concern arises because of the definition of the officer's role as society's agent, and because the officer's job is to suppress criminality. A police officer is thus held to much higher standards than is the average working man. If an employee steals, the "class" of employees, being extensive and indefinite, does not come into disrepute. If an officer steals, all police officers are degraded. When one officer steals, it is a chink in the moral armor of all, which is seized upon by people who themselves have been demonstrated to be morally flawed by the police and are seeking to "condemn the condemners."[97] A police officer must be "above reproach" for this reason.

Importance of the "Interactive" and "Legal" Conceptions

          Bloodless roles are difficult to live up to in any event, and a role such as the legally oriented police role qualifies as an exceptionally difficult one. One of the major sources of difficulty is that in his contacts with the public, the officer will not only be personally inclined to act according to the "interactive" conception because it is easier, but he will also come to understand that the segment of the public with which he has the most contact expects it, and will make their expectations known.

          The most important variable in the existential relevance of the two conceptions is the amount of contact that the officer has with the public. In Westville, the few walking beats which still exist are reserved for those officers who have demonstrated to their sergeant that they have the maturity and judgment to handle the problems implicit in intensive public contact without creating bad public relations or a scandal for the police department. The "walking man" must create from the two conceptions a combination which will allow him to operate effectively in close contact with the public, a very difficult job.[98]

          The choice for the officer between the two models may involve the decision to engage the interactive social controls existent in the situation by adopting the interactive approach, or having to engage the legal process instead by sticking to the "legal" conception. The officer using the "legal" approach has no particular trading material (i.e., interactive rewards) to get people to do what he wants, he has only legal threats and the fear he can produce of legal consequences.

Secondary Control by Tertiary Control Agents: Interactive Institutions and Legal Intervention

          Behavior exists and arises out of the apparent necessities of the situation as they are apperceived by the participants. It is only later that people construct categories and systems of categories to describe the behavior which has taken place. These systems of categories may be well or loosely related to the feelings and customs of people actually engaged in the behavior; there are almost certain to be discrepancies. Many forms of behavior which are distressing to victims or participants have been made illegal, many have not. When an act has been made illegal, it opens the possibility that tertiary agents from outside of the immediate situation may become interested in it, and may take over the regulation of the behavior from people within the situation. When it has not been made illegal, but the interactive institution's control has broken down, people outside of the institution may act as umpires, but, generally, may not take over the regulation of the system. Since behavior itself is "meaningless," deriving its apparent meaning from the interpretations placed on it, people often are confused regarding the "proper" course of action to follow unless they are quite knowledgeable about the precise distinctions between the various possible formal systems of categorization. Since they are confused, and no other solution is immediately apparent, the police are often called to deal with behavior which is not illegal, though it may be "wrong" or immoral, which is distressing to the people in a situation. Obviously people who are in a position to call the correct agency, or to take other appropriate action, do not call the police to take care of routine trouble, unless it is legal trouble.

          In a simple society where there is no great division of labor, and where most people are known to one another, at least by reputation, the "experts" in each specialty are known to all. Should a man have trouble with his wife, someone, the shaman, the chief, or some elderly woman, is recognized as the person to consult about the trouble. In a complex society, there has been increasing specializa­tion in every field and there is no longer a single, recognized person to go to for each broad category of troubles. Should a man have trouble with his wife, he might go to see a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychiatric social worker, a clergyman, a family service clinic, a bartender, a psychologist, a welfare worker, a lawyer, a police officer, or someone whose advice he feels would be good. Each sort of advice might be best for a specific situation, but what sort of advice is best for the concrete situation that he is involved in may not be known to him. The distribution of knowledge about such matters is not equal throughout society. Better educated people have a better idea of the range and variety of specialists who deal with personal problems than do the less well educated. Even should a well educated person not know the specialist he wants, he may know that he needs a specialist and he may know of someone whose specialty is referring people to other specialists. Even this knowledge may be unavailable to a poor or uneducated person. He may have a problem which he recognizes as a problem but not have anyone to call, or ask about it. In this situation, the poor person calls the police.

          Unlike other tertiary social control agencies, the police will come when someone calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The police are the only city office open, the only legal office, often the only emergency medical service known to the person in difficulty, they are the only "family service clinic" with twenty-four hour home delivery of advice, and they are often the only people who will do anything at all about some situations, such as venereal disease among prostitutes. None of these areas are the primary responsibility of the police, and the police are not equipped or trained to deal in a very satisfactory way with many of the problems which arise. It is not always clear, however, when a legal, or tertiary control, problem may be involved, so the police must respond to calls, and once there they try to give what advice or help they can.

          Interpersonal problems come to a head when people are interacting with one another. During the work day when the various specialists are holding office hours, the people who are their potential clients are also at work and separated from their wives and husbands. On the weekends when people are not controlled by the interactive institutions of their jobs, they spend more time in each other's company, they often drink and suppress whatever personal controls they might have in other situations, and when problems arise, the police are the only agency which can take care of them.

          The police pick up many tasks because they are the only agency available. Emergency notifications for people who do not have telephones are sometimes taken care of by the police, as are found property, sickness, loose animals, and disputes between landlords and tenants. The police actually spend a large portion of their time dealing with such problems, and a relatively small portion dealing with crime, or crime prevention. In fact, if one were to deduce the mandate of the police from their time allocation, one might conclude that they were a miscellaneous social service and control agency which maintained a sideline in crime work. The fact that the police are not such an agency, however, keeps them from developing a sustained concern with the social problems which come to their attention.

          Professional social work involves a planned intervention over a period of time and often a knowledgeable referral to other agencies. Since it is not officially their responsibility to take care of the various problems they do take care of, the police try to avoid the sustained interest which would be required to do the job well.

"Whenever certain known persons come to the attention of officers, it is said that they are "acting up again." The avoidance of sustained concern and attention is part of the official posture of the police and an expression of the fact that the illness as such is of little interest and that it acquires relevance only through its unpredictable exacerbations."[99]

          The intervention which the police practice often comes at a period in the development of the problem where "talking it over" is largely out of the question, because the problem has developed to the point that violence is highly likely, if it has not already occurred. When problems reach this point, there are few community agencies which are equipped to deal with them besides the police. The fact that police officers are armed and equipped for violence is necessary in many family disturbance calls. In the United States in the five-year period 1960-1965, fifty-four police officers were killed answering disturbance calls. This made disturbance calls one of the largest categories of police deaths for that period.[100] Even were some other social agency to attempt to take over the miscellaneous social control functions of the police, it would probably be necessary to arm them and equip them with police-type powers because of the potential danger of the situation.

          Although most of the social service functions the police perform seem to be accidental accretions to their mandate resulting from their armed availability, there have been police officers and police departments which have suggested that some forms of social work were proper parts of the police function.

"In a remarkable report on "Policemen as Social Workers," rendered in 1919, Chief Vollmer (of Berkeley, California) urged all cops to take an active interest, and even assume leadership wherever possible in general movements to improve their communities. It was an essential part of crime prevention and control, he said, for policemen to help get better housing in slum areas, better schools, more health clinics for children, improved welfare services for indigents, more adequate aid for the physically and mentally handicapped."[101]

The San Francisco Police Department has a far reaching Community Relations detail which involves its officers in the problems of the various minority groups in the city, in ways which are very much unrelated to conventional police work. This broadened view of the police function may well be the "wave of the future" but it faces many structural conflicts with conventional police organization, such as arise when Community Relations Officers do not inform the Department of crimes they become aware of, or when the Community Relations Officer sides with a complainant against the police, or when the officer "goes native" with the group he is serving.[102] The traditional social services which the police perform do not cause this conflict because the "police" function is always seen as primary, and other "professional" concerns are ignored. For example, should an officer become aware of a crime committed by a disputant in a family fight, he might arrest simply on the basis of the crime, or he might use the crime as a handy lever to solve the family fight for the moment. A social worker or any other person professionally concerned with the difficulties the family was having would not adopt the tactic of arresting one of the participants because it would ultimately worsen the situation, but it is a major tactic of the police because of their primary commitment to maintain public order and their lack of interest in the problems of the family. This same defect in the nature of the service rendered runs through all of the social services dispensed by the police. Each tertiary control agency probably functions best when it is providing the type of control in which its legitimated competences lie.

Three Types of Extra-legal Social Control Provided by the Police


          Alcoholics. --Alcohol is involved in many police problems. In many cases, the fact that a person had been drinking was undoubtedly related to the action which brought him to the attention of the police, but the police pay primary attention to the act and rarely arrest a person for drunkenness unless he is so drunk that he is incapable of caring for himself. Incapability varies with different situations. If a person is driving a car, he will be dangerous at a point where he would seldom be a problem were he not driving. If the weather is cold and rainy, the same level of drunkenness will be more dangerous to the drunk than if it is warm and dry. If a person has friends to take him home, he is in less danger than if he is living in the street. All of these factors seem to enter into arrests for drunkenness. As a consequence, some people are much more likely to be arrested for drunkenness than are others, notably homeless men. Their arrest also helps control minor crime. The process of arrest, re-arrest, short sentences and small fines does nothing to help the drunk except to give him a home for the night, which may be valuable in the winter but is no solution to the problem. In Washington, D.C., drunks are apparently sentenced to a rehabilitation center instead of jail.[103] Regardless of the ultimate disposition, at present, the social service rendered by the police is mostly keeping the drunk from dying of exposure. Some officers have suggested that the police could perform a more creative role:

"Some may be inclined to think that Police Officers are paid to enforce laws, not to perform the duties of psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers.Let us be realistic about this. We, as Police Officers, will be in a position to offer this type of professional help, by recognizing the symptoms of the problem, by understanding what action is necessary, giving the right advice and moral support long before any physician or social worker will have occasion to render their service. Time is of great importance, because the sooner the persons are afforded opportunities to help themselves, the less they will deteriorate physically and mentally, the less they will lose in terms of self-respect, employment ability, and family."[104]

The difficulty is that there does not appear to be any effective solution to alcoholism, particularly when it is found in conjunction with the life style of the homeless man.

          On occasion, an officer will recommend to a wife who has a drinking husband that she have him committed by contacting the District Attorney's office for an alcoholic commitment petition. Possibly in some cases, officers offer other advice or referrals, but if they do, it is based on their own individual knowledge, not department policy.[105] With these exceptions, the only service performed by the police for the alcoholic is protecting him from danger and freezing, at a fair cost to him in terms of fine or jail term, by arresting him and sending him to jail. Drunk arrests are the largest single cate­gory of arrests for most police departments in the country. Legal controls are maladapted to controlling excessive drinking.

Mentally Ill

          Mentally Ill. --Just as with drinking, a great many of the people the police deal with are apparently afflicted with some sort of mental problem. Seen against the background of the people the police routinely deal with, a mental problem must be of some stature to become a matter of police concern. On two occasions, I have been in the homes of people who were extremely disorganized where the cause did not seem to be alcohol or drugs. In each case, both my partner and I recognized that we were in the presence of a person with a serious disorder, and in each case, we left after attempting to reassure the person but without taking any other action. In one case, where a woman had hailed us on the street and asked us in to hear her story of being followed and persecuted by homosexuals who had put listening devices in her house and some type of mysterious ray projector which she could feel at times, we talked with her for about a half hour, suggested that she keep her doors and windows locked and call us if anything came up. When we left, I suggested that we had encountered a case of paranoia, my partner, however, said to put on the report that she apparently suffered from acute loneliness.[106]

          In the second case, the dispatcher who gave us the call asked us to check to see if the complainant was mentally disturbed and, if so, to file a report card so that they would know about her in the future. She was disturbed, seriously. After talking with her briefly, we left. If these cases seem to involve a lack of responsibility, they must be seen in terms of the people that the police deal with. Egon Bittner put it very well:

"... policemen confront perversion, disorientation, misery, irresoluteness, and incompetence much more often than any other social agent. They can readily point to a large number of persons who, to all appearances, are ready for the "booby hatch," but who nevertheless seem to lead such lives as they can without outside aid or intervention. Against this background, the requirement that one should have a good brain and even temper belongs to the same category of wishes as that one should have a large and steady income."[107]

There are many people walking the streets of Westville who could not get out of a mental hospital, no matter how crowded it was. Some officers I have worked with took pride in their collection of "8680's", that is, insane persons.[108] They would make a point of stopping to talk with them so that I could see just how crazy they were. Some of these people were known to almost every officer I have worked with. Others had simply come to the attention of a single officer. There are routine situations which involve recurring contacts with mentally disturbed people that are objects of mirth for the officers.         The eighty-year-old woman who calls the police to help her put her three sixty-odd-year-old "boys" to bed is an example. She is such a long-standing problem that most of the dispatchers and most of the officers know about her, but occasionally a new dispatcher sends a new officer to investigate the complaint, and his discomfort is enjoyed by the other officers.

          “Mental illness" is a conceptual scheme, not a description of behavior. The police officer routinely deals with concrete behavior, and the behavior of someone who is "mentally ill" may not be vastly different from the behavior of an alcoholic with chronic brain syndrome, or acute brain syndrome, or the behavior of a person who is having a bad reaction to drugs, legal or illegal, or the behavior of a person who has been stunned in an accident, or who has been in so many fights that he is "punchy." Additionally, the police deal with many persons who are mentally retarded, senile, or just "strange." If the police officer were to use the criteria of the psychiatrist to judge mental illness, and were he to systematically sweep up all the people who met the criteria, the entire mental hospital system of the state would probably fall apart under the influx of patients. In many cases, the disturbed people with whom the police have routine contact have worked out a daily round of activities (interactive institutions) that they can manage, because all the people they contact day after day take account of their disturbance and nonetheless carry on in some sort of relationship. A factor often overlooked by academics and professionals who live in an academic or professional milieu is that the normal distribution curve of intelligence has two tails, and there are many people "making it" who theoretically should not be able to. They do not "make it" very well, and tend to gravitate to the less expensive areas of the city, but here they find others who do not have high expectations of them-and who shrug off their idiosyncrasies. Bittner suggests that one tactic used by the police to avoid hospitalization of a mentally ill person who is not causing any particular disturbance is to return him to his friends who will take care of him, that is, to return him to the social control of his daily round of activities and contacts.

          Actual hospitalization proceedings, according to Bittner, appear to be based on "overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of illness" except in the case of attempted suicide which almost always results in hospitalization.[109] The reason for this exception is not hard to find, the attempted suicide is the clearest possible example of the category "danger to himself," which is part of the legal basis for police emergency apprehension of the mentally ill.

          Similar to mental illness are the results of various drugs. Unless the behavior produced by the drug amounts to a crime, or is accompanied by nudity in the streets or something similar, the police tend to overlook it. On a number of occasions, my partners and I have stopped people who appeared to me to be "high," generally on marijuana or methamphetamine, but, when no odor of alcohol could be detected, they were let go

          When senile old people wander away from their homes, or when small children are reported missing, the police immediately begin a search to find them and return them. In terms of behavior, these are parallel to the usual disposition of mental cases, an attempt is made to seek or return a person who is not mentally capable of doing it himself (i.e., is without sufficient primary controls) to the control of his family or friends.

          Many of the people arrested for illegal acts appear to be "mentally ill" but aside from the fact that the officer is there to enforce the law and not to make civil commitments, it is very difficult to tell just what is wrong with a person who staggers about, mumbles incoherently, shouts obscenities, suddenly clears and responds well to questions, and then starts staggering again.[110] The illegal act is clear, its processing is routine, and it is the officer's job to arrest people for committing illegal acts. His lack of concern with the origins of his prisoner's bizarre behavior thus is a protection against getting involved in the unusual and possible treacherous difficulties of civil commitment.

          I have not had any contact with people who were actually being processed as "mentally ill" in Westville, but if Bittner's description is applicable to other areas besides the one he studied, it would seem that the social service rendered by the police is notable for the mentally ill, in part because they are people with whom the police must deal but who are not engaged in the sort of illegal activities which would lead to the use of arrest as a solution. Thus the alcoholic found in the streets gets sent to jail because public drunkenness is a crime (unless he is in a coma, then he goes to the hospital in an ambulance) but since there is no such handy disposition for the mentally ill, the police help them back into a situation in which they are taken care of by their small social system and only resort to hospitalization in extreme cases. Of course, there are far more drunks and they are often more dangerous than mentally ill persons, which may be related to the dispositions afforded each.

Family fights

          Family fights. --The "family dispute" is one of the most frequent assignments a radio car will have on a weekend in the poorer areas of the city. Poor people are more violent in their interpersonal relations than are middle class people, and their family disputes tend to reflect this greater level of violence. While they may be more disposed to calling the police than middle class families, they also may have more warrant because violence is involved more often. Very few people would call the police to complain that their spouse was being mentally cruel, or was withholding sexual relationships, which tends to be the way middle class people fight, but many would call when they had been hit, stabbed, or shot. The family fight is notorious for its danger for the officers responding to the call. In Westville, which mostly uses one man cars, a second car is always dispatched on family disturbance calls. The seriousness with which such assignments are considered may be seen from the following guidelines published for the use of Westville officers going to family disputes:

"1. Be prompt. Inform the Communications Section if you cannot respond immediately to the assignment.

2. Wait for a cover unit whenever practical, except in cases where immediate action is called for.

3. If possible, do not walk directly up to the door. Take advantage of shadows or the area to the side of the walkway. Look around, listen and observe closely as you approach the house or apartment.

4. Do not stand directly in front of the door but, rather, stand away from it on the doorknob side. This will force the occupant to look around the doorjamb to see you and also will protect you from any shots fired through the door as you wait for it to be opened.

5. Be alert when the door opens. You are unaware of the temperament or mental state of the persons inside and cannot know exactly what to expect. The situation inside may be merely a simple argument or it may be homicide.

6. If a weapon is involved, locate and take possession of it immediately. Unless the weapon has actually been used in an offense, or specifically involved in a threat against the complainant, it cannot be seized or confiscated as property held for safekeeping."[111]

Although there are a number of possibilities involved in any family disturbance, alone or in combination, such as one or both parties being intoxicated, one party demanding the eviction of the other, arguments over what is community property when one or the other is leaving, arguments over the custody of the children, the possibility that restraining orders may have been violated, the possibility that one party may be in the act of committing adultery, any one of which has both legal and legal-practical considerations for the officer, the most common element is that one party will have committed an assault on the other which may be a misdemeanor assault or a felony assault with a deadly weapon.

          Naturally the officer is concerned that he not become the next victim of an assault so he attempts to take and keep control over the situation. The techniques recommended by the Department include: taking charge of the situation immediately, not allowing the dispute to continue, allowing only one person to speak at a time, separating the disputants, controlling the movement of all persons so that they cannot arm themselves, being impartial and after separating the disputants sympathizing with each but not in such a manner as to imply that one is right and the other wrong, appealing to their common sense and giving them a solution, not being unnecessarily authoritarian, being empathetic, taking the time to do a good job, and attempting to find an equitable solution.[112] These guidelines are fairly closely followed whenever possible, although in an actual situation when there is blood on the floor, Christmas tree ornaments being hurled across the room, a hysterical woman with a knife, a man with a rifle, and several onlookers whose relation to the situation is unclear, in a house where the furniture is mostly askew or smashed, with the pervasive smell of sweat, blood and anger, and- somewhere a radio playing, it is easier to talk about controlling the situation and coming to an equitable solution than it is to do it.[113]

          One of the best techniques to use returns social control to the participants in the interactive institution, allows the officer to escape without being assaulted, and, hopefully, provides a solution which will provide some sort of equilibrium. If the police officer can formulate two or more alternatives for the people concerned, and can keep from backing either person into an unacceptable situation, the people can become involved in making the decision, and once having made it, they will be somewhat more committed to the implied course of action than they would if the officer had ordered them to do it. The difficulty arises in formulating the alternatives.[114] Very often conflicts have a rational basis and all alternatives available have been thought out by the disputants and have been found to be unacceptable, at which point they begin fighting. If the officer can come up with good alternatives which had not occurred to the participants, he may be successful in effecting a reconciliation.

          He may also attempt to reinforce and made salient important features of the disputants' self-image which are incompatible with the present situation. Thus, if the officer thinks that fighting is not the customary method used for settling disputes in a given family, he may stop all the argument, get both disputants' attention, and say, "You're too intelligent to fight like that. Aren't you ashamed of yourselves? Intelligent people like you can talk out a problem without fighting like slum dwellers." It does not solve anything but it preserves the peace, possibly for a whole evening.

          Often the police officer will give the disputants advice which seems to him to be practical, but, since he does not take into account the power of the interactive institutions of their habitualized life style which his advice would disrupt, the probability of its acceptance is quite low. For example, one family fight I went to was clearly just a round in a continuing battle. The wife had a large bandage on her head covering the damage done when her husband hit her three days before with a pitcher. She was bruised from the present encounter, and later showed us a knife scar across her thigh which was a couple of months old. Her husband had two scars which had required a number of stitches each from some previous encounter with his wife's knife. The current dispute had started over which television program to watch, and had ended with three police officers standing in the living room. The advice my partner gave was to "lay off the booze."[115]

          Other advice which would solve the problem but which is unlikely to be followed is to "consult an attorney," to "get a divorce," to "go to the District Attorney and swear out an intemperance warrant," and to "go to the District Attorney and swear out a warrant on Monday." Although these paths are undoubtedly followed sometimes, they do not really answer the problems that the disputants have. It is a bit like killing flies with a revolver to suggest that a wife have her husband jailed, committed, or divorced for hitting her, when he is her sole means of support.

          Another fight illustrates a temporary solution. In the incident mentioned above where the woman had the knife, her husband the rifle, and the Christmas tree ornaments were flying, we suggested to the wife, who claimed that her husband had hit her "along side the head" with his rifle, that she get a restraining order if she didn't want him around. (We were the third set of police officers that day and I had participated in arresting her less than a month before for stabbing him in the back of the head.) We took the husband outside and at first suggested that he leave because he would have nothing but grief, then told him in no uncertain terms not to come back that night. We also told him how to go about taking out a "drinking petition" on her. Were they both to take our legal advice, she would be committed to a hospital, and he would be legally prohibited from coming into their home. Our temporary solution was that the husband left for the night, and tertiary controls were not activated.[116]

          Had he not gone, we would probably have arrested him for disturbing the peace as we did in another instance where a man returned to harass his wife after we had told him to leave. Of course, this requires the wife to perform a citizen's arrest, but it is not terribly difficult in many cases to convince one party or another to arrest if the officer is only interested in a temporary solution and is not concerned with the complainant's later refusal to sign a complaint and prosecute the case.[117]

          If neither party commits an assault on the other in the officer's presence, and neither party will make a citizen's arrest, and it still appears that the situation will deteriorate when the officers leave, if the husband or wife has been drinking, as is almost universally the case, the officers can prod the drunk until he gets so mad that he follows the officers outside, and then arrest him for being drunk in public.[118]

          On occasion, the entrance of an officer into a family dispute creates a more serious situation than existed before with violence "more likely to occur in all possible combinations and permutations of assaulter and assaultee,"[119] One of the most frequent events is for both the husband and wife to turn on the officer.         This is the primary reason that Westville assigns two or three officers to such situations.

          It is sometimes the case that an officer has to enter over the objections of one spouse (i. e., enter an interactive institution over the objection of a participant), but, if the call for assistance came from the other, it is considered legitimate.[120]

          Family fights offer the police officer almost nothing, except the possibility of being assaulted, and by their nature tend to show up time and again. This leaves him with a sense of frustration. If a police officer decides to "play" family fights as a straight police officer, he can avoid some of this frustration because he can put somebody in jail almost every time. The Department does not prefer this, suggesting arrest as the last alternative, and most police officers do not arrest disputants very often. But they don't do very much else for them either.

          In all three areas mentioned, alcoholism, mental illness, and family fights, the police officer acts as a social first-aid agent, or as Bittner put it, a psychiatric first-aid,[121] but only in mental illness is there any routine professional follow-up. In the cases of alcoholics and family disputes, the police are trying to put severed limbs back on with band-aids. If they did nothing, the consequences might be murder, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, freezing to death, or merely more public drunks.

One writer has concluded:

"Whenever penal sanctions are employed to deal with problems of social service, two things are almost certain to happen and a third result may often occur. First, the social services will not be effectively rendered. Second, the diversion of personnel, resources and energy required in the effort will adversely affect the ability of a system of criminal justice to fulfill those functions that it can uniquely perform. Finally, the effort may sometimes result in the corruption and demoral­ization of the agencies of criminal justice."[122]

          Social control is not effectively rendered. The diversion of personnel may interfere with day-to-day goals, although surely goals were set with these long-standing services in mind. No corruption was produced in Westville by these activities, although there is a certain amount of demoralization associated with frustrating situations such as family fights when closure cannot be achieved.

          The police would probably be glad to be rid of these social services if there were some acceptable alternative. One Westville Lieutenant said: "So, alcoholics are sick. I don't care what I do with them. If they care enough to build a new wing on the hospital, I'll gladly take them there. Meanwhile I can't leave them lying in the street, and jail is the only place to take them."[123] No one has even suggested an alternative to police action in family disputes, and the dealings with the mentally ill are probably a legitimate police function as practiced.

Interactive Institutional Control of Police Behavior: Secondary Control Over Tertiary Control Agents

          It is possible to chart a police department's place in the organizational structure of a city government, and to take into account the fact that the city government exists within a community, by appro­priate notations and lines on the chart. Were this to be done, the result would be similar to the result when such a chart is limned for a complex organization: the officially constituted formal and hierarchical relationships would be shown, and the interactive structure of the organization would be left to the imagination. The "informal organization" consisting of interpersonal relationships could, of course, be included, but the most important relationships, those which have grown up out of the routine transactions of a succession of actors, and have become unlegitimated ("theoretically" or "sym­bolically," unlegitimated, but possibly "practically" legitimated) institutions, would still be left out.

          Norton E. Long has suggested away of viewing the local community which seems congruent with my own observations. He wrote:

"Observation of certain local communities makes it appear that inclusive, over-all organization for many general purposes is weak or non-existent. Much of what occurs seems to just happen with accidental trends becoming cumulative over time and producing results intended by nobody. A great deal of the communities' activities consist of undirected co-operation of particular social structures, each seeking particular goals and, in doing so, meshing with others."[124]

Long suggests that the occupationally structured group activities that coexist in the local community can be looked on as games.     The slang question, "What's your game?," possibly well represents the sense in which he is using the word.

"Looked at this way, in the territorial system there is a political game, a banking game, a contracting game, a newspaper game, a civic organization game, an ecclesiastical game, and many others. Within each game there is a well established set of goals whose achievement indicates success or failure for the participants, a set of socialized roles making participant behavior highly predictable, a set of strategies and tactics handed down through experience and occasionally subject to improvement and change, an elite public whose approbation is appreciated, and, finally, a general public which has some appreciation for the standing of the players. Within the game the players can be rational in the varying degrees that the structure permits. At the very least they know how to be­have, and they know the score."[125]

He goes on to suggest a way in which these occupational institutions are related to one another through transactions involving individual players:

"Sharing a common territorial field and collaborating for different and particular ends in the achievement of over-all social functions, the players in one game make use of the players in another and are, in turn, made use of by them. Thus the banker makes use of the newspaperman, the politician, the contractor, the ecclesiastic, the labor leader, the civic leader--all to further his success in the banking game-but, reciprocally, he is used to further the others' success in the newspaper, political, contracting, ecclesiastical, labor, and civic games. Each is a piece in the chess game of the other, sometimes a willing piece, but, to the extent that the games are different, with a different end in view."[126]

The outcome of these transactions, according to Long, is government for the community. These transactions between institutions are made by players in one institution making a bargain with players in other institutions, in which some quid pro quo relationship obtains. Although Long only suggests that the leaders of these occupational institutions make transactions, it appears to me that other combinations are possible as well, and more relevant when the unit under study is a single institution rather than the community as an ecology of institutions.

        The leaders can make transactions among themselves, they can make transactions which will be carried out by their subordinates, and the subordinates can make transactions in their own interest or in the interest of their occupational institution. It is possible to ask cui bono, who benefits, of each of these transactions. In many cases, both institutions benefit, in some, only one will, in others, one insti­tution and one individual will benefit.

          Episodic transactions are of less interest than recurring ones for the shaping of police behavior. Episodic transactions are probably carried out between leaders more than routine transactions. Subordinates carry out routine transactions which have been carried out before, often before they even joined the organization. For subordinates, these routine transactions are an aspect of social reality which they learn in the process of being socialized into the job. The origins of some institutionalized transactions may be lost to them.

"Their knowledge of the institutional history is by way of 'hearsay.' The original meaning of the institutions is inaccessible to them in terms of memory."[127]

Each of these institutions arises as a result of a specific, recurring transaction. There is no reason to assume that these transactions are functionally integrated with one another, except that linguistic sense may be made of the entire pattern because the participants "know" that their social world is a consistent whole, and feel con­strained to explain its functioning and malfunctioning in terms of this "knowledge."[128]

          In the police department, the patrolman makes many of the interactive transactions, some for his own use, for example, with restaurants, others are made for him by high-level decisions or transactions between police officials and various community interests, for example, enforcing parking meter ordinances. Still other transactions are made by the patrolman with both his own and the department's welfare in mind, for example, not arresting a newspaper editor.

          No matter who begins the transaction the patrolman is involved in, he gets the interactive feedback. A transaction which results in his enforcing an unpopular law will make him the target of hostility regardless of his role in establishing the policy. The policeman is the skin of the police department. He feels the contacts with other community institutions because he is the man on the spot. His consideration for his own comfort may on occasion result in a pattern of enforcement which tends to undercut a transaction made by his superiors, and a part of the supervision and establishment of production "norms" can be seen in this light as an attempt to carry out the bargain originally made by controlling the officer's behavior. The patrolman generally prefers to work within the consensus of popular morality, that is, laws are preferred which are supported by customs, because his efforts are strengthened by existing interactive social controls.[129] Formal legal controls sometimes result in a feeling of un-justice and the police officer becomes keenly aware of this discrep­ancy when he deals with the people involved.

          The Chief of Police takes the lead in making many transactions for the police department. Westley lists a few of the activities of the Chief of Police in his study which may be reinterpreted as transactions

". . . the placating of indignant citizens, the fixing of traffic tickets, the doing of favors for people with influence, such as assigning patrolmen to meetings, prompting the detective bureau to work especially hard on a particular case, etc."[130]

He also demonstrates the way in which a broader transaction is carried out in his political department:

". . . should his political superiors insist that prostitution and gambling in town be left alone, the chief can keep the patrolmen from interfering with these enterprises. He would merely let it be known that this was his desire and the men would obey."[131]

          With a few exceptions, the only trading materials which the police have to use in striking bargains are, first, the presence of officers at places where they might be needed and would not otherwise be assigned, and, second, the non-enforcement of selected laws.

          There are two categories of laws, in legal terminology, laws covering acts mala in se, bad in themselves, such as murder, robbery and rape, and laws covering acts mala prohibita, bad only because they are prohibited, such as consenting homosexuality, gambling, prostitution, and many traffic codes. Though no formal typology of law corresponds completely to current customary assessments, and whether some acts, such as narcotics use, are mala in se or mala prohibita is unclear, the distinction is useful in speaking of law non-enforcement as trading material.

          In general, the community is concerned that laws against behavior mala in se be enforced. There is generally a victim who has been wronged and who has some interest in the outcome of the case. While mala in se charges may be used in a limited sense in assisting the District Attorney in getting a bargain plea of guilty to a lesser charge, there would be some public outcry if mala in se offenders were known to be let go as a regular thing. When a burglar cooperated with the Westville Police Department by confessing to a number of burglaries:

"We had him cop out to only one charge because we don't really want it made public that he committed the other burglaries. If it were made public, then the question might be raised as to why we didn't charge him with the other burglaries, and the public doesn't understand these things."[132]

This reluctance to be seen as under-enforcing mala in se laws limits their use as trading material. Custom evaluates mala in se crimes seriously. In addition, the perpetrators of such crimes tend to be individual operators, not connected with influential people or with any other social structure which could be of benefit to the police, except possibly as informers.

           The community is not so concerned about laws against behavior mala prohibita because in many cases the so-called victims were willing partners to the crime, and because the people who engage in such behavior come from all social strata, and occasionally have some influence. In the absence of an accident, many vehicle code violations are considered more a nuisance than a crime and the people guilty of them are often interested in getting free from the charges. Gambling, prostitution, and liquor law violations are similarly situated with regard to custom. In these cases, the temptation is strong to use selective enforcement, or partial enforcement, as trading material with other community institutions. Thus immunity from arrest may be traded for information.

The Police Institution and Various Community Institutions

          The Newspaper.

          The community newspaper constitutes one of the most important institutions in the community because it is one of the few institutions with community wide interests:

"A major protagonist of things in general in the territorial system is the newspaper. Along with the welfare worker, museum director, civic technician, etc., the newspaper has an interest in terms of its broad reading public in agitating general issues and projects."[133]

The press manages to keep the various city offices in relation to each other and to the community. It serves as a public watch over the activities of the police department and is extremely important to the continued quiet functioning of the department. The newspaper provides prestige and recognition to the individual officer, and sometimes to the departments as well.[134] Should the newspaper begin to editorially call for the head of the Police Chief for some delict, it has a high probability of causing trouble. Depending on the nature of the police department, there are a number of transactions which have been mentioned. In Denver:

"'When I had been on the force a little while a kid patrolman came to me very upset. He had issued a ticket for speeding to the editor of one of the local papers. This editor swings a lot of weight and the police brass don't want to be on the wrong side of him. He had been roaring along the highway to the airport and the kid patrolman had flagged him down. The guy was purple in the face and said, "I'm the editor of the Daily Blat and I've got to catch a plane." The kid said, "I don't care if you're the Queen of Sheba, you were doing eighty miles an hour and you ain't going to drive like that on this road," and he wrote out a ticket. "you'll regret it," the editor said. The next day the kid was called in and told that he was being reassigned. He was taken out of the car and put on a night beat in one of the roughest parts of town. The kid loved to drive the car and loved being a highway cop, but there was nothing anybody could do about it." (The newspaper of which this man is editor, incidentally, conducted a lofty campaign to "weed out police corruption" when Blake and Hastings were apprehended stealing.)"[135]

Some officers would say that "the kid" got what he deserved for making a stupid mistake. One writer on police matters suggests that the officer should cultivate the friendship of the regularly assigned reporter because he can be "your best friend or your worst enemy--depending entirely on how you handle him."[136] Orlando W. Wilson considered relations with the press sufficiently important to write:

"While the entire public must be kept informed, some individuals in the community exert such a powerful and widespread influence as to deserve special attention. The police chief is frequently justified in taking these into his confidence and discussing his proposed plans with them in order to ensure their understanding and approval and to gain their assistance in informing and winning the support of the press. The chief should discuss his plans frankly with them in order to avoid criticisms that sometimes spring from ignorance of the purpose and nature of the operation and to obtain the active help of the newspapers in disseminating information to the public."[137]

In Mountain City, regular officers are detailed to the counting rooms of both daily newspapers when money handling is going on.[138]  I found that all of the liquor, wine, and beer confiscated by the Westville Police is kept in the property room for six months until it is declared surplus, and then it is given to the newsmen in the press room. My partner, when he heard this, said: "All of this and they still shaft us."[139] His comment reveals that he feels that the implicit bargain of the exchange had not been kept. Though the Westville Daily News is quite pro-police, there are occasional acid comments by some of the columnists which outrage the officers.

          Sports and Other Public Events.

          For many sports events, police officers, especially in uniform, are admitted free. Should trouble arise, they are expected to stop it, but mostly their uniformed presence constitutes the exchange for free admission. This exchange process was brought into focus when a new sports stadium was built and hired its own security guards. The management decided that the police were not to be let in free. Even to get a marked patrol car into the parking area required having a pass. This policy was rigidly enforced, with the exception of the unpaid reserve officers who were working traffic for the event being admitted if their names were on an advance list. The regular police officers were not admitted, however, and they resented it greatly. One is reported to have said:

"Wait until they have a fight out there at a rock-and-roll concert and their security can't handle it. They'll call us. We'll come. But don't bet on when we'll get there."[140]

The problem was considered serious enough to be mentioned at an "all-hands" meeting, where the Chief was quoted as saying that we were co-operating with the public of the city, not with the management of the stadium, and that next year it will be different.[141]


          Police officers in most cities appear to get their meals free or at a considerable discount in a fairly explicit exchange with the restaurants.[142] On quiet beats in Westville, there are few restaurants that feed, while on the more lively beats there are a great number that either give the beat man free food or a discount, or, in some instances, will feed any police officer who comes in. The presence of police officers in these drive-in restaurants or hamburger stands apparently keeps enough trouble away so that the restaurant owners are happy to feed them. This is a good example of the institutionalized transaction preceding the appearance of any given officer on the scene. A new officer will soon learn, as I did, that the restaurant personnel get very upset if he tries to pay them. The officer is then faced with the problem of either searching out a restaurant which will take his money or giving special "protection" to one that is "paying" him. A future conflict might also arise if the restaurant owner were to ask for a special favor from the officer. Most officers decide to "eat free," if it is possible. An officer states:

"In downtown Mountain City, a foot or radio car officer virtually takes his choice of which fine restaurant he wants to eat in on a particular night. Some restaurant owners become insulted if they don't see you for a couple of weeks and exhort you to come more often. Cocktails are always available. In outlying areas, the situation is often the reverse with the officers paying for very poor, or, at best, average food. If you work downtown, arrangements can be made with nightclub owners for "free nights" and other benefits. Such contacts are usually made with "bouncer" door men who desperately need the cooperation of the police because of the fights they get involved in. Owners realize that a formal report against their place with a copy to the ABC can really cause trouble so they usually are extremely solicitous with the police."[143]

          In some cases, the "gifts" to officers are more substantial, raising more serious questions about their acceptance. In Minneapolis, for example, on skid row:

"I entered a beer joint and asked the bartender for change for a fifty-cent piece so I could get a package of cigarettes. He gave me seventy-five cents change. He usually does this for officers on the beat so that they can pick up a free package of cigarettes. After talking to the owner a while, he handed me a note which read: "Give bearer two bottles of whiskey and charge to C. N."[144]


          The transactions which go on between the police and the businessmen of a city are many and transacted at different levels. One transaction comes about when the businessmen lobby for parking meters in front of their stores to improve their turnover; the city profits from the meter and citation revenue, and the police department gets citizens angry because of the citations. An officer states:

"Many officers shop in uniform, because it makes it easier to "get a break." You are identified as an officer when you enter and usually you are "taken care of." Sometimes a place is "burned" by too many men purchasing too many goods, and if the officer who committed the transgression can be identified, he is criticized. I recall an incident where a donut shop provided a couple of dozen donuts for each watch at the beginning of the watch. The uniformed radio car man routinely picked them up and brought them to the station for the "crew." One of the radio car men got greedy and picked up a dozen to take home at the end of his watch. There went the station donuts, and that man was criticized. In Mountain City, certain officers have arrangements to purchase just about anything "wholesale" and would never shop retail. The savings can be spectacular."[145]

For the many businessmen who operate on the edge of the law, the police serve a number of useful functions. Westley gives an example of a police officer who finally discovered that he was being used by a crooked bartender to get rid of customers the bartender had gotten drunk, beaten up, and robbed.[146] He also gives an example of a tavern owner who was making demands on the police and then being uncooperative. For this breach of the exchange relationship, the officers had a ready solution:

"Suppose for example they should get a call that there was a fight on. Well, maybe they would only be two blocks away. But they wouldn't hit the place right away. They would drive the car around the block for two or three minutes and then they would park the car in front of the club and then they would take it real easy going in. Well, you know how a fight is. You got to stop them right away or they do a lot of damage. Only takes thirty seconds--couple of minutes--to wreck a place. That guy would have plenty of damage in his joint."[147]

In this case and the stadium case, the decision that the officer makes is a very low visibility one; who is to say that he was not delayed by traffic. Although it is not always effective, it provides a relatively powerful sanction for breaches of institutionalized transactions.

Businessmen are important to the community and the police will go out of their way on occasion to help them out. If a businessman complains that cars are parking on his lot at night, an officer will drop around and ticket them.[148] If a businessman takes home large amounts of money, he may be given a ride in a patrol car, even against department policy.[149]

          Transportation Companies

          The police act to a certain extent as the social control arm of the various transportation companies because they look for various traffic or criminal violations being committed by the drivers and report them, if serious, to the company. There are certain violations, such as high flagging (running with the meter off so that the driver makes all the money and the company none), which result in instant dismissal for a taxi driver. Police officers "ride free" on busses, either in or out of uniform. Though the formal rules limit these free rides to the city limits, the rule is not enforced, and police officers can generally ride anywhere by showing their badges. Individual bus drivers rarely challenge an officer even if he is riding against the rules because they fear that he may remember them when he is in his patrol car and issue the ticket which will cost them their job[150] or they may be glad for the protection.[151]

          Influential Groups and People.

          A fairly explicit exchange goes on with influential people and groups in the community who for some reason need police aid at a function. Reserve officers are particularly useful for such operations because there is no genuine police work to be done, just traffic direction and guard duty, and, because in Westville reserves serve without pay, such favors cost the police department nothing. The beneficiaries of such favors are under some moral indebtedness to the police department which may result in some form of support for police goals in the city's political arena. I have been assigned to a Congregational Church supper, a Catholic high school dance, and a Christian Science lecture to help with the traffic and to guard the area. In all three of these cases, my presence was, so far as crime was concerned, pointless. Hundreds of other functions were going on all over the city, unattended by police officers, which created just as much traffic problem or needed guarding more. These other functions did not have an influential person to request police assistance. It is through such informal transactions that community power is manifested. A consequence is that the rich and powerful and their institutions get better police service than do the poor and powerless. A reciprocal consequence is that the rich and powerful support the police.

          The Community in General.

          Much of the work of the police consists of helping members of the public in non-criminal actions. Cats up trees, abandoned bicycles, helping people in wheel chairs up stairs, and elderly people in and out of bed are a large portion of the work done by the police. In Indianapolis, Indiana, such non-criminal activity (including accident investigation) accounts for over 86% of the police department's radio car time.[152] My own observations suggest that a similar portion, from 80 to 90 per cent, of a patrol officer's time is spent on non-criminal activity. This activity is generally helpful and results in the integration of the police with many, many community institutions as minor facilitating actors.

          Transactions with other community institutions constitute a large part of the social network which ties the territorial community together. It is through these sometimes episodic, often spontaneous, frequently unconscious bargains and standing relationships that the police department is integrated with the other people and institutions which, taken together, constitute the community of Westville as seen from the police game perspective. These relations constitute one of the most important social controls over police behavior.

          There are also transactions within the legal system, which usually constitute facilitating arrangements through which the abstract system of law is converted into a conventional and "customary" set of procedures for taking care of routine business.

The Police and Other Legal System and Government Institutions


          The police are evaluated, in part, on the basis of a statistic called the "clearance rate." This is the portion of crimes "known to the police" which have been cleared by arrest. If a department's clearance rate falls, it is a source of embarrassment; if it rises, it is a source of pride. The police naturally want their clearance rate to rise, and, aside from catching more suspects, there are several actions which they can take which will result in a higher "clearance rate." One of these is simply not to report crimes reported to them by the public, as was the case in Chicago before O. W. Wilson took over. In 1959, the Chicago police reported that 69,122 major crimes had taken place; in 1960, after the introduction of more accurate statistics, 129,742 crimes were reported, an apparent increase of 83 per cent.[153] In professional departments, where such underreporting is unlikely because of statistical controls, offenses can still be removed from the total number of crimes if they are reported as "suspicious circumstances" or are judged "unfounded." These operations consist of the police making a judgment that the victim may have been implicated in the crime, or may be making a false report, or may have been a willing participant when the reported crime took place.[154] By removing some offenses from the category of "crimes," the clearance rate rises.

          Since a crime is "cleared" when a suspect is arrested, it is possible for one suspect to "clear" a number of crimes for the police by confessing to them. Since no rational person is going to implicate himself in crimes when all he can look forward to is increasing the time he spends in prison, the police officer must offer a bargain to the criminal to get him to confess to a number of crimes. Since the only social control relevant at the moment is formal control, he does this by offering to drop the charges on all the other offenses and to only charge one. The criminal then "clears" a number of other offenses for the police, in the process "cleaning" himself (i.e., making sure that he will not later be charged with the offense), confesses to one offense, goes to prison for it, and has his chance for parole improved because he was only convicted of one offense. As a consequence, the small number of professional burglars who produce most of the burglaries tend to get light sentences in order to make the police "look good" on the FBI reports. Skolnick reports one Westville case in which a burglar who admitted to participating in more than four hundred burglaries, who cleared the burglaries and acted as an informant in another case, was simply allowed to finish a thirty-day term he was already serving.[155] A regularized process of exchange thus exists between participants in certain criminal activities and the police, whereby they both benefit, to the detriment of legal social control. In some cases, the police apparently simply inflate their clearance rates by charging additional offenses to an arrested person on the basis of the modus operandi, thereby removing the element of exchange from the process.[156] William F, Whyte commented on the growth of corrupt institutions:

"These generalizations do not mean that the police department and the racket organization enter into a great conspiracy and agree upon a common policy.. The relations between them are established not in the mass but between individuals of both groups, and the actions on both sides become a matter of habit and custom just as they do between other people and other groups. While a study reveals certain consistent patterns in the actions of men, it is not correct to assume that anyone planned them to be such as they are."[157]


          Some people give tips to the police because they think law and order is a good thing (that is, they think tertiary controls are congruent with their primary and secondary controls). If the police tried to solve crimes based only on freely given tips and information, they would fail almost completely. Information about, criminal activities exists in its highest concentration among people engaged in criminal activities, and these people are unlikely to think that law and order, at least as enforced against themselves, is a good thing. Thus they must be motivated to turn over the information they have to the police, and the police must find the motivation for them. They do this either by arresting them and then suggesting that a reduction may be had by informing, or by overlooking the criminal activities of regular informers. Immunity varies with the importance of the information given. Victimless criminals are the only ones regularly granted immunity for informing, and, if a specific complaint is made against the perpetrator, his immunity will probably be abridged.[158] To produce motivation for an arrested informer, a high formal penalty for his, preferably victimless, offense will give the police trading material:

"Since a functional prerequisite of an informant system is to reward the informer, any increase in penalty necessarily gives the narcotics policeman more to work with as anticipated rewards. Penalties thus are the capital assets of the informer system. High penalties for such relatively minor violations as possession of narcotics equipment, or a marihuana cigarette, increase the capital assets of the policeman and create conditions under which the informant system will work most efficiently. Policemen rarely make this point, preferring instead to support high penalties on the general grounds of deterrence; but a perfectly evident consequence of a punitive narcotics policy is its contribution to the smooth functioning of the narcotics information system by providing that system with requisite inputs."[159]

          Certain people who might otherwise be given difficulties by the police are left alone if they provide information. In downtown Westville, a bouncer for a club carries about with him a blackjack, an illegal weapon constituting a felony under state law, and is considered to be mentally disturbed, or at least suspect, by every police officer I have talked with, but is allowed to roam free. He gives information to the police.[160]

          With people who are in a position to observe criminal activity, but are not personally involved in it, some other customary mode of exchange must be developed. The officer attempts to develop interactive institutions with such people which will lead them to give him the information he needs. A writer on police work suggests:

"... hotel clerks and cab drivers are often good at sizing people up and are alert. . . . The honest men will be the ones who will give you the leads as to what woman is working from the hotel, which man has juvenile girls visit him, where a gambling game has opened, or when a house of prostitution starts. Appreciate the tips you receive and help these men earn their livings. If there is a squabble in the hotel of the kind where publicity will hurt the hotel's business, keep publicity to a minimum. If the newshounds will not play ball, you may have to talk it over with a superior and not make a written report of the occurrence. And whenever you send a drunk home in a cab, try to call the cabby who helps you. Very frequently people will stop you on the street and ask for directions to a cab stand. Keep your friends in mind.[161]

Of course, if these informal modes of exchange cannot be developed in an individual case, or if the person who can give information to the officer is not personally known to him, it is generally possible to find some violation of law which can be used as a lever. On one occasion, after a prisoner escaped from four of us during a melee, a boy who had witnessed the incident from a distance while sitting in his car was questioned about the identity of the escaped prisoner. He was uncooperative so one officer put him in the back of the patrol car and we drove toward the waiting patrol wagon. The officer then found out that he was on probation and pointed out that an arrest for violation of the "curfew"[162] might result in a revocation of probation. The boy then came forth with a name for the escaped prisoner and was released. Actually, since we did not find the prisoner, he may have traded worthless information for his release, which is one way of countering police strategy.

          The various transactions between police officer and individuals able to provide information, either regularly or in certain situations, are extremely important to the police officer who is "only as good as his information," and they constitute an important set of institutionalized relationships between various semi-legal, illegal, and street-life institutions, and the police.

          Intelligence information which has been gathered from a number of sources which would not be admissible in court may be useful in dealing with any marginal activity either as trading material or as a threat. The more a police officer knows, regardless of source, the better able he is to cope with the problems of his environment and to develop admissible evidence.[163]


          The police keep the jail in production. As one officer said, "We wouldn't be in business if we didn't have anybody to lock up." The jail employs jailers and runs on a certain average number of inmates. Were the number of inmates to fall, and stay low, there might be some pressure to leave jailer jobs unfilled as they fell vacant. One important consideration in operating jails is to have the capacity in both size and jailers to handle temporary overloads caused by riots or other disturbances. Were the jails to be run mostly empty with a small staff, the sudden influx of prisoners in a riot might exhaust the jail's reserve capacity. The routine arrest of drunks provides inmates for the jail. The drunks are processed in and out, they keep the jailers employed, they keep the jail full. This encourages the police to arrest drunks. If a riot should break out, the police will stop arresting drunks for the duration and fill the jail with rioters. If the police cease arresting alcoholics, due to recent Supreme Court decisions, some other category of offender will have to be found to fill the jails in normal times. Arrests for minor disturbances of the peace may go up. Some sort of a norm appears to be operating which keeps the police from filling the jail too full, however. One rainy, cold winter evening, my partner and I were arresting drunks, mostly at their own request, to get them out of the rain. As we brought in our third through seventh prisoner of the evening, a jailer asked, "Are you getting points for the number you bring in?" We were apparently "rate busting" by bringing in so many, and causing so much work for the jailers, with criminally unimportant prisoners.[164] Another jailer suggested we would eliminate the problem for good if we would just leave them alone and let them freeze to death.[165]

          Traffic Violations.

          The routine enforcement of parking regulations by uniformed police officers, and the assignment of a number of officers exclusively to traffic duty, or to a traffic division, may appear to be a waste of sworn personnel, although they do respond quickly to other crimes. The traffic division, however, is a riot squad doing something else. Should a number of extra officers be needed, the parking regulations can go un-enforced for a couple of days or weeks, and the traffic laws will not need much enforcing as there will be less traffic than normal in a city where street riots are taking place.

          Both parking tickets and drunks keep officers busy doing useful but non-essential work which justifies their existence in the economic transactions of the politics of the city.

          The City

          The police are employed by the city, but they also produce revenue for the city which could be seen as an exchange:

". . . whether it is realized or not, many cities have geared their budgets to the income derived from crime and disorder so that if the chief was capable enough to eliminate them, he would be unsuccessful. He could lose money for the city since the police department would not be even partially self-supporting. Fines and forfeitures add up to a substantial sum each year, and a considerable amount of labor is performed by trustees for some cities. Should the fines, forfeitures, and labor suddenly cease, taxes would either have to be raised or police personnel cut."[166]

Police Reserve officers are useful to the city in various ways. When Westville's auditorium is rented for an attraction, the police protection is included. Since the reserve costs nothing, the city benefits directly from the increased revenue. Schools and recreation centers can be operated with fewer paid supervisors when reserve officers are assigned to take care of trouble outside.

          There are many, many other transactions which take place between various departments of the city and the police. Some of these transactions benefit the public, some the police or the other department, and some the individuals involved. Each constitutes a control over that segment of the participants' behavior.

          Other Police Agencies

          The Westville Police maintain good working relations with many other police agencies. They allow the state narcotics agents to use the desks in the vice squad's office.[167] The Highway Patrol covers in on Hell's Angels parties within the city limits. The Park Rangers, who broadcast on the police radio frequency, often turn in drunks found in the parks to the police. In some cases, the police turn over cases to neighboring police departments in mid-investigation when they find that the actual crime took place outside the city limits. The Armed Services Police are routinely con­tacted when a serviceman is arrested as an informal way of avoiding "double jeopardy" for the serviceman.[168] Apparently such cordial relations are not found in all areas of the country.

          District Attorney, Public Defender

          The official output of the police department is sent to the courts to be prosecuted by the District Attorney and defended, often, by the Public Defender. The Westville Police Department apparently has a reputation for developing cases carefully with these offices:

"And the police just don't make mistakes in this town. That's the one thing about (Westville), we've got the best police force in the state."[169]

According to David Sudnow, the Public Defender and the District Attorney assume that people who are charged by the police are guilty, and their main concern is to obtain a guilty plea to keep the case from going to trial.[170] In order to do this, the District Attorney has patterns of charging offenses which signal to the Public Defender what appropriate reductions are called for. In many cases, the District Attorney will charge a felony offense so that in bargaining for a guilty plea he can reduce it to an included misdemeanor. The police in providing the input for the legal system tend to charge what they feel to have been the actual offense, and dismissals or reductions from felonies to misdemeanors are disturbing to Westville officers in some instances.[171] In another city I have seen a police officer go to the Deputy District Attorney to request that a charge be reduced or dropped when he felt that it was unfair to the people involved, given the situation. This may also happen in Westville but I have had no opportunity to observe it.

          According to Skolnick, the judge may be "in" on a deal made to clear up a number of crimes, even though the formal confession only lists one.[172] The important variable so far as the police, the defendant, the attorneys and the judge are concerned is the length of the sentence, and the various transactions which take place involving reduction of charges, clearance of crimes, seeming severity of sentence, and conviction rates are important for the outside audiences of the public defender, the police, the judge, and the district attorney, respectively. Thus the various transactions are carried on around a defendant as he moves through-the court, and each participant is concerned with making a good transaction so that "justice" is done and so that the image presented for the "elite public whose approbation is appreciated" is as good as possible.[173] On occasion, as when the District Attorney charges the greater of two possible charges so that it will appear that he is being particularly lenient when he changes the charge, thus "setting-up" the defendant for the Public Defender's pitch for a guilty plea, it seems that everyone is attending to their transactions while the long-range good of the defendant is being left to chance.[174]

          Court, jail, and public relations considerations may reflect back on the working police officer. Piliavin and Briar report that in the Westville Police Department's Juvenile Bureau:

"Unofficially, administrative legitimation of discretion was further justified on the grounds that strict enforcement practices would overcrowd court calendars and detention facilities, as well as dramatically increase juvenile crime rates-consequences to be avoided because they would expose the police department to community criticism."[175]

These institutional relationships are among the more explicit and well understood. Piliavin and Briar report that they were recognized by beat officers as well as by supervisory and administrative personnel.

          Probation and Parole.

          There are a number of instances where the police need to arrest someone to carry out a thorough investigation, but can find nothing to arrest him for. If he is on probation or parole, there are a great many conditions of his probation or parole which he may be violating. The police in Westville, according to Skolnick, are on friendly terms with the various parole and probation officers and should the need arise they will arrest a parolee for parole violation even though the parole officer had not requested it in advance. The parole officers usually will say that they did request it should the question come up. In return, the police keep the probation and parole officers apprised of their probationers' behavior, especially when it seems illegal,[176] Apparently the Detroit Police, at the time the data for LaFave's study were gathered, would go one step further and simply forge the signature of the probation officer to a probation hold form without his knowledge, when they had insufficient information for a legal arrest. This apparently disturbed some probation officers, but not others.[177]

Institutionalized Transactions as a Social Control for the Patrol Officer

For the working police officer, the community as a whole is an abstraction, as it is for everyone else. The community may be behind him, but it is like having a fog behind him, apparently solid from a distance but offering no concrete support or backing. The true support and backing, the information which can be trusted, the appreciation and the pathways for guiding a man through an abstract legal jungle have arisen through routine transactions, with specific institutions in the community, which have themselves been institutionalized over time, although they probably have not been formally legitimated by law. It is these institutions which a police officer must take into account in his calculus of action if he is to function within the role pattern lived by officers before him. If he innovates, he may establish a new institutionalized connection between some institution in the community or legal system and the police. His innovation is unlikely to constitute a large portion of the institutions he and the other officers are constantly learning and attending to because there are thousands of connections with hundreds of other institutions and no man in the police department knows them all, or even a good portion of them. Some institutionalized transactions are so common that they are almost thought of as rules, and many have been enacted as rules. Some institutionalized transactions may exist between a single officer and a few members of the public and will disappear when he retires. Most are somewhere in between these extremes. Whenever the police officer is confronted with a situation, there will probably be an institutionalized adaptation which has been developed by other officers before him which will guide him to make more or less the correct bargain, and, in the process, he creates or recreates the police institution in that situation as it is apperceived and responded to by representatives from other institutions. It is from these situational encounters that the "community" is made up as an environment, not from any consideration of the total number of people within the city limits of Westville. It is toward this created community, which is the intersubjectively real community of the police, that the officer orients himself for validation of his role and legitimation of his actions. The "community" surrounding police officers is disproportionately populated by criminals, people who live in the street, other law officers, and the representatives of legal institutions. It is a different community from that surrounding any other occupational institution, as each occupational institution's community is distinct and made up from the portions of other community institutions with which its members regularly interact and institutionalize their interactions. Thus, viewed from the perspective of occupational institutions, there are as many communities in a territorial area as there are occupations because each occupation has its own. And each of these communities is real for its inhabitants, and other communities seem strange and unknown territory not to be entered lightly. It is probably the case that an average person fully lives in and appreciates only one such community in his life unless he is an anthropologist of social territory.


          For an extremely wide range of situations, the police officer must decide whether to engage the formal apparatus of legal control, tertiary control, or whether to attempt to use the secondary controls which exist in the interactive situation. Two conceptions of the proper role of the police officer exist, one of which emphasizes his legal control and one of which emphasizes his interactive control of behavior.

          Many aspects of concrete situations incline a police officer to attempt to use non-legal controls where possible. Among the most important of these is the expectation of the people he deals with that he will "go along" with the customs of the community he is working in, and will not apply the legal sanctions at his disposal unless the people involved see this as the appropriate solution. As an officer builds up his own interactive relationships with regular "clients" or offenders, he becomes able to make much more sophisticated judgments about the course of action which is best suited to their prob­lems. He becomes progressively more involved with possible non-legal solutions, and his behavior becomes progressively more controlled by the expectations which he has built up about the people he deals with, and by their expectations of him. As he uses non-legal solutions for the problems he encounters, he ignores the possible legal solutions and thus "under-enforces" the law in some situations. Increasing emphasis on the qualifications and professionalization of police work have the effect of increasing the possibility of using tertiary controls rather than secondary, interactive controls.

          The police officer is not equipped with any particular mandate to aid in controlling situations which are not violations of the law, and when he uses laws as levers, the result is generally somewhat unsatisfactory.

          People do not always know whether behavior is illegal or immoral or just distressing, so they call the police in many situations. The poor particularly are uncertain regarding what experts to consult for their problems so they call the police.

          Because the police are on duty twenty-four hours a day, they have picked up several functions by default. Interpersonal problems tend to arise at night and on weekends when personal and occupational social controls are weakened and there is no one else to respond to a call for help.

          Since non-legal social control is not their official function, the police intentionally avoid extensive intervention in interpersonal problems, responding only at crisis periods where the public peace is threatened and being armed is necessary.

          Some officers and departments have sought to extend social work, but these efforts seem to face a structural conflict with regular police goals.

          Alcoholics tend to be arrested when they are a danger to themselves or others. Many arrests are to keep them from dying of exposure or being hit by a car. No useful purpose appears to be served by the arrest of alcoholics except their removal from the street for esthetic and safety reasons. Some minor crime is controlled by the arrest of alcoholics.

          Mentally ill persons are left alone if they appear to be "making it." Wide experience with defective people makes the police officer tolerant of mental deviations. Actual emergency hospitalization depends on overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of mental illness, or an attempted suicide. There is no handy, immediate disposition for the mentally ill short of hospitalization as there is for the alcoholic, so he is helped back into the community unless the problem is extreme.

          Family disputes often include violence and danger for all concerned. Officers try to control the situation and come to an equitable solution, which is difficult. Advice the officer is likely to give is unlikely to be congruent enough with the life style of the disputants to be acceptable. Legal solutions are generally too drastic, so they are not followed by the disputants. Officers often arrest one party to stop the fight temporarily, but this is not a permanent solution and it tends to make the situation deteriorate further.

          The secondary social control that the police perform in these situations, even with the best intentions and best will is inadequate. The control is not effectively rendered, the officer's time is often wasted, and the officers are frustrated by their inability to achieve closure in the situation. No one has suggested any solutions.

          The community may be seen as an ecology of institutions. The police institution is one among other community and legal system institutions. Routinized transactions between institutions themselves become institutionalized and an aspect of the social reality learned in secondary socialization.

          The chief makes many transactions for the department. The materials he has to trade with are police presence and the selective enforcement of laws.

          Although the public feels that mala in se laws are more important than mala prohibita, the trading which is done in the legal system often involves the former, while street trading of immunity for information involves the latter.

          The newspaper is an important institution for the police because of its relation to all of the other institutions in the territory.

          Many specific institutionalized transactions exist between police officers and public events, restaurants, businessmen, transportation companies, influential people, the helpless in the community, and many other community institutions. The transactions with these institutions control police behavior in specific situations, and, in sum, make the police responsive to community customs as well as to legal requirements

          In areas connected with the legal system, the police carry out transactions with criminals, informers, jails, traffic offenders, city politics and offices, other police agencies, the District Attorney and the Public Defender, the Probation and Parole Departments. There are many other connections besides those mentioned here.

          The police officer's social environment, which he takes as real, and which controls large segments of his behavior, is made up largely of these institutionalized encounters with other community and legal system institutions. Each institution is surrounded by what its members construe to be the real community, though each such "community" is different because it is made up of the idiosyncratic pattern of institutionalized transactions with other institutions.


Before a tertiary social control agency can evaluate a situation to determine whether or not to act, it must become aware of the fact that a violation has taken place, and that its services might be appropriate. There are three ways in which a tertiary agency, such as the police, may become involved in a concrete situation.

            The first way is for a person in the situation to request the police to become involved. As has been mentioned before, people who are victims are not always sure whether or not their problem is a legal one, and the police are often called in on non-legal problems. When this happens, the police must convince the person that he has been helped, without, however, helping him in a legal fashion.

            The second way is for the police to perceive an offense on their own without depending on the complaint of a citizen. In order to do this, they develop a number of perceptual strategies which allow them to see criminal activity which would not be apparent to one not so sensitized. The problem here is detecting criminality and distinguishing it from non-criminal behavior. Routinely examining the world in this fashion gives the police officer a jaundiced view of reality which may affect his interpersonal relationships.

            The third way a tertiary agent may become involved is for a violator to behave in such a way that he challenges the police to some sort of contest. Though it is not frequent, there are still a number of situations in which criminal activity is recast into a "cops and robbers" game by the violators or by the police.

            Any of these three ways of becoming involved puts the police into contact with the actual situation, and makes tertiary control a possibility.


            The police develop many of their cases from their own observations; in other instances, a complaint from a member of the public alerts them to an offense. On the surface, the process seems simple: a citizen becomes aware of an offense, notifies the police, and the police investigate and take action to correct the trouble. In fact, there are usually things about the complainant, the situation, the nature of the offense, or the offender that make the simple model unworkable. The public in general, and the complainant in particular, are not likely to understand or appreciate the legal and customary boundaries of action which the police feel constrained to observe, and thus are likely to evaluate the police themselves negatively when the simple offense-complaint-corrective action model is not followed. The police understand the feelings of the public in this regard and in most instances try to make it appear to the complainant that the simple model is being followed, even when it is not. A person who has been the victim of some offense and wants something done about it is not happy to hear that there is nothing the police can do because the offense did not constitute a violation of the law, or is too trivial for the police to bother with, or, in the opinion of the police, is better left alone, so the officer in the situation faces the dilemma of telling the truth and leaving a citizen dissatisfied, or disguising the truth and leaving a happy, though misinformed, citizen. In many cases, perhaps most, where the action desired cannot be taken, the officer chooses to say those things which will leave the impression in the mind of the citizen that some purposive action is being taken. In some instances, the officer makes a statement which is literally true, such as "we will cruise around the area to see if we can find him," which the complainant interprets as meaning the officer is going to devote several hours of time to his complaint, while the officer means that since he will be driving around on the beat anyway on his way to other calls, he will keep his eyes open for this offender as well. Thus the officer's ambiguity supports two different and contradictory perspectives at the same time and does not confront either with the discrepancy which actually exists. This is the structural equivalent of "tact" in social relations.

            A number of suggestions have been made for the way to handle complaints, the following being a procedure which applies generally:

"First, hear what the complainant has to say. Let him tell his own story and be sure you thoroughly understand exactly why he brings it up. Second, tell the person what you will do about his trouble, and when you will do it. Third, take the action you promised you would take. Fourth, tell the complainant what you have done and, fifth, follow up on the case to see that the condition does not arise again."[178]

There are, however, a number of factors which make it impossible, or difficult, or inadvisable to follow such a procedure.

Situations Where the Officer Can Do Something About the Complaint

            In some cases, the officer can do everything the complainant wants. These cases arise where there has been a clear violation of the law, where the offender is known and apprehendable, where the offense is a felony, or if a misdemeanor either committed in the presence of the officer or in the presence of the complainant if the complainant is willing to make the arrest. These cases also arise when the complainant simply wants some present nuisance abated and the officer is able to do it right at the time. Such cases constitute a distinct minority of police-complainant interactions.

            On some occasions, the police officer could do what the com­plainant wants but feels it would be unwise. In cases such as this, the complainant is likely to be left feeling unsatisfied unless the officer can put the blame off on someone else or explain his reservations in such away as to convince the complainant to forget it. On one call, a young woman complained that her mother-in-law was stealing the mail out of her mail box and forwarding it to her estranged husband who lived out of town. She knew where her mother-in-law lived and wanted us to do something about it, either go talk to her or arrest her. The young woman had waited until almost midnight to call in her complaint, and was unhappy that we would not immediately go and roust her mother-in-law out of bed to interrogate her. We suggested that she call the postal authorities during the day and report her suspicions to them.[179]

            In a Westville case, reported by Skolnick and Woodworth, the father of a statutory rape "victim"

". . . insisted that King prosecute the accused boy, who denied the offense. King told the father that he must think of what would happen in court, pointing out that the girl was incorri­gible and that her parents could not handle her. In court it would be her word against the boy's, and no jury would believe her. The father still insisted that the boy be prosecuted. King ended the interview by ushering the father out the door and saying that if the father could not get any more evidence, the district attorney would not issue a complaint. "If you can find me someone who heard him admit it, I'll prosecute."[180]

In this case, since the officer could not dissuade the complainant from prosecuting by explaining the folly involved, he changed his tactic and cooled the complainant out by placing the blame for inaction on the district attorney.

            On occasion, the complainant may himself be an offender, or he may be attempting to use the police for private gain. When the police officer feels this is happening, he becomes reluctant to be used and attempts to find a way of not responding to the complaint. For example, when a drunk staggered up to the patrol desk to report an automobile accident in which he claimed to be the victim, the officers attempted to get a coherent story from him in spite of the fact that he refused to give his own name and address. Searching around for a way to avoid making an actual complaint out of this incident, because the drunk was probably either responsible or contributory, and certainly was unreliable, the officers continued asking about it until he mentioned that it had taken place in a service station, private property, whereupon they said they could do nothing about it.[181]

            Prostitutes sometimes complain about other prostitutes to eliminate the competition, and drug sellers do likewise to their competition. The police tend not to trust the motivation of people in certain statuses making certain complaints unless they have reason for thinking the motivations are reliable. Reliable motives are those which the officers can control to some extent, such as a desire to escape penal sanction or information in return for money to purchase drugs.[182]

                Sometimes the police come into contact with a complainant who wants something done by the police about an offense, but who is unwilling to sign a complaint which would make an arrest possible. This often comes up when the perpetrator and the victim are involved with each other in some sort of interactive relationship which would be damaged permanently if one signed a complaint bringing legal action against the other, and yet, at the moment, the victim feels offended at what has happened to him. It is very often the case in family fights that the wife would like to have the husband removed by the police for the night, but without arresting him. Here the police explain that they are powerless to act unless the wife arrests her husband, in which case, they can remove him to jail. On occasion, statutory rape victims have to be pressured into signing a complaint against the responsible party so that prosecution on criminal charges can be carried through.[183]  In these cases, the officer can do something about the case only if the complainant is willing to define the situation in legal terms and be satisfied with legal action, which is not the course of action he would otherwise choose. A report based on a survey of victims of crimes found:

"Those victims who said that they did not notify the police were asked why. Their reasons fell into four fairly distinct categories. The first was the belief that the incident was not a police matter. These victims (34 per cent) did not want the offender to be harmed by the police or thought that the incident was a private, not a criminal, affair. Two per cent of the nonreporting victims feared reprisal, either physically from the offender's friends or economically from cancellation of or increases in rates of insurance. Nine per cent did not want to take the time or trouble to get involved with the police, did not know whether they should call the police, or were too confused to do so. Finally, a substantial 55 per cent of the nonreporting victims failed to notify the authorities because of their attitudes toward police effectiveness. These people thought the police could not do anything about the incident, would not catch the offenders, or would not want to be bothered."[184]

Situations in Which the Officer Can Do Nothing About the Complaint

            In many instances, the victim of some offense wants the police to punish the offender without realizing that the act in question is not against the law but only a violation of custom. For example, in one family disturbance call, we met an outraged wife on the street. She had been left at home for two days while her husband was out drinking with another woman. When she ran out of money to buy food for her baby, she gathered the baby up and went looking for her husband. She found him in a bar with the other woman. When he saw her he ran away, got in his car and, according to the complainant, took off so fast he almost ran over her. The only possible criminal offense would have been assault with a deadly weapon (automobile) but the unsupported testimony of a complainant who had herself been drinking was not really sufficient to prove intent. In such a situation, the officer can only offer advice as to possible civil remedies. We told her to go home and see a lawyer about getting support money from her husband, or about getting a divorce.[185]

            In another instance, a complainant who lived in an upper-middle-class neighborhood called the police because he had observed three male Negro juveniles driving around in a car, and had seen them drive by three times. Although the neighborhood was almost all white, and it was possible that the boys were there for some criminal purpose, we had to explain at some length that they were breaking no law by driving around and even if we saw them (which we later did) we would have no cause to stop them unless we saw them commit some violation. In this case, the citizen's notion of what was customary and proper was being violated and he could think of nothing to do but to call the police. Purely for public relations, we told the complainant that we would look out for them for the rest of the evening, even though we knew the next call would take us miles away.[186] Other instances of complaints caused by active imaginations are taken care of by "snowing" the complainant, that is, by convincing him or her that the officer is taking an active interest in the problem:

"When the complainant is a woman or girl alone, leave her with the impression that you are going to give her your personal attention for the rest of the shift and will have the following shift watch her house, and that her personal safety is your only object in working. By being sincere, you can relieve her of a lot of unnecessary worry. During your tour of duty, flash your spotlight on her house as you go by. "[187]

Each time the officer drives by and shines the spotlight on the house, the complainant will be reassured.

            Sometimes the complaint will be the result of some mental disturbance of the complainant, in which case, the problem is talked over until the complainant is happy, and nothing else is done.[188] Sometimes the complaint is apparently the result of drunken incoherence, in which case, nothing will be done if the complainant seems harmless. If a drunken complainant seems abusive or possibly dangerous, he will sometimes be arrested himself.[189]

Situations in Which the Officer Can Do Nothing but Take a Report

            In many cases, a complainant has been a victim of a theft or of malicious mischief and he calls the police to report this fact. Under some circumstances, he will have some chance of police action other than taking a report. If the theft was large, or the thief is known, the police will have some reason to follow up. For small losses, particularly of objects without serial numbers, and for malicious mischief which appears to have been caused by unknown juveniles, there is no particular justification for following up with an investigation. This is so because, first, the probability of success is quite small, and, second, even if the responsible parties were found, it might be impossible to arrest them unless the offense was committed in the presence of the complainant, if it is a misdemeanor. This being the case, the officer is not inclined to spend much time on attempting to track down the responsible parties. The complainant, however, feels victimized and wants to have something done. The officer "takes a report" which will "be on file" at the police station should anything further develop. The officer may also be sympathetic and suggest ways to avoid having the offense recur, but there is little else he can do. A man had the battery stolen from his pick-up truck which was parked near his place of work. We took a report, for his insurance company as much as anything else, suggested that he park his truck inside the locked yard in the future, and told him we would ''look around" for the responsibles. Had we seen anyone walking down the street carrying a battery, we would indeed have stopped him, but aside from this no further action was contemplated. A man who lived in a housing project had his window broken on Halloween night, probably by the same juvenile who had thrown a rock at the police car earlier. We sympathized with his anger, made a note of it on an assignment card, told him we would not blame him if he hit the juveniles involved (although, of course, he could get in trouble for doing that), and left without taking any further action.[190] Even if we could have found the responsible juvenile among the forty or fifty running around that night, we would have had a hard time proving a case.

Situations Where Official Action Would Make Matters Worse

            There are a number of situations where the legal possibilities and what would be thought of as satisfactory interactive solutions conflict. Official police action involves removing a person by arrest, jailing him, taking him to court and possibly having a fine or sentence levied against him. While this procedure punishes the individual for the offense, it does little or nothing to insure that he will be contrite and peaceful when he returns to the situation later. The police, not wanting to create future trouble to take care of, attempt to assess the situation and see if arrest and prosecution would serve the ends of social control or not. Disputes between neighbors involving criminal offenses are often left alone by police officers, as are other conflicts between people who are in "continuing legitimate relationships" with one another,[191] which is another way of saying interactive institutional relationships. A common tactic, mentioned before, is to point out the bad consequences of official action to the complainant, and then to let the offender know that the complainant is not going to prosecute "this time." Thus control of the situation is returned to the informal, inter­active level and the police avoid becoming a weapon of private vengeance.

            On some occasions, a knowledgeable complainant will arrest an offender and demand that the police take him into custody. Under Westville's State's law, the police must take an offender into custody if requested by the arresting citizen. Although the police are required to take such offenders into custody if they are convinced an offense has taken place, they sometimes attempt to convince the arresting citizen not to carry through if it appears to them to be an injustice. Should the citizen continue to insist on the arrest, the police may temper the seriousness of the arrest by selecting the charge to be made against the offender. Thus, unless the arresting citizen is very knowledgeable about the law, and almost none are, the officer can use his discretion in charging to aid social control. For example, in one family disturbance call, we were greeted with the following situation: A man had come to the home of his wife, from whom he was legally separated, to see his children, for whom he was paying child support. He had called up to his wife to let him in and she refused. He then called up and asked her to put the children out in the hallway of the apartment building so that he could see them, even if she wanted to stay behind a locked door in the apartment. She refused this reasonable sounding request, and kept him standing outside the building by refusing to buzz open the front door. He then went around to the back of the building, went up to the apartment by the service stairs, and kicked the back door of the apartment in. He then proceeded to visit with his children, and his wife called the police. When we arrived, the scene was peaceful but the wife demanded that he be arrested for breaking down the door. We tried to talk her out of it, because in our opinion she was not blameless, but we were unsuccessful. She demanded that he be arrested, and, since it was clear that the offense had taken place, the door being completely out of its frame, we had no choice but to do so. At first the officer filling out the arrest form was going to charge the husband with "malicious mischief," this being the usual charge for such property damage. In consultation with the other officers present, however, it was decided to charge "disturbing the peace" as this would lead to less serious consequences for the husband. We did not let the wife know that we had picked the least serious possible charge, but we explained it in detail to the husband when we got him outside because none of the officers felt that it was a "just" arrest, although clearly legal.[192]

            The final situation in which the desires of a complainant may be abridged arises when the action he desires might create an incident. In the ordinary course of events, the police officer may decide to make or not to make an arrest for an offense he witnessed in part depending on his assessment of the surrounding circumstances. Officers often decide not to arrest when a riot might be started by their arrest. When a complainant desires such action, however, the officers must either convince him that it is unwise, or attempt to abate the nuisance without an actual arrest. In one instance, an extremely noisy party had resulted in a number of complaints. By 3 a.m. we had returned to the party three times and other officers had been there twice. The complainant, manager of the apartment building, got increasingly disturbed and finally signed a "citizen's arrest" form. The officers, however, did not let him make an actual arrest because the party was full of drunk, ugly people and had we tried to remove the hostess, we almost certainly would have had a melee on our hands. Instead, a sergeant went in and in an extremely calm voice talked with the hostess for about half an hour. While he was talking, the music was turned down, and the various guests gradually left. Although she was still belligerent when we left, the party was ended without an arrest or incident because all of the guests had gone. The complainant was then told that should he still wish an arrest, he could contact the district attorney's office on Monday and file a complaint.


            Since people do not always see or report crimes, the police must discover them on their own. In order to do this, the police officer sees a world of crime. This is his reality. As he drives down the street in his patrol car, the significant elements that he attends to are evidences or rememberances of criminality. He views the street in terms of its illegal activities, and thinks that he is seeing the "reality" of street life. "That shoeshine parlor has gambling in back; this bar used to have bloody fights every night but it has quieted down now; I saw a man here who had just been cut in the back with a razor; they sell bennies in that cafe; sometimes that newsstand operator runs a book; those three girls walking down the street are prostitutes; in this house, they have a family fight every Friday night," he thinks as he drives down the street. In part, this perceptual world is a result of his training in recruit school; in larger part, it is a result of linguistic objectifications transmitted by experienced officers and his typifications of his own ongoing experience.[193] This perceptual world becomes "his" world in the course of his work and gradually supplants the perceptions he learned as he grew up. To the extent that he has substituted his "everyday reality" of a police officer for the "everyday reality" which he experienced as a civilian, he has become a "professional" police officer and a jaundiced citizen.

            The process of learning to see the world as a police officer is a process of secondary socialization to the occupational role of the police officer. As such, it involves more than the rote memorization of a number of indicators of possible criminality. As Berger and Luckmann point out:

“... each role opens an entrance to a specific sector of the society's total stock of knowledge. To learn a role, it is not enough to acquire the routines immediately necessary for its "outward" performance. One must also be initiated into the various cognitive and even affective layers of the body of knowledge that is directly and indirectly appropriate to this role."[194]

The position of the police officer is somewhat different in one respect from the position of persons being socialized to other occupational roles. In every occupation, there are aspects of everyday reality which receive particular emphasis and attention and which are typified in interaction in such a way that those entering the occupation come to look on them in the same way as those already in the occupation. A medical doctor looks at the portion of bodies he is interested in, a gas and electric company employee looks at patches in the street, meter covers, fuse boxes, transformers and power lines, a confidence man attends to the passers by with attention to those characteristics likely to indicate a good "mark," an archaeologist attends to the clues which indicate artifacts, but a police officer attends to the sort of behavior which all of these people look on as undifferentiated everyday reality.[195] He attends to the unattended, the presentations made in routine street behavior. The important characteristic of the police officer's perceptual orientation is the large and unspecialized segment of life which he takes as his object of attention. It is at least a quantitatively greater portion of reality which he attempts to see in his special way than the portions of reality viewed in specialized ways by members of most other occupations. It is because almost any interpersonal presentation may be viewed by an officer in terms of his special perception that I argue that the policeman is socialized to a complete everyday reality which is markedly divergent from that of others in society. The primacy of everyday reality over other realities has been described thus:

"Compared to the reality of everyday life, other realities appear as finite provinces of meaning, enclaves within the paramount reality marked by circumscribed meanings and modes of experience. The paramount reality envelops them on all sides, as it were, and consciousness always returns to the paramount reality as from an excursion."[196]

            To substitute for this reality a reality based upon secondary socialization into a role implies far reaching changes in apperceptions, and certain difficulties in maintaining the "police perspective" in the face of the pervasive intrusion of the primarily socialized everyday realities.

"The formal processes of secondary socialization are determined by its fundamental problem: it always presupposes a preceding process of primary socialization; that is, that it must deal with an already formed self and an already internalized world. It cannot construct subjective reality ex nihilo. This presents a problem because the already internalized reality has a tendency to persist. Whatever new contents are now to be internalized must somehow be superimposed on this already present reality. There is, therefore, a problem of consistency between the original and the new internalizations. The problem may be more or less difficult of solution in different cases.”[197]

Since attending to the world for indications of criminality, and perceiving them, is the officer's most important tool in his work, he must always fight against the inclination to apperceive the world in "normal" terms, that is, to attend to the same elements that others would, rather than elements which indicate violations or potential violations. It is often said that it takes five years (it actually varies widely) for a police officer to become "experienced" and capable of taking care of most situations without supervision. Though this includes many cognitive areas, I suspect that an important factor in this extraordinary length of training time is that the entire police reality must be gradually substituted for the everyday reality with which the officer started, and this is a long process. Perhaps it is this difficulty and the "unnaturalness" of the police perspective which lead a constable to comment that "The natural born policeman should be strangled at birth."[198]

            The police officer does not just attend to appearances but to all presentations as problematic. He attends to the unattended and by asking questions to which he already knows the answers, he creates a situation where he can assess what would ordinarily be believed. In other words, he is highly critical of the information he receives when his police perceptions are operating. He learns these perceptions in his interactions with experienced officers. Westley wrote:

"Eight hours a day, six days a week, around the clock, they talked with their partners. Long hours between action have to be filled; and the older men, hungry for an audience, use them to advantage. Here the experienced man finds an opportunity to talk about himself as a policeman, about his hardships and happinesses. Here he is expected to talk. His talk makes him feel good . . . more important. Here is someone to whom he is an expert; here he finds none of the boredom of his wife, or the derision of the public, but an eager, subservient listener.”[199]

Harvey Sacks illustrates the transmission of perceptions:

"As he walks through his beat with a mature officer, persons who to him appear legit are cast in the light of the illicit activities in which the latter knows they are engaged. The novice is shown that he ought to see persons passing him in terms of the activities in which they are engaged. And the activities in which they are engaged are often more purient than he might suppose. The lovely young lady alighting from a cab is now observable as a call-girl arriving for a session. The novice is shown how to see the streets as, so to speak, scenes from pornographic films. And what is more, he is able to see the illicitness under the conditions that few, if any, who observe him passing through the streets are able to see either that the officer is in such a scene or what it is that he is indeed observing. The policeman has then the privacy of the stag show theatre while parading the streets in full uniform, and further, there is no noticeable entry or exit, at which, if seen, embarrassment might be called forth."[200]

One police writer suggests:

"Hardly a chore the officer performs assumes more signifi­cance than this job of "watching others, with a purpose."[201]

In addition to observing persons, officers look at the world around them with a view to making unusual use of it. One author suggests that officers should look at the world as a place they might have to chase people through:

"Note which alleys and streets are blind. Notice short-cuts that can be taken while driving from one location to another. Pay attention to yards in the residential areas and to the location of fences, hedges, swimming pools, fish ponds, excavations or anything else that might not be easily seen at night. Pay special attention to clothes lines, and their location. Many an officer, while in pursuit of a "peeping Tom" and while running through dark back yards, has suffered a deflated ego as well as physical injuries when a clothes line caught him under the chin and he found himself flat on his back looking at the sky."[202]

            The perceptions of the world that a police officer is able to achieve are limited by the extent of his senses and the cultural patterning of senses acquired in his primary socialization. Sight is most important, hearing is next. Both because man was once a tree dwelling animal and because Americans are culturally undeveloped in this area, the sense of smell is little used in routine police work.[203] There are, however, a number of areas in which acute sensitivity to odor would be useful in finding evidences of criminality. It is largely for this reason that police dogs are employed.[204] A dog can be trained to use his nose to detect criminality, and he thus becomes a very useful extension of the police officer's perceptions. Police dogs are routinely used to find burglars who are hiding in large department stores.[205] Dogs have also been trained by Scotland Yard to smell marijuana out from hiding places.[206] One can only speculate on future uses of dogs in the detection of criminal activity.


            Some behavior is much more visible to the police than other types. When behavior is both visible and criminal, the police are in a position to use their specialized perceptions to gather information that will result in an arrest. There are some low visibility areas, however, and these are not uniformly distributed through the class structure of society. Nighttime, indoor areas, private clubs all shield people from the view of the police. Anyone can use the night, but the better off one is, the larger the amount of private space one has to do things in. The lower class person spends more time on the street, in view of the police, than does the middle class person. This is partly because he does not have the room in his home that the middle class person does. The person who gambles in the back of a shoeshine parlor is more likely to be caught than the person who gambles in a men's club. Juveniles are less likely than adults to have private space under their control so they are more likely to be seen by the police.[207]

            Violations of the sex laws are routinely carried out in private places which the police cannot enter. Thus "perversions" are not given a great deal of police attention. [208] Street walkers can be and often are arrested, but many call-girls work for years without being taken in.[209]

            Crimes of violence are often hard to see until too late:

"As far as violent crime goes, even the police despair, since so much of it takes place in private, or semi-private, places which police patrols cannot reach until it is too late. A murder or an assault can--and does--take place inside an apartment no matter whether there are one, two, or ten policemen outside on the sidewalk."[210]

            On the other hand, some behavior is particularly public and visible, for example, traffic violations. The automobile is a big object, and when it is being driven erratically, it is a big, erratic object. Policemen must look at other cars simply to drive their own, and once they become attuned to violations of the Vehicle Code, they see them constantly. At night, when other illegal behavior is hidden, automobiles are lit up or, if not, they are in violation anyway. This is one reason why so many police-public contacts start with a "car stop," and why any form of illicit behavior becomes more open to police control if it is carried out in an automobile rather than in private.

            For behavior which is visible to the police, the problem is to learn to attune themselves to those aspects which will indicate possible criminality.

Strategies of Perception

Practice of perception - learning to make relevant distinctions

The police are encouraged to play "perception games" with their partners or with themselves to sharpen their powers of observation.

"The policeman can attend to his route with an awareness that he can, by making an especially subtle recognizance, take a place within department history. He is encouraged, that is, to engage, even when patrolling alone, in playing observation games; for example, glance at a store window, note to oneself all the items that one can recall within it, then check back to see what one has missed or noted incorrectly. While such games are more readily played when police patrol in pairs, the attended history of recognizances permits the sole patrolman to play the games against the department's historical figures."[211]

Some of the things an officer is encouraged to look for are:

". . . individuals--their physiques, actions, dress, occupations, facial expressions, complexions, walk, voice, scars or deformities, unusual characteristics, loiterers at playgrounds:

            Observe groups-type of dress, what is being said, leaders, reason for gathering, language used, humor of the crowd, approximate number of people, any disorderly acts, sex and age, and the approximate number of each;

            Observe places--empty buildings that children or vagrants could enter, rooms and their furnishing, locations of safes in stores, easy means of entry for burglars, the relative position of buildings;

            Observe things--location of hydrants, phones, house numbers, directions, sources of danger to the public, such as holes in the sidewalk, street signs bent or turned, anything unusual."[212]

He may also be encouraged to use his other senses:

Hearing - learning to interpret the nature of various noises; what kind of car, hear a drill? Is it being used to crack a safe?

Smell - Gasoline at fire, Arson? Smell of gas at suicide, don't turn a light switch off, it sparks. Recognize smell of gunpowder, narcotics.

Touch - types of cloth, examining windows and doors at night for tool marks. Car warm?

Taste - What is the substance?[213]

            The officer is encouraged to employ a self-correcting procedure to find out what he did right when he makes an arrest:

"Every time you make a good arrest, ask yourself the question, "What tipped me off that something was wrong - what attracted my attention?" You will generally find that it was some seemingly insignificant act or piece of evidence that first attracted you. It isn't easy to go back and determine just what made you suspicious. When you do, you will generally find that it was something very minor, just the way somebody turned around and looked at you a second or two too long, or the way that someone was moving a little too rapidly away from the door. Spend a little time talking this over with your partner and see just what it was that led you to some of your good arrests. When you do this, you will find that the rather vague feeling you get when you think something is wrong actually has a pretty firm foundation in your observation. Remember what these clues are and in the future look for similar situations on the street."[214]

            In other words, Holcomb is recommending examining an unverbalized experience and verbalizing it. He further suggests talking with one's partner about it, intersubjectively objectifying the experience, and then responding to this objectified sedimentation in future similar situations. He continues, pointing to one of the difficulties of this secondary socialization:

"Experience as a police officer will be of value only if you continually try to improve your own ability."[215]

            The general nature of this process has been outlined by Berger and Luckmann:

". .. only some members of a hunting society have the experience of losing their weapons and being forced to fight with their bare hands. This frightening experience, with whatever lessons in bravery, cunning and skill it yields, is firmly sedimented in the consciousness of the individuals who went through it. If the experience is shared by several individuals, it will be sedimented inter subjectively, may perhaps even form a profound bond between these individuals. As this experience is designated and transmitted linguistically, however, it becomes accessible and, perhaps, strongly relevant to individuals who have never gone through it. The linguistic designation (. . . ) abstracts the experience from its individual biographical occurrences. It becomes an objective possibility for everyone, or, at any rate, for everyone within a certain type (... ); that is, it becomes anonymous in principle even if it is associated with the feats of specific individuals."[216]

            In a police department, a particularly subtle observation which leads to a good arrest will be passed around quickly.  Within five minutes after the new watch comes on, all of them will have heard about it.[217]

Incongruity Procedures  

            One of the methods used by the police to improve their perception of possible criminal activities is to look for incongruous actions.[218] In order to know what does not fit the regular pattern of events, it is necessary first to know what the regular pattern of events is. The officer who patrols the same beat day after day over a period of years gets to know his entire beat. In the days when walking beats were more widely used, and today in Scotland, according to Banton, the patrolman would check the doors, look for evidences of illegal entry, make sure that ladders were not moved from their regular places, check down the alleys, and in the back yards of the houses on his beat.[219] This pattern is no longer followed very much as most patrol is now done in automobiles. Instead of the incongruity procedures based upon an intimate knowledge of the beat, an officer now uses a number of relatively abstract principles to assess whether a person he comes in contact with has committed some criminal act. Some elements which enter into his considerations are: 1) Late hours. People out at three in the morning are inherently suspicious. 2) Location. Is the person "in place" in his location? 3) Loot. What is the person carrying in that sack? 4) Untruthfulness. Does the person tell the officer lies? 5) Prior record. Has the person ever before been convicted of a crime? Either by own admission or by computer check. 6) Evasive answers. Citizens about their normal business answer in straightforward ways. 7) Attitude. The orientation of the citizen to the officer is often indicative of his past police contacts. 8) Flight. Does the person flee when he sees the officer approach? 9) Furtive actions. Does the person try to "get rid" of something when he sees the officer? 10) Lack of identification. Most people can produce some identification on demand, people who do not want to be identified do not. 11) Appearance. Are the person's clothes torn or dirty? Is he scratched or bloody? Is he wearing working clothes in a middle class area? A car parked in the rain with its windows down may be stolen and abandoned. Are the people at a public affair well and conservatively dressed, or are they unconventional?[220] These considerations, alone and in combination, are used by the officer to determine whether or not something suspicious is taking place.

            One consequence of the use of incongruity procedures is that criminal activity which does not produce incongruities of time, location, appearance, or activity is fairly safe from routine police patrol action because it blends into the background. Another consequence of the use of these procedures is that officers do get to know their beats very well and they can often use this knowledge to assist a citizen or to assess what to do with a possibly mentally ill person.[221]

Strategies for Uncovering Evidence of Criminality

            If the officer suspects that a crime may have taken place, he may use some strategy to check his suspicion. On a car stop, the driver could produce no identification. The officer had her step out to the front of the car and then went back and asked her companion what the driver's name and birthday were. The companion told the officer, who wrote them down, and then he went and asked the driver what her name and birthday were. When she gave the same information, he was satisfied that she was who she said she was, so he wrote her a citation but did not arrest her.[222]

            On another occasion, a car which might have been stolen and stripped, but was certainly missing some parts, came to the attention of an officer. He suggested that I walk up and down the block looking in the parked cars for parts from the possibly stolen car. When I found a car with some of the stolen parts in it, we knew that a crime had taken place, and that if we didn't have the car strippers, we at least had their car.[223]

            There are regular procedures outlined for some situations:

"If you are still suspicious, ask the driver who the car is registered to and the address, if different from the driver's. Ask him what the trunk contains and ask him if he will open it so that you can check the contents.. . . While he is out of the car, ask him what the speedometer mileage is, and what is in the glove compartment. Other questions may be asked, such as where he got his last grease job or oil change. Since most of the service stations affix stickers containing this information, including the mileage at the time the car was serviced, to the left front door post, you can quickly check the answer. An owner of a -car will be able to give satisfactory, answers to these questions, but a car thief cannot possibly memorize all these minor details even if he is aware of what questions may be asked."[224]

            Knowing that the police are on the lookout for stolen cars, many professional criminals, who used to steal a car to use in a robbery, now rent them in another city several days before they intend to commit the robbery, using a false name, commit the robbery and abandon the rented car.[225] This protects them from most contacts with the police.

Reaction Time Assumptions

            There are culturally patterned expectations which apply to the time lag to be expected between some action and its consequent reaction. If the reaction comes at the expected time, no attention is given to the time, all attention is on the reaction. If the reaction comes too early or too late, however, this discrepant event will receive some attention. The attention will possibly not be conscious, it may be a vague feeling that something is wrong, or a relieved feeling that no reaction is forthcoming. The police pay attention to reaction times in a number of situations for a number of ends.

            If a person tells a lie in face-to-face interaction and the other person shows no reaction, the liar feels he has gotten away with it. If a person buys some contraband, such as marijuana, and the transaction goes smoothly with no one being arrested, the feeling is that the police were not aware of it. The same assumption exists with a number of legitimate activities. If one does not complain about defective merchandise shortly after purchase, the onus of demonstrating legitimacy shifts to the purchaser.

            Cases exist where the police exploit this assumption on the part of the citizen. In interrogation, the policy may allow a suspect to lie several times until he has hung himself. Then the police officer points out the lies all at once. Or, in undercover work, the agents make several purchases and nothing happens.[226] It is not until later that an arrest is made in connection with a large purchase. If a burglary detective in Westville wants to check whether a suspect has stolen goods in his house, he may send an informant in to check it out. If the police immediately raided the house, the informant would be "burned," that is, his identity would be revealed and he might be killed. So the police have the informant go before a magistrate with his information and they have a search warrant issued. Then they sit on the warrant for a week or more before serving it so that the suspect cannot remember who was in his house the day the warrant was issued.[227]

            A technique which was tried out by the Westville vice detail required two "special employees" to go into an area where there were street walkers and get a number of solicitations. A vice officer would watch from a distance with binoculars and identify the girls very time the special employees signaled, by scratching their heads, that an offer had been made. The intention was then to go and swear out warrants for "solicitation" which could be served on the girls later. This would keep the special employees from being burned for several weeks, because the girls would not know who had informed on them. Any girl who was not known to the vice squad officer would have her proposition accepted and she would be arrested in the normal manner.[228]

            The use of reaction time assumptions as an indicator of mental blocking on a significant association was developed by Jung.[229]The professional use made of Jung's work has been largely analytic, but the police have long been interested in lie detection and have picked up the idea and applied it in a number of situations.

Use of Reaction Time Assumptions to Mislead

            The interrogator is admonished not to react:

"Naturally, the interrogator doesn't show much interest in what the suspect is saying except when he wants to make it appear that the story previously told him is in conflict with this suspect's story. For example, the point concerning who got the money. To show excitement or interest will only warn the suspect that he should make no further admissions."[230]

            Or he tells the suspect that he has given up and later returns to the story:

"The 'repeat story' technique is one method of interrogation that has been known to work well on this kind of suspect. The essence of this technique is that the officer tells the suspect some of the facts of the crime and then ostensibly 'gives up' on the investigation. A few days later he returns to the same suspect to question him further about some phase of the crime about which the suspect has stated he knows nothing. The investigator might say, "Well you can't say you don't know anything about it. I told you so and so, don't you remember that?" When the suspect then answers in the affirmative, the officer asks him to repeat what was told him. This is the point where the lying suspect will frequently trip himself up. He will tell the officer something that the officer had not told him, thus disclosing that he has more knowledge of the offense than he admitted."[231]

In the first case, the interrogator did not react at the time that anyone else would in free and open conversation. This tended to mislead the suspect into thinking the interrogator was not interested. In the second case, the interrogator let the suspect think that the matter was done with, the suspect presumably relaxed, and when he was off guard, the interrogator came back with his tricky question.

Attending to Reactions to Assess Guilt

            The patrolman is involved in interactions all day long. He often has cause to give citizens orders, or suggestions about a course of action to follow. The officer expects that the citizens will follow his orders reasonably quickly, and, of course, most do. If someone does not respond in this "normal" fashion, it indicates to the officer one of two things. First, there may be something wrong with the person such as being drunk, or drugged or stunned, which would require some action on the part of the officer from arrest to first-aid. Second, the delayed reaction may be deliberate because the citizen, usually a lower class child, is attempting to get the officer mad. There is a maddening pattern common among the Negro children in Westville who come in contact with the police at playgrounds and recreation centers. When they are asked or told to leave an area, they will begin walking away incredibly slowly. They never stop moving, but it might take fifteen minutes to walk a hundred feet.      The officer stands and fumes but there is little he can do, they are moving. He interprets this behavior as disrespectful and intentional, and tends to verbally abuse the juveniles later.

            Another pattern which sometimes occurs is that someone will react too quickly. A person standing on the street takes off running when an officer shows up. The assumption here is that flight indicates proximate criminal activity.

            The officer may also attend to the quality of the verbal presentation made by a citizen to assess his guilt:

"Occasionally the subject will exhibit an overly friendly attitude, punctuating his conversation with an excess of "no, sir" or "yes, sir" replies. Subjects who tend to be overly solicitous should be regarded with suspicion, as they may be trying too hard to convince the officer of their good intentions. Further interrogation may reveal that the subject uses the word "sir" in excess because of prior prison training."[232]

It is important to realize that the rules given in various manuals allow the police officer to explain any reaction to his presence in terms of criminal motivation. The terms, "aggressive, overly polite, nervous, or cool customer," all are used to describe reactions.[233] The officer might assume the guilt or complicity of each person he talks to in some situations and scrutinize their motivations and their stories with a mind to constructing a warrant for assuming that the citizen is an offender. This sometimes leads to the treatment of an innocent bystander as if he were in fact responsible for a crime, and his naturally nervous reaction, under some conditions, only confirms the officer's opinion.

            It has been found in a study of the Westville Police Department's juvenile bureau that the single most important criterion, with the exception of prior record, used by the juvenile officers to determine the disposition of juveniles with whom they had contact was the demeanor of the juveniles.

"In the opinion of juvenile patrolmen themselves the demeanor of apprehended juveniles was a major determinant of their de­cisions for 50-60 per cent of the juvenile cases they processed. A less subjective indication of the association between a youth's demeanor and police disposition is provided by Table l, which

Table 1

Severity of Police Disposition by Youth’s Demeanor

Severity of Police Disposition

Youth’s Demeanor




Arrest(most severe)




Citation or official reprimand




Informal reprimand




Admonish and release (least severe)








presents the police disposition for sixty- six youths whose encounters with the police were observed in the course of this study. For purposes of this analysis, each youth's demeanor in the encounter was classified as either co-operative or unco-operative. The results clearly reveal a marked association between youth demeanor and the severity of police dispositions."[234]

An antecedent variable which may have had some influence on both the youth's demeanor and on the police disposition is the severity of the offense. It seems to me at least possible that more serious offenders would be more hostile to the police and also more likely to be arrested, but this data is not available in Piliavin and Briar's article. Regardless of this, the officer comes to view those who are uncooperative as being the sort of juvenile who is arrested. Cooperativeness is not evenly distributed among the juveniles of Westville. One-third of the Negro youths, but only one-sixth of the white youths, observed were uncooperative. Piliavin and Briar point out that this leads to more severe treatment for Negro juveniles, more emphasis on stopping and questioning them, and, possibly, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the creation of exactly the casual attitude about police contacts which the officers take as evidence of criminality, which becomes a vicious circle.[235] One of the most important elements in a juvenile's demeanor is the way in which he responds to questions. If he pauses for longer than necessary before saying anything, this is taken as an indication that he has had prior experience with the police or is hiding something. Again, the assumption is that the innocent respond spontaneously and the guilty fumble and contrive what they are saying.[236]

Creating Situations to Test Reactions

Officers are encouraged to create situations in which they can assess the reactions of a suspect to the sight of the officers. For example, in looking for the car of a prowler, burglar, or car thief:

". ..he may give himself away by any one of the following; he may turn off quickly after pulling up behind you; he may refuse to pass you; he may watch you too closely; he may pull away from the curb and drive a short distance before turning on his lights so that no one can see his license plate."[237]


"Park in a conspicuous place and he may reveal himself by his actions when he sees you. The previously mentioned quick right angle turn, a "U" turn, or ducking down while passing you are indications of guilt."[238]

On foot or in a car:

"The reaction to the approach of an officer often indicates a subject for field interrogation. Some subjects who have been involved in a crime or who have criminal records are unable to conceal their apprehension on the approach of an officer. This is particularly true of juveniles, inexperienced criminals, and women."[239]

In these situations, the officers deliberately place themselves so that they can be seen and then watch for suspicious reactions to their presence. In interrogations, they likewise use "set ups" to test reaction time by dropping in significant words and watching to see how the suspect reacts to them.

Interpretation of Common Acts with Attention to their Possible Criminality

            One of the most important divergences of the policeman's reality from the everyday reality of other citizens comes in the observation of seemingly commonplace actions. These commonplace actions form a background, unattended in the normal course of events, against which significant actions stand out. When the officer pays attention to these routinely unattended actions, he sometimes discovers criminality. For example, if a driver stalls his car, has difficulty shifting, or skids his wheels when stopping, this may indicate that the car is stolen. Officers are advised not to pay much attention if the driver in question is a woman, such behavior is too routine, but, if it is a young man, he should continue watching because the young man may be an auto thief.[240]

            If a Westville police officer sees a Negro girl and a white serviceman entering a hotel, he assumes an act of prostitution is in the offing.[241]

            On the other hand, if an officer sees an interracial couple consisting of a Negro man and a white woman, it may lead him to suspect that they are carrying or using marijuana.[242] This probably comes from the association of marijuana with bohemian life styles. An officer driving down the street observed a man sitting in the passenger seat of an automobile. While this is not unusual, for some reason his suspicions were aroused, so he circled the block and approached the car on foot from the rear. He discovered an act of fellatio was in progress on the man sitting in the passenger seat by another man lying across the front seat of the car. He arrested them and the story of his acute observation quickly spread around the department.[243]

In general:

"Behavior which may be regarded as ordinary by the casual observer may be extremely significant to a trained officer. To bring seemingly ordinary conduct into its proper perspective, police officers should be able to testify to the uniqueness of a suspect's actions which are of significance. As numerous crimes are committed with a regular pattern (actions, words, and conduct of a suspect are frequently repetitive in numerous crimes), police witnesses should testify to the singular conduct of a suspect which makes it meaningful and distinctive."[244]

            It is perhaps more consequential for the police officer's life that he begins to suspect the commonplace than any other aspect of his secondary socialization. Once the commonplace is suspect, no aspect of interaction is safe, on or off duty.

"They suffer from what they call the 'police mind.' One man defined it thus: 'The police mind means that you suspect your grandmother and that's about the strength of it.' Another referred to the police mind as 'a disease of the job.' He said that 'you come to view everything from a police angle so that, after many years in the police, to a degree you become a race apart.'"[245]

In other words, the secondarily socialized everyday reality of the police officer supplants the everyday reality common to the society in which they move to the extent that the police feel themselves to be a distinct "race," or probably more accurately, a foreign culture.[246] Banton continues:

"The chief characteristics of the 'police mind' seem to stem from the way a policeman must examine critically every statement made to him. If Smith complains about Jones, Smith's account of what happened can quite well be false while Jones's is truthful. The policeman must not accept Smith's story because he tells it first or because he looks a more credible witness. Policemen must test any statement made to them to see if it has flaws; in their occupational role this is expected of them, but in sociable roles such suspiciousness counts as unfriendly behavior. Probationers say that their parents or wives start to complain about such suspiciousness in leisure-time situations and insist that they leave police matters behind when they take off their uniforms."[247]

The response of those closely associated with the police officer is thus to attempt to fight the policeman's tertiary view of reality by segregating it into the occupational role and not allowing it to intrude on their own everyday reality. There are probably two reasons for this. First, any divergent view of reality is uncomfortable to live with for most people, and, second, the police view of reality is particularly unpleasant because it takes as problematic the trust and assumption of honesty upon which everyday social relations are built.

Perceptions and the Range and Nature of Contacts with the Public

            A person constructs his expectations of the world around him with reference to his experiences of it. If he has experienced hostility, he will expect that hostility might happen again under some circumstances. If he has experienced trust, he will expect trust sometimes. The range of experiences which people have differs widely. The recluse may have few and quite structured contacts with other people and he may expect that future contacts will follow in the pattern of past contacts, while worrying about the possibility of violence, hostility, love, or hate which are outside of his experience. If I may postulate some dimension of variation of human emotion in interactive contacts, it becomes possible to speak of the range, that is, the distance between extremes, of behavior which people of different categories routinely experience, and the nature, or average, of these contacts along this dimension. Thus some people may have a very narrow range of contacts, or a very wide range, and they may have, as an average contact, a very pleasant, somewhat pleasant, neutral, unpleasant, or very unpleasant type of experience. People in certain social locations, such as outlaw motorcycle gang members, may experience a fairly narrow range of predominantly unpleasant contacts and may construct a world view based on this experience. The average citizen probably experiences both pleasant and unpleasant contacts, but covering a fairly narrow range of emotions, and centered on the pleasant side of the scale. The police officer has an extremely wide range of contacts, almost all on the unpleasant, degraded, hostile, and violent side of the scale. As a man, he may experience love and trust, but as a working policeman, he seldom does. Westley described his contacts thus:

"On the beat he meets the pedestrian, the drunk, the bartender, the merchant, the prostitute and the priest. In the car he meets the driver, the injured, the family, the thief. As a detective he meets the complainant, the accused, the rapist and the raped. In the court he meets the lawyer, the judge, the politician and the city hack. In the hospital he meets the nurse, the doctor, the insane and the disquieted. Sooner or later he meets them all and finds in them the range of human sentiments and human problems. Mostly he meets them in their evil, their sorrow and their degradation and defeat."[248]

The officer must be able to talk with anyone he contacts using their own vocabulary and adjusting to their level of understanding.[249] He meets juveniles who ignore him, who try to get his goat, who make derogatory comments just loud enough to hear, juveniles who lean on him, cry on his shoulder, and throw boards at him.[250] He meets drunken women with their skirts askew who have assaulted citizens or other officers who tell him:

"When I get the fuck through with you, you fucking son of a bitch, you'll be sorry. What the fuck do you fucking mean taking me off the fucking street and putting me in the fucking car. I'll have you for false arrest you mother-fucker. What are you arresting me for? Drunk? I'm not fucking drunk. I'll have your fucking job."[251]

            He watches nude girls who have "freaked out" on LSD and listens to them invite him to play with them. He escorts their male companions who run across the street waving the blanket given them to keep covered to the patrol car. He fills out reports listening to the drugged and the drunk, the senile and the incoherent. He talks with people still bleeding from being cut open by their wives, he carries corpses dead many days from one place to another, and he deals with hysterical relatives.[252]

            He talks for hours and hours with a girl who has just been abducted, beaten, and forcibly raped repeatedly by two men, trying to get her to calm down and become less hysterical, trying to get the details of the rape so that he will have some chance of writing a coherent report and possibly finding the rapists. Her friends offer suggestions, demand action, and she throws herself on the bed and screams, and screams, and screams.[253] He takes her to the hospital and she refuses to be examined. The doctor on duty is hostile and unsympathetic. Finally the technician confirms the presence of semen, and the case is under way.

            In the face of all of this, he usually remains calm, relatively polite, and unemotional. In part, this may be because of a reluctance to open himself to criticism, but mostly it is from inurement due to frequent experience.[254] When a tableau of frightening violence appears before a citizen, when bodies are lying in the street, when everyone is screaming at once, the police officer usually moves calmly through the scene, doing what must be done, and he appears to the upset citizens to be a comforting island of rationality in a mad scene. This is because he has done it all before. He has experienced the violence, the hysteria, the blood and screaming so often that it is merely something which he expects. It is outside of the range and far from the nature of the routine experience of the average citizen, but except for the really unusual, a murder and hara-kiri suicide for example, or several dead children at once, it is well within the range of experience of the veteran officer. Along with this wide experience comes an understanding of emotion, and a sympathy for the injured, but, with the exception of children, the officer cannot be truly involved or sympathetic because he has seen it all too often. He thus apperceives each new complaint against a background that makes it "normal." The everyday reality of a police officer is composed of actions which would horrify most citizens were it to happen to them, and this too sets the police officer off from the public.


            One of the most important perceptual orientations that the police officer has is his attention to dangerous aspects of various situations. In some cases, a failure to perceive danger is quickly followed by death. The officer is trained to perceive danger in commonplace situations, and sometimes this training leads him to actions that are not called for. The innocent action of an automobile driver reaching up under his dashboard for a secreted wallet with his registration and license may appear, given other circumstances, to be the action of a man reaching for a concealed gun. When the automobilist finds himself looking at the business end of the officer's revolver, he is likely to be somewhat shaken.[255] And yet, officers are killed every year in similar situations when they did not take precautions. The fact that the officer is trained and alerted to danger does not mean that he avoids it.

            The police officer's job requires under some conditions that he seek out danger and become involved in it. If a fight is in progress in the street, any citizen not drunk or demented will probably avoid it. The police officer is required to become involved. Where the citizen customarily becomes involved with other citizens through a series of mutual approaches involving discussion and alignment of attitudes, a give and take which can be broken off if unpleasantness appears, and even then only becomes involved with a relatively small number of strangers in the course of his daily round, the police officer unilaterally initiates contacts, abruptly, with many persons whose unpleasantness is manifest. Under these conditions, he has a far higher likelihood of having to face violence than the citizen, and, should he face it, he must not flee. It thus becomes necessary for the police officer to be able to anticipate violence so that he can be prepared to react to it.

            In the line-up room of the Patrol Division of the Westville Police Department, a bulletin board about four feet high and eight feet long is covered with wanted posters. These posters are constantly refreshed. Off on the other side of the front wall of the room, in a more prominent position, is a single poster. Its picture is larger than the other posters. It has been there, to my knowledge, for almost a year. The crime of this person is far less serious in a sense than the murders listed on the other wanted posters, but it is given a much more important place. This man "Assaults Police Officers without Provocation," which makes him intensely relevant to police officers. If he appears on the street, he will be recognized and appropriate precautions will be taken.

            Likewise, when a twenty-year-old boy shot at a police officer, information was immediately developed on all his friends and associates, from Field Interrogation cards filed over the last few years, many copies of his photograph and description were run off and handed to the officers, a complete description of his drug using habits, likely vehicles and hideouts was announced, and the instructions given to the officers at line-up were concise: "get him."[256]

            In some situations, the patterns of action are so repetitive that admonitions can be developed which will protect the officer from some of the danger. In car stops, the officer walks up and stands behind the driver so that the driver has to turn around to talk to the officer and the officer can see what the driver is doing with his hands. In felony car stops, the officers write down the license number of the car they are going to stop, inform the radio room which will send a cover car, and make sure that they keep the occupants of the car at the point of a triangle so that the officers can use a cross-fire while the suspects would have to shoot first at one officer then at the other. There are techniques for getting several passengers out of a car one at a time, with their hands on their heads. The general admonition is to "always put the suspect at a disadvantage."[257]

            The most dangerous situation the officer routinely faces is the arrest of a suspect.

"The peace officer, unless he has a knack of reading minds, can never tell what threat the arrest represents to the suspect. Although the arrest may appear to be based only upon a charge, simple in nature, the suspect may have knowledge of a much more serious offense. This in turn giving rise to the fear that the "simple" arrest will lead to its extremely more severe consequences."[258]

Since it is never possible to know just what the arrest means to the suspect, the officer is cautioned to take all precautions in every arrest:

"Every arresting officer should assume, for his own safety, that the person to be arrested is armed and will take the officer's life if given a chance. This rule holds true, moreover, whether the person is being arrested for a minor misdemeanor, or for a felony. It also holds true regardless of whether the offender is a man or woman, or an old or a young person. A gun is as dangerous in one person's hand as in another's."[259]

This includes approaching the suspect with a hidden gun trained on him,[260] and the development of a "'no' complex" with any prisoner. A "'no' complex" means:

"... once you have determined upon an arrest and have in effect made the arrest, you should allow no privileges to the prisoner. To do other than this is to invite disaster to yourself and your police colleagues.

            In police files there are hundreds of cases where policemen lost their lives simply because they allowed their prisoner to go into the bathroom, or to get a drink of water, lock his automobile, or any one of a number of last minute chores. In each case, the prisoner returned with a weapon and killed the officer.

            The answer to any prisoner request then should always be 'no' until you are absolutely sure he cannot harm you, himself, or some other person."[261]

It should be obvious that no policeman can maintain this definition of the situation in the face of hundreds of routine arrests. He begins to get careless. But the lesson is reinforced whenever an officer is killed anywhere. A consequence of this is that sometimes civil rights demonstrators are arrested and searched with the same method and coldness as a dangerous felon, and they find it hard to understand be­cause they think it is obvious that they are non-violent. The police officer's training does not allow him to be so casual. On occasion, of course, the officer's political predispositions may cause him to use somewhat more force than absolutely necessary, such as the time when four Westville police officers arrested four anti-war protesters at gun point, who had only dropped leaflets from an airplane. The protesters were charged with "conspiracy to litter," a felony conspiracy charge.

            In one city, the officers will not leave their coffee unattended for fear that someone will drop LSD in it.[262] In Westville, admonitions have been passed around to watch what is said in restaurants because some civil rights "types" might be lurking with tape recorders to gather evidence to discredit the Westville Police Department.[263]

            Finally, the officer is advised to attempt to associate all that he sees with police work, but if he cannot make a specific association to attempt to associate it with danger to himself or others.[264]

Perception of Habits Associated with Criminality

            The final way in which officers attempt to structure their perceptions is by making themselves aware of little known facts which are related to criminal activity. By the knowledge of these facts, the officer places himself in the position of being able to develop "reasonable cause" for an arrest when an untrained person would see nothing of significance.

Officers are encouraged to develop a knowledge of clothing styles and their relation to various life habits. It is suggested that this be done consciously because many officers operate on what they consider hunches which actually are readings of minute clues.[265] In addition to the roles revealed by clothing, the officer should recognize the slang used by various communities of offenders, and he should keep up with it, so that he can identify suspects with particular types of deviance.[266]

            An officer should also know that coins with nail polish on them may be "house money" stolen from an amusement machine, that a suspect with a card advising him of his constitutional rights may be a communist or a homosexual, that split matches in the suspect's possession may mean he has been in prison, that matchbooks can lead to the suspect's hangouts, that the keys found in his possession may indicate whether he owns an automobile, lives in an apartment or hotel, rents a storage locker, or owns a business equipped with a burglar alarm.[267]

            He should also know that a legitimate tradesman will have tools in his kit which are specialized and which are only rarely used, while a burglar will have a certain combination of tools with none included but those necessary for burglary.[268]

            At the scene of a fire, he should know that pyromaniacs sometimes show excess emotion or their pants may show signs of recent urination or ejaculation.[269]

            There are thousands of other specific evidences of criminality to which the officer can be attuned. The more he knows about the possible illegitimate use of various objects, such as the use of credit cards to open locked doors, the better his position in assessing the moral character of people he suspects of criminal activity.

Organizing Perceptions

            Police officers carry notebooks. They spend a large amount of time entering various facts and observations in their notebooks. Some of their entries are simply for accounting purposes, to whom was what citation issued? , who was the complainant, the suspect, what was the offense, and so forth. These may be useful for purposes of testifying in court. In addition to these entries, officers are encouraged to organize their various observations, lists of things to look for, such as stolen property, and other information which might be useful on the street.[270] In addition, a well organized notebook may be used as a weapon to jog the memory of a reluctant witness.[271]

            The act of writing down facts and observations not only objectifies them but also allows them to be transmitted to other officers or to other situations at any time in the future. Officers are cautioned never to throw their notes away, so, in a sense, each officer writes and objectifies his entire career, or at least the seemingly significant portions of it. The very fact that the notes allow an officer to specify what he was doing on any given day for the last fifteen years, or for how ever long he has been an officer, means that the experiences he has make all the more impact on him. An experience which is not verbalized is sedimented or laid down in consciousness only imperfectly. Verbalizing the experience alters it and makes it more structured and anonymous, but actually going through the effort of composing the experience into sentences and writing it down makes it much more firmly sedimented, thought about, and accessible. This means that in a certain sense the police officer's experiences make more impact on him than they would if he did not write them down, and this means that his secondary socialization to police everyday reality, and the maintenance of the perspectives which flow from adopting a police everyday reality, is aided. There are very few occupations outside of the professions where such complete records of a person's activities are kept by the person involved, and it must have some effect on identity to consciously meditate on one's actions as a customary thing. It is possible, of course, that writing down events itself becomes routine, stylized and non-reflective. Some officers only keep the facts they will need in the cases they are fairly sure will go to court, others keep much more complete records, and it is logical to assume that the impact of the practice will thus be variable also.


"You have to play cops and robbers to keep the cops happy. If they asked you, "Do you smoke marijuana?" and you said, "Sure, I smoke pot," it would blow their minds."

-Larry Hankin at the Matrix

            Sometimes the violator himself brings his violation to police attention, bringing the tertiary agent into the interactive situation.

            An animal somewhat like man appears to have inhabited the earth almost two million years ago. Since the time of zinjanthropus, man has pursued an existence of hunting and being hunted until the very recent past. It is probably only within the last fifty years, and then only in some technologically advanced countries, that man has brought his environment under so much control that it is unnecessary for him ever to exert himself, unnecessary for him ever to strive so hard for anything that he would get out of breath. If one wants to go fast, one uses a car or an airplane. If one wants to build a house, one sees his mortgage broker. If one wants to be warm, one turns up the heat. If one is short of food, one goes to a grocery store and taps the resources of the world. Probably not one American out of four living today has ever killed a chicken and cleaned it for dinner. If one wants to see competition, the television set is always ready to provide it. If one wants exercise, and it is important to realize that this is strictly a voluntary and luxurious want, one drives two hundred miles and skis for four hours, all down hill, between meals and cocktails, or one walks a couple of miles whacking a small white ball while one's clubs are carried by a caddy. It is literally true that if one wishes, he can arrange his life so that he never lifts anything that weighs more than twenty pounds, never walks further than five hundred feet without resting, never shivers, never hunts, never fights, and never kills. It is possible to have a life almost completely devoid of passion, exertion, and emotion. If the life of man in a state of nature is characterized by "continuall feare, and danger of violent death" and is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short," the life of man in a state of affluence is characterized by safety and complacency, and is social, rich, luxurious, long and dull.

            Two utopian writers have seen this problem for the future and have come up with solutions to the boredom and ennui endemic to completely automated civilizations. Aldous Huxley in Brave New World suggested that people would be given a Violent Passion Surrogate (V. P. S.) treatment to break the dull routine of their everyday lives.[272]  George Orwell suggested in 1984 that violent passion would be released by a "two minute hate.”[273] We are currently approaching the degree of automation and sterilization characteristic of these two utopias. Real, legitimate, anxiety provoking, dangerous challenges are harder and harder to come by. Only by traveling to the wilderness or going to war can they even be approximated. And yet, two billion years of struggle and biological adaptation to stress and danger must have left some residual capacity to respond to danger on an endocrinal level. This capacity to respond and the strong emotions linked to violent passion lie uneasily below the surface of civilized life waiting to be exercised. Certainly people who have a chance to engage in violence and danger may learn to like and appreciate the bodily changes brought about by stress, and may come to value danger for the passions and ultimate catharsis which it produces.

            The police officer driving around in his car is in a particularly vulnerable position. On a dull beat, he may get few radio assignments. He may see nothing. Eight hours of driving up and down streets broken only by routine reports and many coffee breaks, five days a week, year in and year out is very tiresome. Any call which promises action is welcome.         The possibility of physical conflict is looked forward to with anticipation. Action of any sort is welcome to the beat man, though the command officers back in the station might prefer the city to be quiet all evening. There is not enough action for most police officers in the routine of patrolling, so they invent perception games to play, or they treat some situations as games.

            Treating a situation as a game produces artificial challenges, and artificial rules to follow. The essence of the game situation is that it can't be too easy or you lose the fun. Citizens and criminals also have games they play for excitement, and some of these citizen games also involve the police. On occasion, citizens view the game of "cops and robbers" with the same detachment as they would any athletic event:

"Indeed, the police sense that onlookers to a crime often view the process of apprehending and identifying a criminal as a sort of game in which both sides--the police and the offender-are given equal odds and from which they, as bystanders, must remain detached so as not to introduce a degree of unfairness by tipping the scales in one direction or another."[274]

Police Games of Cops and Robbers

            One of the most spectacular games of cops and robbers routinely played by the police is the high speed chase. The actors are the police, the suspect, and the innocent bystander. The game starts when the suspect starts fleeing from the police because he thinks they have spotted his stolen car, because he has just committed a robbery, or because he wants to outrun the cops. The officer gives chase and other officers alerted by radio join in. It is a game because in some circumstances the same results might be achieved by using the radio to block off possible routes of escape with considerably less danger to innocent bystanders. Official policy in Westville discourages high speed chases, but unofficially they appear to be condoned. As one Westville command officer said, "We have five wrecked patrol cars in the yard from high speed chases. You should use your radio. But I've never let one get away from me."[275]

            I have been in two high speed chases, one abortive one in Westville in which I was driving a patrol car, and one in another city in which I was riding as a passenger-observer in a patrol car. The latter incident follows:

We were patrolling down a quiet residential street shortly before ten in the evening. A Mustang passed us and spun its wheels as it drew along side us. It then ran a stop sign in front of us and we gave chase. At speeds up to eighty miles an hour, we followed him as he ran through five more stop signs. Three other cars were forced off the road in the process of the chase. With red light and siren operating, we followed him for about five minutes through residential areas, business districts, and in and out of a park. We got close enough to broadcast this license plate number over the radio, all the while giving a narrative of the chase so that any other cars in the area could join in. He slowed for a corner and the officer driving the patrol car shouted "we're going to ram him." It later turned out that the patrol car's brakes had faded to the point that they were useless. We hit the rear of his car and careened across the road going through a board fence, smashing a sign and finally ramming a fire plug which stopped our car. As we hit the plug, one of the officer's guns discharged through the floor boards of the patrol car. Then each officer jumped out and fired one shot from his revolver at the departing Mustang. They didn't fire any more as he was crossing a busy intersection. Both shots later were found to have missed his car.

            About fifteen minutes later another patrol car jumped the same Mustang, made a U-turn and gave chase. As this patrol car pulled along side, the Mustang swerved into it and tried to force it off the road into a ditch. The officer turned his wheels hard right (a tire burn mark was visible on the Mustang's left rear fender) and spun the Mustang around sideways. With the Mustang crosswise in this position, the officer accelerated and smashed the Mustang into a bridge abutment. The driver of the Mustang got out and swung at the officers, which, under the circumstances, was a mistake.

            When we arrived, the Mustang's driver was handcuffed to the other patrol car, his head dripping blood. The officer who had been driving our car took a couple of swings at him but was stopped by the Sergeant who had picked us up. The Mustang was towed, the second patrol car still ran though ours was towed, and the Mustang driver was taken to the hospital. His various lacerations, a result largely of being hit by clubs, took a doctor noted for his speed over an hour to sew up. He was arrested and charged with "Two counts of reckless driving, two counts of assault and battery with an automobile, six counts of running a stop sign, and separate counts of trying to elude police, destroying public property, speeding, and drunken driving."[276]

It is impossible to describe how exciting such a chase is. I was wound up for four hours afterwards. Once the chase was on neither party would give up until either he got away or we got him. The Mustang driver apparently was out for fun and excitement, he had just bought the car that morning and must have wanted to see if he could elude the police. He may have gotten more action than he bargained for. It is important to note, however, that it was involving for the officers to the extent that they really hated him for the moment while the excitement of the chase lasted. Driving a racing car is a tame experience beside a high speed chase through a crowded city culminating in accidents, shooting, and a fight. A race is structured and relatively safe. A high speed chase is unstructured, dangerous, and real. There are very few opportunities for this sort of action in modern society. I enjoyed it. I suspect that other police officers have reactions similar to mine. This suspicion is somewhat supported by the fact that every officer within range customarily joins in any high speed chase.[277]

            In the Westville chase, mentioned first above, when we finally arrived at the scene there were fourteen other units already there. According to newspaper reports, another recent chase involved patrol cars from five cities and the highway patrol, speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour, a shotgun blast that smashed the rear window of the fleeing car (the falling glass broke both of the patrol car's headlights), a total of more than 20 police cars, and three teen-agers in a stolen car.[278] In this particular case, it would have been more efficient for one unit to have followed at a safe distance and radioed ahead for a road block (which was the way the chase eventually ended) but it would be impossible, aside from issuing direct orders, to have gotten any of the officers involved to break off the chase. The game elements are clear. Following the car instead of radioing ahead makes the situation artificially more difficult, this difficulty raises the danger, and thus the excitement and final catharsis.

            High speed chases are one of the most dramatic games played by the police, but there are others. One officer I was riding with made a game out of attempting to catch homosexuals in the act of fellatio while he was in uniform. As he said, ''I know I could do it in plain clothes, but this is more fun." We spent about half an hour sneaking around behind bushes and creeping across rail road tracks, only to discover the people we were stalking were a family having a picnic. We later played hide and seek with our marked patrol car, trying to zoom up to rush the women's restroom in a park where he suspected male homosexuals were hiding out. We threw the door open and, fortunately (from my point of view), found no one of either sex in the restroom.[279]

            All undercover work has certain game elements. Attempting to gather evidence on the solicitations of prostitutes while working in plain clothes has more than most, however. The rules of the game are written by the courts. They are known to both the girls and the officers. The dialogue which goes on has the officer attempting to get the girl to set the price and describe the act for sale, and the girl tries to get the officer to set the price and ask for what he wants. This sometimes leads to strange situations, such as a girl asking "Are you a police officer?" and the officer answering in a joking tone, "Surrre I am, honey,'' which convinces the girl he is not so she makes the offer and is arrested. Or a girl may be so broke that she goes with an officer in spite of her feeling that he is an officer. Both the prostitutes and the officers, particularly the vice officers, tend to look on it as a game of skill and they expect to win a few and lose a few, leaving the absolute level of prostitution in the city where supply and demand require it.[280]

            Fights are another area in which games are played. There are some fights which are unpleasant and which result in injury to the officer, but in most cases the officer, and the help he summons, win the fight. It is possible in many situations for the officer to control whether or not there will be a fight by his own demeanor. If he wants to fight, he can "jack the suspect up" by being aggressive, if he does not want to fight, he can usually "cool it'' by being quiet- spoken and polite. Many people the police have contact with participate in this game. If they are allowed to walk along to the police car without being rushed or restrained, they will go, balking just enough to give the officer a chance to push them if he wants to. If he pushes, he may well have a fight on his hands. Unless the suspect escapes, however, he will eventually lose the fight. Many officers have commented to me that fights are fun, and that they look forward to them.[281] However, just as with high speed chases, in spite of the fact that they look forward to fights, they tend to denigrate the fighter who gives them the action they are looking for. One officer commented "People who make you fight them are no damn good," about ten seconds after he had commented that he enjoyed fights and high speed chases.[282] it seems to me that in this situation some police officers are afraid to admit to themselves that they simply enjoy fighting and thus must put the blame on the person they are fighting with.

            A final police game involves driving at high speed through the city, running red lights without using the red light and siren, when covering in on any call which could possibly be an emergency. The time saved is usually less than a minute as cars are customarily assigned to calls on their own beats. Driving at seventy and eighty through the city, even late at night, sliding around corners and running lights, provides a certain amount of excitement. It is the hot- rodder's dream, as one officer commented, while we were covering a non-emergency call at sixty miles an hour (no seat belts fastened, they get in the way of quick exit from the car), "Who's going to give me a ticket? "

Citizens' Games of Cops and Robbers

            Eric Berne developed the notion of a Cops and Robbers game as being a transaction carried out between criminals and Cops:

"Thesis. Because many criminals are cop-haters, they seem to get as much satisfaction from outwitting the police as from their criminal games, often more. Their crimes, at the Adult level, are games played for the material rewards, the take; but at the Child level, it is the thrill of the chase: the getaway and the cool-off."[283]

He. also suggests that each Robber has his modus operandi for getting caught, and that he may make it tough or easy for the Cops.[284] He suggests that under certain circumstances a person may decide that he is doomed to die in the chair, and the person may then spend the rest of his life working toward this goal, using someone else as a target to set himself up.[285] At least one police writer explicitly rejects the idea that some delinquency is caused by a desire to provoke punishment and rejection, but he offers no evidence.[286] The definitions of the two writers may not be congruent, however, and they may be talking about different types of behavior.

            In addition to individual games of cops and robbers, there are games which are inspired by adherence to some group norm. When a group of kids break into a store and steal goods right off the shelves in broad daylight, they are daring the store owner and the police to try to catch them. When kids engage in progressively more serious delinquency in such a way as eventually to be caught, they may be enjoying the chase. The police may be a handy group to test one's manhood against. Having them chase you in a car and getting away is one way.[287] Fighting with them and getting away is another. Being a member of the Hell's Angels and wearing the colors is a permanently established and constituted challenge to the police.[288] On one occasion, my partner and I caught a young man who had just broken a store window and had attempted to make off with some liquor. His hands were badly cut and the handcuffs he was wearing didn't help. As he sat in the car, soaking the back seat with blood, he kept muttering to himself, "I'm a Indian. Indians don't Cry. "[289]  In each of these cases, the interactive transaction with the police has some relevance for the group that the violator is a member of. They gain some stature in their group by doing criminal acts in an open way, daring the police to catch them. As with the Indian, their group membership sometimes sustains them and gives them the courage to face the consequences "as a man."

            A  third motivation for playing Cops and Robbers may be to develop a feeling of importance. Marijuana smokers seem to have a need to feel persecuted. They pick up and use a set of terms which are a dead give away for an officer attuned to them. The feelings of paranoia commonly voiced by marijuana users may be a way of saying "What I am doing is important and dangerous. Somebody cares about it and is watching for me." It is not much to have the police watching for you, but it may be better than nothing. This feeling of persecution causes users to act in such ways that they are often caught, for example, they try to throw marijuana out the window when the police are only stopping them for a vehicle code violation. It also lends a certain amount of excitement to life to think that "agents" are after you and even your best friend may be one.

Criminal Games of Cops and Robbers

            The straight or "con wise" professional criminal does not play Cops and Robbers, and, according to Berne, they look out for players in their gangs and try to get rid of them before all are caught.[290]

            A fairly clear example of Cops and Robbers in Berne's sense, which involves acting so as to get caught, is the homosexual who accosts people in public toilets he knows are under surveillance. One reported instance of this type of behavior involved a homosexual accosting a detective in the men's room of the City Hall.[291] A similar incident happened in San Francisco when a just-bailed-out prostitute solicited a police inspector in the Hall of Justice Elevator on the way down to the first floor.

            Another incident which demonstrated this pattern concerned the gang beating of a man, who later died, by a number of teen-agers. The murder was solved when two of the perpetrators were picked up for something else and said, while sitting in the back of the police car, "I'll bet these cops would give us more respect if they knew what we did at Ocean Beach."

            It would be a mistake to think that all, or most, of the activity dealt with by the police falls into the "criminal game" category, or even the "citizens games" category, but some does. This constitutes the third way that tertiary control agents become involved in ongoing situations.


            Violations sometimes come to the attention of the police through the complaint of a victim. A complainant usually desires some police action, though he does not always know exactly what action would be best. On occasion, the police can directly carry out the appropriate action and leave the complainant happy, but more often what the officers can do, or feel should be done, falls short of the desires of the complainant. This is a consequence of the public's lack of understanding of the legal, moral, and customary restraints the police feel obliged to recognize. The police, understanding this discrepancy, often disguise the truth of the situation so that the complainant feels satisfied.

            Officers may not want to follow through when they feel they are being used for private gain, or for harassment, or when the complainant himself is an offender.

            Sometimes, on the other hand, officers find that they have to persuade reluctant complainants to take legal action.

            Officers often cannot take legal action because the offense complained of is a civil affair, not an offense at all, a product of mental disturbance or drunkenness. In these cases, the officers usually explain their limitations under the law, but attempt to appear especially helpful to give the impression that something is being done. Small losses are unlikely to produce much police action, at least not as much as the complainant might desire, so officers "take a report" and say things which are intended to lead the complainant to think that some action will be taken.

            Sometimes official action would make an existing situation worse. Officers are reluctant to interfere in continuing legitimate relationships, or to cause unnecessary hardship, by insisting on official action. If the complainant himself makes an arrest the officers feel is unjust, their only recourse may be to use their charging discretion to reduce the seriousness of the offense, though they can often prevent the arrest and solve the problem informally.

            The net effect of the procedures mentioned is that the great number of offenses perceived by members of the public are assessed by the police to determine which are good, legitimate, moral complaints, and the other complainants are "cooled out" generally by tact or deceit. This reduces the "crime" input that the police have to deal with, as well as restraining some members of the public from baseless complaints.

            Police officers discover many crimes on their own. Police officers see a world of crime. Their training and experience constitute a secondary socialization to a "police everyday reality" which is partially substituted for the everyday realities commonly found in society. Some elements of this reality are that all appearances are taken as problematic, that various senses are consciously used, that certain limits to visibility are accepted, that various games are used to improve perceptions, that "good" perceptions are transmitted to other officers, that incongruity procedures are developed, that strategies for uncovering evidence of criminality in recurring situations are developed, that reaction time assumptions are violated or analyzed, that reactions of citizens to the officer are attended to, that common actions are attended to, for evidences of criminality (which leads to the most marked divergence from common everyday reality), that the range and nature of the contacts he sees makes the degraded normal, that danger is seen everywhere, and that many unusual facts are learned which allow the officer to apperceive criminality. All of these perceptual modes and expectations are made more salient to the officer by the fact that he keeps a written record of them in his notes. As with any secondary socialization which differs markedly from the primary socialization, the problem is maintaining the reality of the secondary socialization in the face of pressures to resume the primarily socialized perceptual modes. The fact that police officers live in society with leisure time and non-police contacts, rather than isolated in barracks, cuts down the efficiency of their secondary socialization but keeps them human.

            Some crimes come to the attention of the police because they are a challenge. In our routine and somewhat passionless life, excitement can take on a great deal of importance. For the police officer, excitement can be created by playing some situations by game rules which increase the danger or the difficulty. Games are particularly relevant in high speed chases, undercover work, fights, and routine high speed driving. Cops and Robbers games are played by citizens for individual excitement or psychological gratification, and to maintain their reputation in a group, and their group's reputation. Playing Cops and Robbers also can make citizens feel important. In Berne's sense, a relatively small number of criminals play the game so as to get caught, but these do appear to be people who desire punishment for one reason or another.



          Situations may be characterized as being predictable or unpredictable, and as involving or not involving the possibility of great gains or losses. In the daily round of activities of most people, the situations are predictable and no great gains or losses are possible. In the policeman's round of activities, some are relatively predictable, but many are not, some are of little consequence, but others can result in his death.

          The predictability of the outcome of a social situation seems to depend on five factors.

          First, whether the schedule of events is known to ego in advance or not. The starting time and approximate program of routine events is known, singular events may start at any time and may follow any sequence. Many of the situations faced by a police officer are singular events, the starting time is when he gets the radio message, the program is unknown.

          Second, whether the actors are known to each other or not in advance. If the actors are known to each other, they have some basis for predicting how the other will respond. Police officers usually do not know the people they deal with to any great extent, and if they do know them, it may only be in a police-contact situation.

          Third, whether the specific situation is new to both parties or not. A new situation contains many unknowns, a repeated situation fewer. In their daily round, citizens usually contact the same people, clerks, tellers, co-workers, bus drivers, etc., in the same situations day after day. The contemporary police officer only contacts people in the same situation when he has repeat calls to the same family fight every weekend. For a variety of reasons, civilian daily round activities tend to be homeostatic while police situations tend toward the episodic. If the police contact the same situation many times, they arrest someone to stop it. In general, the specific situation is new for both the officer and the others involved.

          Fourth, whether the background elements of the situation are known to ego or not. Knowledge of the background of a specific situation varies from that in a family where a myriad of details are known, to the police situation where only a few background elements are known and crucial ones may be missing. A person stopped for an automobile equipment violation may be a fleeing armed robber who will shoot on sight.

          Fifth, whether ego has prior experience in similar situations. Prior experience leads to the development of a variety of tactics to take care of the present situation. In order to know that the situation is similar, however, ego must know something about it. If ego assumes that a situation is similar to another on the basis of insufficient evidence, he may be led into using an inappropriate tactic. In most social situations, this would be termed a faux pas, false step. The consequences of making a false step are usually minor in everyday situations, but may be major for the police officer. Experience as a police officer leads to skill, but perhaps to overconfidence as well.

          The gains or losses in a situation may or may not be predictable in advance. Within broad limits, there are expectations about the possible gains and losses associated with various situations. In a daily round of activities, the participants are usually involved in continuing relations with one another and a norm of reciprocity grows to a definition of the situation in terms of levels of rewards or costs to be anticipated. Eric Berne defines some of these transactions in terms of the "strokes" expected by the participants. Good friends give each other many strokes, casual acquaintances may only say "Hi!" to each other, but each set of acquaintances has defined their own situation in terms of the rewards to be expected.[292] If these expectations are violated, they are puzzled or outraged. In most everyday situations, minor gains or losses of self-esteem are all that can be expected, certainly one does not expect his life to be devastated or ended when he greets a neighbor on the street. The police officer in contact with the public may expect only very minor gains to his self-esteem, and the possibility of great loss. The identity of a police officer is so total that any attack on it is tantamount to an attack on his entire being, so the possibility of a loss of self-esteem is not taken lightly. In addition, there are very few other occupations where the possibility of death or injury is an expectation as it is for a police officer. The police officer thus enters a number of situations where he stands to make few gains and where the possibility of great loss, to psyche or soma, is always to be taken into account.

          In combination, these two variables form a terrifying pattern when compared with everyday life. The police officer is required to move into highly unpredictable situations on a minute's notice, and in every one of them he stands the possibility of being assaulted, reviled, or killed. Naturally, when there is such a large, relevant, and ambiguous area in someone's life, he will attempt to develop a strategy to bring it under control. This strategy must take into account the unpredictability and seriousness of the situation, and must be geared to the most unpredictable situation with the most serious consequences if it is to be any good at all. For the police officer, a number of specific tactics go to form an overall strategy for gaining and retaining control of the situation.

          The police often encounter people in adversary relationships. This is not common in everyday life, but is in war and in certain types of games. Just as soldiers used to try to command the high ground, and a chess player the center of the board, the police officer attempts to keep himself in the best position for offense and defense at all times. He attempts to maintain a positional advantage, in chess terms. Unlike a chess game, which is over in three to five hours, the officer must attempt to maintain the positional advantage all of his working life. As with the other elements of his secondary socialization mentioned in the last chapter, there is a constant battle to keep the definitions of the situation learned in primary socialization from taking over. If a police officer begins to feel that the situations he encounters are routine and predictable, and he fails to take the precautions that unpredictability requires, he may well be killed, ". . . it takes only a fraction of a second of inattention to provide a means for a suspect to gain control of the situation."[293] As one book on the techniques of arresting suspects warned:

          "All of us like to be liked; this is human nature. In dealing with other human beings we frequently if unnecessarily attempt to secure their "good graces."

          In contradiction to this, the arresting officer must never forget that, no matter by what name it is called, an arrest is an act that deprives an individual of his liberty. This is supported from a professional perspective (and definitely a safety perspective) by the cardinal rule that once an individual is arrested no favors or special requests are to be granted.

          In the movies or on television the "gruff old cop with the heart of gold" depicts entreating melodrama. In reality the arresting officer has only to violate or forget this rule one time and the resulting cost can be his life.

          Too many occurrences of this violation resulted in the deaths of otherwise capable policemen who have "just this one time given the guy a break." No departure from this policy is ever warranted."[294]

Even should a situation not result in the death or injury of an officer, it may result in acute embarrassment. Such was the case with two police officers who walked into a robbery in progress and managed to lose control of the situation to the extent that the robbers shackled them with their own handcuffs and got away with the loot.[295] They will be a long time living it down with their fellow officers. It is to prevent situations such as this that various techniques have been developed to control the situation.

Controlling Situations on the Street

          The uniform which an officer wears helps to control many situations all by itself. In directing traffic, for example, it is usually all that is needed. The clearly marked patrol car serves the same purpose. In those situations where all that is required for compliance is identification of the officer, the uniform serves well. In many situations the uniform and conspicuous patrol car:

". .. impresses the criminal and minor offender and places them at a psychological disadvantage which makes them less likely to resist. A policeman is something more than a physical human being because he has the moral backing and the complete resources of organized society to aid him in the execution of his duties."[296]

          The importance of the uniform may be seen when the difficulties       which plain-clothes officers sometimes encounter are examined. The plain-clothes officer appears to have no particular authority to the suspect or to the bystander, This may lead the suspect to attempt to out-wit or out-fight the officer. The bystander may interpret the resulting fight as one between private individuals, and thus not intervene. If a plain-clothes officer approaches a suspect with gun in hand without clearly identifying himself, it is possible that a jury would accept the suspect's defense that he shot and killed the officer in self-defense, not knowing he was an officer but thinking his life was in danger from some unknown adversary.[297] So the officer should start every arrest by identifying himself as a police officer. This, of course, is taken care of by the uniform.

          An incident which I have heard of from a police officer but which I cannot document also illustrates the importance of the uniform.

"Several plain-clothes officers wearing working clothes were on a stake-out watching a suspicious location. A citizen who observed them thought that they looked suspicious, and called the police. Another group of plain-clothes officers were the first on the scene, running with their guns drawn. One group apparently opened fire on the other and they had a shoot-out in the street. Apparently one officer was killed by a fellow officer."

This incident reputedly took place in a large city where it is possible that all of the officers would not know one another.[298]

          The authority of the uniform alone is not sufficient to control many situations which the police encounter, so the police officer is fitted out as a weapons system with a variety of weapons useful in various situations. An officer will routinely carry a .38 caliber revolver and spare ammunition, a 12 to 14-inch truncheon, club, or baton, a flashlight, handcuffs and key, call box key and a whistle, a notebook and pen, a citation book, an arrest book, and possibly a two-way radio. In addition, he may carry a spare gun, a "come-along" or "bear's claw," brass knuckles, a blackjack, a confiscated switch-blade knife, a palm sap, a canister of tear gas or a more potent chemical agent depending on his own preferences and the rules of his department. His uniform and equipment belt are so designed that he will have both of his hands free all of the time in spite of his load of weapons. They do tend to weigh him down, however. My uniform, which does not include a radio or any additional weapons, weighs almost twenty pounds.

          In addition to these weapons which are carried on his person, his patrol car may well contain a shotgun loaded with four rounds of "00" buckshot (9 .32 caliber pellets per round), additional ammunition, a 26" baton, a riot helmet, a small law library, copies of the department's regulations, forty to fifty types of report forms, flares, blankets, first aid equipment, chalk, measuring tape, a two-way radio, red light and siren, and a "hot sheet" of stolen cars and license plates. The officer will also be backed up by a technician's car which contains the equipment for scientific crime analysis and photography, and possibly extra weapons. In addition, in Westville there is a:

"... Departmental Emergency Equipment Vehicle (which) contains various logistical support items for use during emergency situations. The categories of items assigned to the unit are arms and ammunition, chemical agents, electrical and communications equipment, first-aid and safety equipment, office and miscellaneous equipment."[299]

If these heavy weapons are not sufficient, there is always the National Guard, other police departments, and the Army. The police do not intend to lose control of the situation for long, indeed, they cannot and retain their function as tertiary social control agents.

          The individual officer has little need for these heavy back-up weapons in most situations. He may put his patrol car through a very thorough shake-down, testing all the lights and the brakes, accelerating it and sliding around a few corners at the beginning of his shift to make sure he knows it and its peculiarities.[300] He may carry, as some officers in Westville do, a "hold-out" gun and/or a switchblade knife for use should they lose their service revolver in a fight. But generally the weapons and equipment in the standard uniform are sufficient for most situations. The "hold-out" gun has been suggested for many situations:

"The number of officers killed each year while approaching motorists or pedestrians for routine interrogations indicates that the patrolman should assume every person he encounters may be armed. Many experienced officers carry a small pistol in their jacket or trouser pocket. This type of weapon may be held in the hand, concealed in the pocket or by the notebook, and is ready instantly for use should the situation require it. If the subject is revealed to be legitimate, he need never know that the officer was grasping a pistol during the entire conversation."[301]

          An aspect of the physical situation which has long been recognized as important is the physical size of the police officer. In Westville, the minimum height is 5'9", and this is generally true for most police departments. Larger officers seem to have less difficulty in controlling the behavior of suspects than do smaller officers. The small officer may be assaulted because he is small, or he may need to be overly aggressive to feel that he is in control of the situation.

Banton mentions a case:

"It was interesting to note how easily one of the officers apprehended people: he was a big man, 6 ft. 2 in. tall and about 230 lbs in weight, and he had only to say to someone, 'Come on, get into the back of the car,' to be obeyed quietly - it scarcely took half a minute."[302]

I have also found size to be important in my own experience. In uniform, I stand 6 ft. 7 in. to the top of my cap (6 ft. 9 in. wearing boots) and weigh 250 lbs. I rarely have to do any more than request what I want in an even and serious tone of voice to have it done.

          Skolnick states that the street patrolman uses his authority when he perceives arrogance or hostility on the part of the citizenry, often without the power to actually impose legal sanctions. He suggests that authority is exercised to reduce the perception of danger. He continues:

"Whether or not he has actually been delegated such authority may be open to question, but it is not an important consideration for the street policeman. For him the uniform constitutes authority, and he is usually willing to back up a challenge with all the force he can command."[303]

It seems to me that this use of authority and force can best be understood if one realizes that "arrogance or hostility" is interpreted by the police officer as a threat to his control of the situation because it indicates a lack of primary or secondary control. It may be, in fact, that he over-reacts either in an individual instance or habitually, and that he uses his authority in an unjustified manner. It is empirically true, however, that arrogant and hostile people are more likely than humble and polite people to cause the officer trouble, and his response may be to find some law which fits some elements of the situation which gives him the authority to remove this irritation. There are a number of ways which have been suggested for dealing with potentially dangerous situations without using overt authority. For example, the officer should attempt to establish a common ground of understanding with the suspect, he should not attack when the suspect is poised for combat, and he should engage in small talk to veer the situation away from a confrontation, according to O. W. Wilson.[304] In addition to these tactics, the officer's manner may be important.

          Some people's voices convey authority, others do not. Officers are advised in some manuals to practice developing a "command" voice to use in controlling situations that require it.[305] It should not be used until it is apparent that it is needed, however, as it is better to approach most situations with a "cheerful and friendly tone."[306] The conscious use of various tones of voice constitute one of the more important controls of situations. If the officer's voice and demeanor are well adapted to the situation, it is unlikely that he will have to use other techniques, such as force. The demeanor of the officer is important in establishing a definition of the situation. If his manner, appearance, attitude, and actions convey an image of judgment, firmness, tact, and self-control, the suspect often will respond in a calm manner.[307] I have seen a situation where the officer would have probably succeeded in arresting his suspect had he not shouted "You're under arrest" long before he had control of the suspect, giving the suspect time to plan his actions to avoid arrest, hit the officer in the face, and run away. Had he asked the suspect to step over to the car, and talked with him to calm him down, he probably could have arrested him without a fight.[308]

          Making it clear to the offender that the officer is "in command" of the situation is seen as very important as it discourages resistance.[309] Conveying this idea is so important that even excesses are condoned as being better than losing control:

"Going after his revolver too soon is an evidence of nervousness on the part of the officer, although it is not one that is likely to encourage the offender to make a break for it. On the contrary, it will often put great fear in the arrested person. This is all right, of course, if the officer stops there."[310]

The officer leaves himself open to criticism if he often has to arrest people with a drawn gun, because he should be able to structure the situation so that it is unnecessary. In addition, the use of a gun makes the situation much more serious. If the offender is a misdemeanant, the officer cannot shoot him anyway if he runs away; if he is a felon, it may encourage him to use mortal force himself.[311]


". . . in any argument a fellow Angel is always right. To disagree with a Hell's Angel is to be wrong--and to persist in being wrong is an open challenge. .. . When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, your chances of emerging unmaimed depend on the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. … "Our motto, man, is 'All on One and One on All.' You mess with an Angel and you've got twenty-five of them on your neck. I mean, they'll break you but good, baby."”[312]

          Though somewhat more restrained by legal requirements, the police are no more interested in a "fair fight" than are the Hell's Angels. Both are interested only in winning, and both will use all the help available. The major difference is that when the police use force it is generally legitimated by society, and when the Hell's Angels use it, it is not. On the whole, the police must restrain their use of force to those situations where popular morality upholds it or the legitimacy of their monopoly may be called into question.[313]

          According to the Westville Police Department, which is functioning within the limits established by state law, there are five occasions on which an officer may discharge his revolver. These are:

1. At an approved range.

2. When killing seriously wounded or dangerous animals when other disposition is impractical.

3. When necessary in the defense of their own lives when all other reasonable means have failed.

4. When necessary in defense of another person's life when all other reasonable means have failed.

5. When necessary to effect the capture of, or prevent the escape of, or rescue of a person whom the officers have reasonable cause to believe has committed a felony, except for felony violations of the Vehicle Code, when all other reasonable means have failed.

Killing a person under any of these conditions is considered justifiable homicide, or justifiable homicide by a public officer, under the state's Penal Code.

          There are three occasions where an officer may not discharge his revolver, according to Westville's rules:

1. You will not fire a warning shot.

2. You will not fire at moving or fleeing vehicles involved in violations of the Vehicle Code, including felony violations.

3. In all misdemeanor cases.[314]

The entire area of the use of mortal force is actually much more vague than the official rules would indicate. These rules were formulated to exist within the limits of the Penal Code but they provide mere guidelines for the circumstances under which an officer may use his revolver, not prescriptions for when he has to. In every individual case, the decision of whether or not to fire is up to the individual officer, and though he may be legally exonerated, he may have to live with a feeling of guilt for a long time.

          Force, at any level, may be avoided by a skillful officer on many occasions by the use of persuasion. Should force be necessary, however, the police officer is officially admonished to use only "necessary" force to accomplish his lawful ends. He must first try to restrain his opponent. Failing this, he may use his truncheon. Should this prove inadequate, and the offense is still a misdemeanor, he is legally empowered to go no further. Should the offender have become a felon in the process, for example by committing a battery on the officer, the officer can then legally proceed to the use of mortal force. A great portion of the training of any police officer is devoted to the use and abuse of his various tools of violence. The truncheon, according to the book, should never be used on the head of an opponent, but should be used on the opponent's arms, legs, collarbone, and shoulders, in various specified places. This is recommended because of the possibility of killing an opponent.[315] On the other hand, the advice of an experienced police officer to my training class reflected the personal experience of a man who had been in street fights, and not the abstract prescriptions of a text:

"When the beef is on you don't have time to look for one of the good points, hit anything. If you have to use the baton, just use it once."[316]

This, of course, opens the officer to the possibility of killing a person later found to be a misdemeanant. The realities of force are harsh. Many people have asked me why an officer did not shoot someone "in the legs" or "shoot at the tires" of a car instead of killing the offender. There are two reasons which make these nice gradations of force impossible to apply in most street situations. First, the revolver, even in the hands of a good shot, is an extremely inaccurate weapon under the best of conditions. Second, as a consequence of the inaccuracy of the weapon, and as a deterrent to its frivolous use, officers are instructed to shoot only to kill. "Shoot at the abdomen, not the head or limb s."[317]  Just as with the baton, the possibility of making a mistake is great, and the formal rules only seem to cover the street situation. For example, after reading the instruction not to fire at a moving vehicle (May not discharge, Rule 2), the instructor said: "If your partner gets killed in a hit-and-run and the car is getting 'away, you forget all about this horseshit."[318] No rule, however complex, can cover all of the possible situations an officer may face on the street, and in the final analysis, he must do what his conscience dictates to him. So long as officers are armed and their use of force is legitimated under any circumstances there will be mistakes, misapplications, and accidents. The officer's personal passions may well influence his activity in these grey areas, as in the case of the fleeing hit-run car, or in the case where he has been under personal attack: "I want you to become good shots. If a guy shoots at you, I want you to kill him."[319] Even if a mistake is made and someone killed who was not fair game because he was only a misdemeanant, the street situation may provide non-legal legitimation which will prevent the police officer from being seriously dealt with: "If you shoot a lousy bastard, there will be no particular outcry."[320]

          Any set of rules which are grounded in tertiary social control reality and applied to interactive social control reality will necessarily be inadequate to the extent that the first reality is not in point-to-point correspondence with the second. The rule that deadly force may only be used in situations which involve a felony violation of the Penal Code is unusually discrepant in many cases. Felonies are not all crimes of violence, and many crimes can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. The legislature writes laws and assigns the penalties for their violation. A felony is any violation which carries a punishment of death or imprisonment in the state prison. The legislature in many cases has imposed felony penalties for crimes which are not at all dangerous. This has no particular ill-effects in the legal system, it may be seen as concrete expression of customary concern over some problem which is felt to be sufficiently serious to warrant imposing prison terms on the offenders. But the effect for the police is to provide the officer with a warrant to use deadly force for a crime which was no danger to himself or to others. Additionally, the legislature has taken some dangerous behavior fairly lightly and has provided only misdemeanor punishment for violations which could result in the death of an officer or a citizen. Some of the discrepancies between the legal rule that deadly force may only be used for felonies and the commonsense or street rule that deadly force should be used to counter deadly force may be seen if the two rules are cross-classified:



Not dangerous


Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Battery, Assault with a deadly weapon, train wrecking

Sodomy, oral copulation, possession of marijuana, abortions, counterfeiting quicksilver stamps, sale of pornography (with prior)



Drawing deadly weapon, shooting from a public road, failure to yield to emergency vehicle (high-speed chase)[321]

Automobile registration violations, spitting, littering, kosher law violations, shoplifting

The fact that many common crimes may be punished as felonies or as misdemeanors means that the officer may be in the position of having to make a judicial determination before he can shoot. The police respond to this ambiguity by routinely assuming that any crime with felony penalty provisions, no matter how rarely enforced, is a felony and justifies deadly force.

          The one exception to this policy of assuming that any felony violation justifies the use of deadly force, to my knowledge, is the rule of the Berkeley, California Police Department that an officer is justified in shooting "in situations involving an armed felon who is known to the officer to be dangerous."[322] Previously, Berkeley had operated on the basis of California State Law which permits the shooting of any escaping felon whether armed or not.

          Fortunately, the use of deadly force is relatively rare. Most officers who use force at all usually are involved with hitting suspects with their hands or truncheons while attempting to arrest them. A piece of practical advice is for the officer to cover himself in any situation where he must hit someone:

"If at any time it is necessary to hit a man, with anything, for any reason, arrest him. Such an assault and battery by an officer is legal if it is reasonable force used during the course of a legal arrest. However, should you not arrest him, he can have you arrested for assault and battery and can sue you, the police chief whose agent you are, and the city, county, or state for which you work."[323]

          The interrelations between law, police customs, morality, and street situations are complex in all areas of police work. The use of force is no exception. In most cases, the force used is legitimated by the situation and most reasonable men would agree that it was not excessive. In some cases, the police officer looks to law to justify, after the fact, an action which was possibly unreasonable. In some cases, an officer depends on police custom and solidarity to protect him from the consequences of an illegal and unreasonable use of force. In yet other cases, he relies on the moral character of the prisoner or of the deceased to provide justification for his use of force. Some situations are fairly clear-cut, but many are not, and in these unclear situations, the personality of the officer and his mood on that day is probably at least as important as any legal rules, customs, or abstract systems of morality.

The Internalization and Acceptance of the Possibility of Killing Another

            The training of a police officer is oriented toward the killing of men. Although most people in our society never have to think, realistically, about the possibility and consequences of killing another, police officers do. The targets that policemen shoot at are outlines of men, not bull's eyes. Every aspect of weapons training is designed to make the officer a deadly shot under any conditions.

"He should in practice, every time he pulls the trigger, visualize in his mind that he is firing at a target that shoots back. In this manner the reflexes of drawing, aiming, or firing a gun at a human target becomes an instinctive, automatic reaction."[324]

Part of the difference between a police officer and a soldier is revealed in this unsoldierly incident mentioned by George Orwell from his experience in the Spanish Civil War:

"At this moment a man, presumably carrying a message to an officer, jumped out of the trench and ran along the top of the parapet in full view. He was half dressed and was holding up his trousers with both hands as he ran. I refrained from shooting at him. It is true that I am a poor shot and unlikely to hit a running man at a hundred yards, and also that I was thinking chiefly about getting back to our trench while the Fascists had their attention fixed on the aeroplanes. Still, I did not shoot partly because of that detail about the trousers. I had come here to shoot at "Fascists"; but a man who is holding up his trousers isn't a "Fascist," he is visibly a fellow-creature, similar to yourself, and you don't feel like shooting at him."[325]

The unusual nature of this incident is that the "humanity" of the target came across even a hundred yards away, causing Orwell to hold his fire. For soldiers, the humanity of their targets is rarely manifest. For police officers, it usually is. Most of the people shot by police officers are shot from a distance of less than a hundred feet, often from less than twenty feet. An example of the personal nature of such a confrontation was provided by Officer John Minderman:

"I can recall facing a murder suspect armed with a .25 caliber automatic. I had a shotgun. I thought, "Must I spot him the first shot?" Legally I did not have to. As it turned out, I did not have to fire, but I had resolved myself to it and had taken up squeezing the shotgun trigger when the circumstances changed."[326]

On many occasions, the officer will have seen the individual before, he may even know him. These factors make his decision to shoot more difficult.

"The decision to shoot at a person is tantamount to a decision to kill, since police aim at the abdomens of their adversaries. The only persons other than police officers who are required to decide whether to kill or not are judges, whose decisions are strongly governed by legal criteria as well as other considerations, and military personnel, whose individual decisions are usually rather simple--shoot at the people who are wearing a different uniform. Military personnel individually are far more likely to be following rather specific orders and to be under the direct control of their supervisors. Police thus occupy a unique position with regard to the continuance of human life.[327]

          It was my experience, although I have no way of knowing whether other police trainees also had it, that after the first two sessions of firearms training, devoted exclusively to the techniques of killing men, I began to have dreams in which violence and killing played very large parts. The effect of the training was to create an entire new mental category for me, a category which had never before been relevant, of situations which could or must be resolved by the use of violence. In the dreams which followed firearms training, I began to fit more and more everyday situations into the "violent solution" category. I think that I was testing out and exploring the dimensions of this new possibility not only on a conscious legal-moral level but also on a subconscious level as a part of the process of internalizing the elements of a very divergent secondary socialization. These dreams continued to occur for a period of two months on and off. Towards the end of this period, I apparently had come to grips with the problem of violence and the identity crisis caused by its internalization, and I stopped having these dreams. A change in my way of putting things had become apparent in my everyday conversation, one which was parallel to that caused by my Army service. This change reflected the new mental categories which had resulted from the training and early experience with the police. After further experience, violence ceased to be a problem as it became increasingly clear that the necessity would only arise rarely, and that I would be in control of my own decisions when the need did arise.[328]

          The violence of the police world is not uniformly distributed either in time or in job assignments. Many young, active officers are in almost constant contact with violent people while many older officers have few such contacts. The possibility exists for all, however, and when the chips are down, the police officer will do anything necessary to win the fight.       

          Here is a set of instructions from a book on riot control:

"Once an opponent has been downed, the rest of the job should be done with the feet. This can be accomplished by a toe kick to the temple, throat or armpit area, or by driving the back edge of the heel into the ribs, face, heart, stomach, throat, kidney or groin areas. The back edge of the heel is much more effective than the whole flat of the foot inasmuch as all the force is concentrated in a small sharp area, thus getting more penetration. When using the feet for the coup de grace, it is best to stand at one side and use one leg only as the striking weapon, retaining balance on the other leg. If you jump on the opponent with both feet, as some methods advocate, there is always danger of losing balance in case of a miss caused by movement of the opponent."[329]

The presence of instructions such as this seems to legitimate the use of a particularly unsporting kind of violence, which, of course, is legal for a police officer under the appropriate conditions.

          A "culture of violence" grows in police work. The use of force is an accepted solution to many problems, and officers are rarely criticized by other officers for using force. The two exceptions to this general rule arise when an officer either uses such excessive force that it is apparent to all that he has over- stepped the police mandate, and when an officer has to use force in many situations which could have been taken care of non-violently. Police officers do not see their use of violence as anything unusual; one reason is that the public they contact is also a violent one. As one officer said: "Police brutality? Sometimes it happens. After all, the second half of 'policeman' is 'man', and men do things like that."[330] Many police officers carry pistols when they are off duty. In some cities it is required, but in Westville it is up to the individual officer. Whatever its merits for plainclothes, off-duty police work, carrying a pistol in a variety of social situations must provide a temptation for its use in secondary rather than tertiary control given certain provocations. Police officers thus sometimes get in shootings in bars, or finish a family fight by shooting their wives. They also get involved in heroic intervention in ongoing crimes, sometimes at great risk to their lives, and one such involvement will justify to many the practice of carrying guns off duty.

          In discussing the use of force or violence in the arrest of suspects with police officers, one very common response is for the officer to relate a story in which the use of force was clearly justified. Any officer who has been even reasonably active will have at least one experience when he was assaulted without provocation by a suspect he was trying to arrest, and he will bring up this incident when the legitimacy of the police use of force is brought into question. To a certain extent, this begs the question, as few people question the right and duty of a police officer to defend himself when attacked. It is these incidents, however, which provide the symbolic legitimation for the culture of violence. These incidents allow the officer to think of himself as being in a potentially vulnerable position which justifies the use of violence on many other occasions.

          There are some officers who never use force. Unless they are incredibly lucky, or assigned to desk work, this probably indicates that they have been doing little police work. One officer I talked with had drawn his gun only once, seventeen years ago, at the explicit direction of his sergeant, in his nineteen years as a police officer. For the last seventeen years, he has been riding a three-wheel motorcycle writing parking tickets. Aside from the people in these situations, most officers will have to use force at least a couple of times a year.

Force and Solidarity

          The occasional necessity to use coordinated force puts heavy strains on the solidarity of police officers. An officer must be able to depend on the entire police team. This is often cited as the reason that one police officer will not ticket another. Whenever a radio call is heard for a potentially dangerous incident, a number of cars show up simultaneously. They may then be organized to control the situation. An incident which recently took place in Westville illustrates this situation and its solution:

"During the early morning hours of darkness, two officers were dispatched to a home in East Westville to investigate a family disturbance. Upon arriving at the scene, they en­countered a middle-aged couple who stated that their nineteen-year-old son had been drinking and had chased them from the house with a knife. While the officers were talking with the parents on the sidewalk, the suspect emerged from the house armed with a shotgun and fired one shot which narrowly missed the officers. As the suspect's parents fled, the officers took cover behind their police vehicles and the suspect fired two more shots at them from inside the house.

          The officers used their police radios to immediately request additional assistance. A sergeant and additional police units responded and the house was surrounded. Several more shots were fired by the suspect at officers in front of the house and at neighboring houses.

          The suspect was contacted on the telephone by a communications dispatcher who attempted to talk him into surrendering, but he refused. A command officer who had arrived at the scene also attempted to convince the suspect to surrender but he refused and continued to fire at the officers.

          When it was determined that tear gas would be used, units with additional equipment were called to the scene. A tear gas projectile was fired through the front window into the house and the suspect's brother, who had been in the house, ran out the side door and was escorted to safety. The officers at the front of the house were directed to return the suspect's fire while additional projectiles were fired into the house.

          Shortly after the third tear gas projectile had been fired, the suspect threw the shotgun out of the front window and surrendered by walking down the front steps with his hands up. He was then arrested for attempted murder."[331]

Not only did the arrival and firepower of a number of officers ultimately control the situation, but the force used was carefully controlled and measured to the situation. No one was hurt. After a spectacular shoot-out such as this, the lessons to be learned are not allowed to simply pass along through the informal network as they would be in a smaller police department, but the incident was carefully analyzed and suggestions were made in the form of a Training Bulletin of ways to improve police performance should a similar situation arise in the future.[332] Not every officer gets involved in such incidents. The younger and more active officers ponder whether they will still be able to work effectively when they are near retirement and have a large family to think of. Thus, many of those who are involved themselves can find an excuse to keep from condemning an older officer who does not respond to a trouble call quickly enough. Should an officer respond, however, and not support the other officers through a failure of nerve, this is likely to be reflected in the other officer's evaluation of his moral worth. No one wants to be left exposed by a human failure. It is partially for this reason that police reserve officers are negatively evaluated by regular officers. Their reliability in a fight is doubtful.[333] The reserve officer, though he may be courageous, has not the constant practice and experience in overcoming his own fears which would make him effective and reliable in street fights.

External Solidarity

          The solidarity, or support, that police officers give to each other allows each man to function more effectively because he is being backed up, and he knows it. Solidarity in a police department means more than standing side by side in the face of physical danger, it also means lying for your fellow officer in court, or covering up for him when he is under investigation by the department itself. This solidarity, often blind, is given to the other officers as men, as individuals, not because they are good, honest, or moral men, though they may be, but because one never knows where trouble or danger will strike and one must be able to count on the unhesitating support of any officer nearby.

"If two men have to go into a house containing a man who is suffering from some mental disorder and threatening people with a gun, it is essential for each one to know that the other is backing him up."[334]

The first evening I worked as a police officer a radio call assigned our car to a disturbance at a predominantly Negro high school. When we arrived, we could see that some vandalism had already taken place, a glass door had been kicked out. A variety show in the school auditorium had been oversold and three or four hundred angry teen-agers were rushing up and down the halls trying to break in. There were seventeen hundred more teen-agers inside the auditorium. Our job was to clear the halls and get those three hundred angry teen-agers outside. A total of six police officers cleared the hall in about fifteen minutes. But in that short time, I came to several realizations. Most important was that I felt no one there, except another police officer, was going to help me if I were being mobbed, that if I got separated from the other officer, I would probably be mobbed, and those kids didn't care a bit about who I was or what I was doing, because I was wearing the uniform of a Westville cop.[335]  I began to see some of the advantages of keeping friendly with the other officers. Out of situations such as this, repeated time and again, grows intense solidarity.

          Police officers think of themselves as loyal comrades. They mentally rehearse what they will do if a 940B call, "Officer needs HELP," comes over the air. As one officer put it, "When you hear 940B, all the stops are out. You GO."

          Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of reflex solidarity comes when an officer has been murdered. The reaction of the other officers is immediate and possibly violent. Westley quotes one officer:

"If he killed a cop, I'd beat him with a two by four. I'd break every bone in his body. Put him in the hospital for six months."[336]

This immediate reaction is tempered, especially in the much more professional West coast departments of today, by many restraints. Still, there is no more serious crime in the mind of the police officer than the murder of another officer.

          Banton points out that other factors are at work which temper blind external solidarity:

"Like members of the better American forces, Scottish policemen feel rather ambivalent about occupational solidarity. They would like to stand by their colleagues unquestioningly but know that they cannot do so. In many situations they identify them selves with the public as well as with the policeman, for they are out of uniform themselves for many hours a week. As citizens they want the police to be 'theirs' and not the servants of some distant authority. This was the feeling that caused one keen and successful police officer to remark in discussion, 'The natural born policeman should be strangled at birth.' "[337]

Internal Solidarity

          Internal solidarity can often be found in hierarchical organizations where there is a difference of interests between those on the lower levels and those higher up. Police departments have some characteristics which tend to reduce this internal solidarity, such as the united front which the organization usually presents to the public in the face of criticism, and the fact that all of the executives, or command officers, were once patrolmen.[338] Even so, the performance demanded by external solidarity, never testify against a brother officer, never get a fellow officer into trouble, is often transferred into the relations between the patrol officers and their commanders. There are three areas where internal solidarity may be seen.

          One of the most important evidences of solidarity is not to inform on an officer when he breaks a rule or the law. In 1930, August Vollmer wrote:

"Eradication of disgruntled agitators, incompetent policemen, police crooks, and grafters, takes much time since it is next to impossible to induce police officers to inform on each other. It is an unwritten law in police departments that police officers must never testify against their brother officer."[339]

Westley found that the informer was shunned and kept out of the regular interaction patterns of the police department. When the "stoolie" comes over where other officers are talking, they change the subject.[340] Further, the backing for this rule of silence is similar to that behind external solidarity: you must be able to count on your fellow officers in many situations, and if he will turn you in for one violation, he may turn you in for another.[341] A job which often requires bending the law in order to enforce it also requires honor among law-benders if the whole enterprise is not to crumble.

          The second area in which solidarity is shown is in the development of relatively formal production norms. In many areas of police work, there is no way to assess the competence of an officer. One of the most commonly used ideal standards, absence of crime on his beat, is very hard to measure, and, in any event, for many types of crimes, is not directly related to his efforts. No supervisor can make an officer work or see things if he does not want to. Anything which produces paper work can be measured, however, so the natural tendency of supervisors is to pay attention to those indicators of production which produce paper.       One of the most common of these is citations for moving offenses. In Westville, there are apparently two different norms which operate, one for the solo motorcycle traffic officers, and one for the patrol officers. The traffic officers are expected to write two tickets an hour on the average.[342] The patrol officers, who are assigned to other duties beside traffic enforcement, are expected to average one ticket a day. As they put it, "A ticket a day keeps the Sergeant away."[343] Even in other, less measurable, areas the newcomer is introduced to the norms of the group and he may restrict his activity for fear of being called "eager" by older and less energetic officers.[344]

          The third area in which solidarity is important is in relation to investigations of misconduct by the department's own board. Actually, in a sense, this is external solidarity as the complaints before the department's investigation board usually come from citizens, and the department has the board largely to ward off pressure for a Civilian Police Review Board. Nonetheless, the officers in Westville are not happy with their own board. In a recent case, officers accused of brutality to a prisoner appeared with attorneys before the board and the "welfare" association paid the attorneys fees. The findings of the board are treated with contempt by the officers. After reading off a list of investigations of complaints, about a quarter of which were sustained by the board, the Sergeant in charge of line-up wadded up the report and tossed it into the wastebasket with the comment to the assembled officers, "That's where that belongs."[345] The Sergeant thus demonstrated his solidarity with the men who worked under him, and their collective distaste for any review of their actions.

Force as Interpersonal Power

          The discrepancies between systems of tertiary formal rules and the secondary realities of the street situation mean that there are large areas where the officer must innovate his own solutions to the problems he faces. In this regard, he is similar to the combat soldier, who is also bound up in a structure of bureaucratic rules which may not apply to the actual combat situation. Morris Janowitz stated it thus:

"The combat soldier, regardless of military arm, when committed to battle, is hardly the model of Max Weber's ideal bureaucrat following rigid rules and regulations. In certain respects he is the antithesis. The combat fighter is not routinized and self-contained. Rather, his role is one of constant improvisation, regardless of his service or weapon. Improvisation is the keynote of the individual fighter or combat group. The impact of battle destroys men, equipment, and organization that need constantly to be brought back into some form of unity through on-the-spot improvisation. In battle the planned division of labor breaks down."[346]

Some of this innovation may well be used to carry out the officer's own desires. In those areas where the rules are ambiguous (and most areas either fit this situation or, with a little creative interpretation, can be made to fit this situation), the temptation to use the legitimate in-other-situations force potential in service of the officer's needs arises. Colin MacInnes put it this way:

"To exercise power delights most temperaments and corrupts all but the best. But often this power seems muted because it appears impersonal--the man who wields it may not see its direct effects on hundreds of fellow-creatures. But a copper does see this and sees it constantly. In this sense a policeman's power is greater than a prime minister's and more perilous to his soul.”[347]

          This interpersonal power may be used to carry out the spot punishments of persons who, in the officer's opinion, are unlikely to be sufficiently punished by the legal process.[348] Force has also been used to coerce respect:

"The use of force is necessary to protect yourself. You should always show that you are the boss. Make them respect the uniform and not the man. Suppose you are interrogating a guy who says to go fuck yourself. You are not supposed to take that."[349]

A similar notion was mentioned by a veteran Westville officer speaking of the techniques of field interrogation:

"Sometimes when we were interrogating a guy on the street we would have to pull out the club and bop him on the head to get his attention, then we could talk to him."[350]

He went on to point out that this was no longer done, and to caution us against following his example. Force is sometimes used out of a great frustration and anger. One Westville motorcycle officer told me of an incident where he had lost his temper:

"I was directing traffic and this convertible full of kids came right at me. It swerved and brushed by me so close it almost hit. As they went by one gave me the finger and the driver shouted "fuck you, copper," so I turned around and threw my flashlight at him. Hit him in the head. I shouldn't have done it, but it sure felt good."[351]

There are undoubtedly many such incidences which never become topics of conversation. The smallness of the amount of excessive force which I have witnessed may reflect one of three things:

          1. Possibly excessive force is used quite rarely and my observations merely reflect this.

          2. Possibly officers only use excessive force when they are with a trusted partner, and since I rotate partners (and am a Reserve Officer) they might have been inhibited.

          3. Perhaps my own demeanor and size make the use of force less necessary than might be the case were I more aggressive or smaller.

          I am inclined to believe that the first possibility is the most likely as I have ridden with an out-of- state police department in plain clothes and saw more force used in two evenings than I have in Westville in a year. In addition, the assignments I have been given in Westville are always to the most active and violent beats, with the youngest and most active officers. Perhaps excessive force is like a mirage, the closer you get to the situation the less you see of it. The Westville Police Department has a popular reputation for excessive force and brutality, based largely on cases which, for a variety of reasons, never seem to come to court. Perhaps many incidents I have been involved in where the level of force used seemed to me quite proper have gone down in folklore as instances of brutality, but, of course, I have no way of knowing this.[352]

Force as A Weapon to Get Results

          Force has often been used to get results quickly and easily. The traditional and most widely-known use of force was in the third-degree. This involved beating a prisoner until he confessed to a crime. This is no longer done as it has become the quickest way to lose a case known to man. In general, wherever force has been used instrumentally and the courts have made it non-instrumental, the police have ceased to use force in those situations. It has not always been without a sense of regret, however. As one out-of-state police chief told me:

"When you could beat prisoners in the station, they would tell you everything before they even got here, because they knew what they were in for."[353]

An officer in the same department suggested that there were still uses for a little force strategically applied:

"Take storehouse breakers (commercial burglars) for example. They are just looking for an excuse to tell-all. You hit them just once and in their own mind they feel it is justified to tell-all and implicate their partners."