List and explain the three operational styles of policing as identified by James Q. Wilson. How do these styles compare to your perception of policing? Be sure to include how media portrayals of...

List and explain the three operational styles of policing as identified by James Q. Wilson. How do these styles compare to your perception of policing? Be sure to include how media portrayals of crime fighters can influence perception and cite a source. (Text, literature, practitioner in the field, etc.) 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this answer, I will list and discuss Wilson’s three policing styles.  Since I am not taking your course and since I do not know how you saw policing, I cannot answer the rest of the question for you.  Please read the discussion of Wilson’s three policing styles and try to think about what your perceptions of the police were and where they came from.

Wilson’s first policing style is called the “watchman” style.  In this style, the police tend to act very informally.  They are sort of like members of the community who have a little more authority than everyone else.  They tend not to arrest people except as a last resort.  They tend to ignore relatively minor crimes like gambling.  They are trying to keep order and to make sure that nothing really bad happens.  To me, this kind of policing exists mainly in old movies where the friendly cop on the beat knows everyone and tends to act like an uncle rather than a police officer.

Wilson’s second style is called the “legalistic” style.  This style is the complete opposite of the watchman style.  Here, the officer acts more like a soldier.  They follow rules strictly and try to enforce all of the laws.  These officers do not have discretion to treat people differently depending on whether they are “good” or “bad.”  Instead, this kind of officer emphasizes going by the book.  This, to me, is the kind of policing we tend to see in most TV shows today.

Finally, Wilson says that there is a “service” style of policing.  In this style, the officer behaves more like an employee of the neighborhood where they are working.  Officers are expected to keep order in the community, arresting people if need be, or using informal sanctions against people like rowdy teenagers.  If the people of the community want the police to crack down on petty offenses like gambling, they will.  If that is not what the people want, they will ignore those offenses.  This is called the “service” style because it calls for officers to behave rather as if they were store personnel, doing what their customers want.

Which of these views of the police did you previously hold?  Where did you see the police portrayed in these ways?

Sources:

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