ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS
What makes an officer successful at "looking beyond the ticket"?
Once perceptual, educational, statistical, and marketing challenges have been considered, the remaining element for successful "looking beyond the ticket" efforts relates to individual officer techniques.
More than 100 interviews with participating officers identified the following key elements to their individual enforcement success.
Law enforcement officers identified twenty-three training areas that helped them "look beyond the ticket." When analyzed by topic, the most frequently identified areas of training were:
The training needed to become successful at "looking beyond the ticket" is the same training necessary to succeed in other policing functions. Investing in training to help officers attain the skills necessary to "look beyond the ticket" also can help to develop professional and effective law enforcement officers.
Practical application of skills learned is an important element of success. Ninety percent of the officers interviewed identified the field training officer as the most significant influence on their patrol techniques. Proactive patrol techniques demonstrated by field training officers were passed on to 55 percent of the respondents. Field training officers who did not demonstrate proactive patrol techniques influenced 26 percent of the respondents to be more proactive. The remaining 19 percent did not have field training officers as role models, and developed their patrol techniques individually.
Proactive patrol, for the purposes of this document, means frequently stopping vehicles for observed violations to issue citations and check for stolen vehicles and wanted subjects. In June 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that "a stop is constitutional as long as there is probable cause (to believe) that a traffic violation has occurred." Whren v. United States.
Many officers interviewed believe a proactive approach is the most effective enforcement method because:
Many officers identified "gut feelings" or a "sixth sense" as an important element to their success. When asked to describe what triggered their "gut feeling," human behavior and actions were referenced as the most common stimuli. Examples given include:
Whether occurring prior to or after the stop, many stimuli were similar. However, some of these stimuli are specific to when they occurred. For example:
Prior to the stop (listed in order from most frequently observed):
After the stop
Participating officers identified support from peers, command, the community, and the media as essential elements of their success. Some suggestions offered by the officers include:
Improved internal (within the law enforcement community) and external (community at large) marketing of proactive traffic law enforcement will increase peer and public recognition and support.
In summary, at a time when motor vehicle crashes continue to claim thousands of lives each year, aggressive drivers are blatantly acting out their frustrations on other drivers, drivers are increasingly getting behind the wheel impaired by alcohol and other drugs, and citizens are fearful of permitting their children to play outside proactive traffic enforcement combined with "looking beyond the ticket" may be one of the solutions law enforcement agencies are looking for to help take them into the 21st century.
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