Police-citizen encounters and field citations: Do encounter characteristics influence ticketing?

  • Brown R
  • Frank J
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Purpose – To provide an empirical analysis of what influences police use of field citations (tickets) against citizens in nontraffic and traffic encounters. Design/methodology/approach – The research was conducted using systematic social observations of police-citizen encounters in Cincinnati, Ohio, from April 1997 to 1998. Multiple logistic regression models were used to examine the effects of legal and extralegal factors on the dependant variable (receipt of a citation) versus an officer doing nothing or arresting a citizen in nontraffic and traffic encounters. Findings – Officers appear to be more likely to issue citations, as opposed to doing nothing formal or making an arrest, in traffic encounters. The extant literature’s focus on citation issuance being more relevant to police behavior in traffic encounters as opposed to other routine encounters may be appropriate. When the decision rests between issuing a citation or making a full-custody arrest in traffic encounters, white officers are more likely to arrest than their black counterparts, and black suspects were significantly more likely than Caucasians to be arrested than cited. Race of the officer or the suspect exhibited no significant effect in any of the other models estimated. Research limitations/implications – The study utilized data collected on police-citizen interactions from one police agency in one jurisdiction, and the data do not come from a study designed primarily to examine citation outcomes or traffic encounters. Practical implications – This study would be useful to researchers examining police use of citations, officer behavior in traffic and nontraffic encounters, quantifying law in police-citizen encounters, and race-based policing. Originality/value – This study provides a comprehensive review of the literature, and an empirical analysis, regarding officer decision making as it pertains to the issuing of tickets relative to other police actions (i.e. arrest) in traffic and nontraffic situations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Penalty costs
  • Police
  • Policing
  • Social dynamics
  • Traffic control

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  • Robert A. Brown

  • James Frank

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