Monash University report provides insight into police decision-making

Monash University

While policing requires making fast judgments of situations, officers undertake three ‘tests’ to assess a situation or person’s behaviour before taking action, new research from Monash University has revealed.

The research shines a light on the police officer decision-making process, and how such decisions to intervene are more nuanced than previously thought.

The findings were published in the paper Suspicious minds and suspicioning: constructing suspicion during policework in The Journal of Organisational Ethnography by Monash criminologist and former police officer, Dr Ross Hendy.

Dr Hendy observed 93 frontline first response officer patrol shifts over 800 hours in a large provincial city in New Zealand and a large metropolitan city in South Australia (both not identified) to determine his findings.

There were also informal discussions in the field and 27 semi-structured interviews.

The study focused on the more informal ‘stop and chat’ encounters – a relatively under-researched part of policework.

Dr Hendy found officers weighed up if the behaviour or circumstances at hand were:

  • Harmful

  • Socially acceptable

  • Legal or illegal

This process is referred to as suspicioning: deciding whether circumstances appear suspicious and how an officer goes about collecting

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