foot patrol | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

Foot patrol is a police patrol method that relies on officers walking a beat rather than riding in automobiles; this method of patrol has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since the advent of Community-oriented Policing.

Foot patrol is a type of policing where officers patrol the streets by foot, bike, or horseback rather than in a patrol car. In the early days of policing, foot patrol was the most common form of police presence on the streets, but as police departments grew and cities expanded, police forces moved towards automobile patrols. However, in recent years, foot patrol has experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly as part of community-oriented policing (COP) initiatives.

The use of foot patrol as a police tactic can be traced back to the early 19th century when the first modern police forces were formed in England. At that time, police officers would patrol the streets on foot. The use of these patrols was seen as an effective way to deter crime and maintain a visible police presence in the community. However, with the advent of the automobile, police forces began to rely more on automobile patrols as a means of covering a larger area more quickly.

In the United States, the use of such patrols began to decline in the 1930s and 1940s, as police departments began to adopt automobile patrols as their primary mode of transportation. However, in recent years, there has been a renewed interest in foot patrol, particularly as a means of building trust between police officers and members of the community.

Foot patrol is often seen as a way to increase police visibility in a community and to build trust between police officers and residents. It is also seen as a way to promote community policing by allowing officers to engage with community members on a more personal level. It can be particularly effective in high-crime areas, where officers can develop relationships with residents and gain a better understanding of the specific issues facing the community.

One of the key benefits of this patrol method is that it allows officers to be more proactive in their policing efforts. By walking a beat, officers are able to observe and address issues in real time, rather than simply responding to calls for service. Foot patrol can also be an effective way to address quality-of-life issues such as littering, loitering, and public drunkenness.

Another benefit is that it can help to reduce the fear of crime in a community. When residents see police officers walking the streets on foot, it can give them a sense of security and reassurance. This can be particularly important in high-crime areas, where residents may feel unsafe or vulnerable.

There are, however, some potential drawbacks to foot patrol. One of the biggest concerns is officer safety, particularly in high-crime areas. Foot patrol can put officers in close proximity to potentially dangerous individuals, and officers may not have the same level of protection as they would in a patrol car. Foot patrol can also be physically demanding, particularly in extreme weather conditions.

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Last Modified: 04/11/2023


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