Watchman Style | Definition

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

The Watchman Style is a style of policing that focuses on order maintenance rather than code enforcement.

See also Legalistic Style and Service Style

The Watchman Style of policing is primarily used in small towns and neighborhoods where officers prioritize maintaining order over enforcing the law. Officers in this style of policing are typically more lenient on minor infractions such as loitering or noise complaints and instead focus on resolving disputes and maintaining a peaceful community.

This style of policing is based on the concept that the police should function as a public service, providing assistance and support to citizens in their everyday lives. It emphasizes community relations and proactive policing strategies, such as foot patrols and community engagement programs. This style of policing is often seen as an extension of the community itself, with officers being viewed as approachable and familiar figures who are there to help rather than enforce the law.

Criticisms of the Watchman Style of Policing

The Watchman Style of policing has been criticized for being too lenient on crime and failing to enforce the law effectively. Critics argue that a lack of strict enforcement can lead to an increase in crime, as offenders may feel emboldened by the lack of consequences for their actions. Additionally, this style of policing can lead to inconsistencies in the application of the law, as different officers may have different interpretations of what constitutes disorderly behavior.

Despite its criticisms, the Watchman Style of policing remains popular in small towns and residential neighborhoods across the United States. It is seen as a way to maintain a sense of community and safety while also promoting positive relationships between police and citizens.

Modern Trends: Moving Away from the Watchman Style

In recent years, many police departments have moved away from the Watchman Style of policing in favor of more proactive and aggressive approaches, such as Community Policing and Problem-Oriented Policing models. These models prioritize proactive enforcement, problem-solving, and community engagement, while also emphasizing the importance of maintaining order and safety in the community.

The evolution of policing styles reflects changing societal needs and expectations. As communities grow and change, so too do the demands placed on law enforcement. The Watchman Style of policing represents a simpler time when maintaining order was the primary concern, but today’s policing requires a more complex and nuanced approach. As such, the Watchman Style of policing may continue to be a useful tool in some contexts, but it is unlikely to be the sole approach used by modern police departments.

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 Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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