The advent of patrol cars, telephones, two-way radios, "scientific" police management, social migration, and social science theories on the "causes" of crime converged in the late 1950s. Before then, police had generally followed a "watchman" approach: each patrol officer was given the responsibility to police a geographic area. In the decades after World War II, motorized car patrol replaced foot patrol as the standard method of policing. Improved technology allowed citizens to call police and have their complaints dispatched to police through two-way radios. ...So, here we are today, and a patrol officer's top priority is to respond to any and all 911 calls ASAP. Problem is, a hefty number of calls are "bullshit calls"—pranks or people dialing in to harass enemies—or drug calls, wherein an officer pulls up to a corner, the dealers take a walk around the block, and return when the cop is gone. Stops and arrests are made, but less often than you might think. (Officers routinely take longer to handle a drug call just so that they can remain "out of service" and finish paperwork or eat lunch or avoid "bad" calls—a dead body, say.) Obviously there are serious 911 calls, too, but Moskos contends that there's way too much chaff:
Those who viewed police as provocative and hostile to the public applauded reduced police presence and discretion. Controlled by the central dispatch, police could respond to the desires of the community rather then enforce their own "arbitrary" concepts of "acceptable" behavior. Police officers, for their part, enjoyed the comforts of the automobile… Citizens, rather than being encouraged to maintain community standards, were urged to stay behind locked doors and call 911.
Even when there aren't calls coming in, the possibility of receiving a call officers prevents officers from doing foot patrol, in-depth investigations, or any activity that may cause an officer to stray too far from the patrol car. Police isolated in squad cars will not know the community.That makes sense at a glance, especially if it's true that "motorized patrol... has no effect on crime rates, victimization, or public satisfaction." But wouldn’t people start complaining if the police weren't responding to all 911 calls as quickly as possible? This seems like a political issue. I wonder if there are cities out there that have tried this.
Yet dealing with problem people before they commit a crime, though perhaps undesirable, is a police officer's job. This isn't possible in an era of rapid-response.
With fewer cars and a de-emphasis of rapid response, police officers could better mitigate the problems of the drug corner. A better system would require police dispatchers or police officers to exercise professional judgment and separate legitimate from illegitimate calls (and affirm current legal protection for good-faith errors). Free from the tyranny of dispatch, officers could focus on quality rather than quantity of response. Walking the beat, officers would learn their area and gain the trust of more citizens. Freeing police resources would make response more consistent and reliable, even faster, for the very rare serious crime in progress.