When and Where is Foot Patrol Most

It's all about crime numbers and
population density, so an urban
environment experiencing a high rate of
crimes against persons and property is
obviously the first choice for effective
foot patrol.

There was a time when every urban
setting in the country was patrolled by
foot officers with just a few motorized
officers to support the foot officers with
back-up and prisoner transport.  The
foot officers, in those days, didn't even
have radio communication.  Times and
circumstances change, and there came a
time when foot patrol officers neared
extinction in most urban population

When I started my police career in 1971,
Baltimore had become a fully motorized
police department.  The department was
well manned and equipped, and the
response time to any call for anything
anywhere was under two minutes once
the motorized officer received the call via
radio.  Baltimore, however, did maintain a
number of foot posts/beats in
commercial areas of the city.  
Additionally, Federal Grant money was
devoted to the maintenance of a number
of foot posts in high crime residential
areas.  During the first seven years of my
career, I was a foot officer on three of
those residential posts in East Baltimore
where I was assigned for several years to
each post.

While Baltimore's transition to a fully
motorized police department was
efficient, well implemented and
maintained, those foot posts proved
their value throughout their existence.  
The pin maps told the story by the
number of pins denoting the occurrence
of Part I crimes, homicide, robbery, theft,
etc during the days and hours those foot
posts were manned.  Of course, the
absence of crime was no surprise to
anyone since everyone already knew the
effectiveness of well supervised foot
Why is Foot Patrol the Ultimate Form of
Community Policing?

When you become a police officer, you'll
observe, or be involved in, all kinds of
schemes labeled as Community Policing.  
I call them schemes, because that's
simply what they are.  Some may have
foot patrol as an element, but any foot
patrol is usually sporadic and poorly
supervised with little to no emphasis
placed on actual law enforcement
activities.  What a lot of community
policing advocates forget is that a police
officer is first a law enforcer, and
everything else comes afterward.  When
the community policing experts get
together to form their latest scheme, law
enforcement is usually viewed as just an
unavoidable annoyance.

When a police officer is assigned to a
foot post on a continuous and long
lasting basis, real community policing can
be realized.  As a foot officer, you'll be up
close and personal with every element of
the community, and you'll soon become a
walking encyclopedia of who's who in the

What are the Benefits of Foot Patrol for
the Police Officer?

There's nothing better than a foot patrol
assignment for a new police officer.  
You'll be alone and out in the open
without the protective shell of that police
car.  The lack of means for a quick
get-a-way will prevent you from
developing a hit-and-run mentality that
the mobility of the police car engenders in
many police officers.  

Just imagine yourself as a foot officer in
the midst of a neighborhood dispute
that's developed into a street
disturbance.  It's gone a little beyond
your ability to control, and you call for
help.  Police cars roll into the block, and
the disturbance is quickly abated by the
mere presence of the additional police
officers.  While the response alone did
the trick, a couple of the officers can't
resist making comments to some of the
parties in dispute that would have better
been left as thoughts.  The back-up
officers get back into their cars, and they
roll out leaving you to abate the new
anger created by the officers' comments.

It's not a big deal.  As a foot patrol
officer, you'll be explaining the actions of
other police officers to your
neighborhood residents on a continual
basis.  Most of the complaints will be
about how a police officer talked to the
person and how the person perceived the
communication, i.e., rude, sarcastic,
indifferent, etc.  Your availability and
willingness to listen and explain will, in
almost every instance, take the sting out
of the person's embarrassment and
further solidify your image as a fair and
impartial arbiter.

If Foot Patrol is so Effective, Why isn't
it Implemented on a Large Scale?

Cost is always cited as the major
impediment to putting police officers on
foot patrol, and it is a valid reason.  
However, many police departments,
particularly larger ones, spend a lot of
money and expend a lot manpower on
the new idea of the moment.  Let's face
it.  Foot patrol is a tried and true form of
policing; however, it's "old school," and it
doesn't fit into the new police culture of
Without any doubt... foot patrol is the
most effective form of preventative or
pro-active police patrol.

- The uniformed foot patrol officer is
both highly visible as well as invisible.

- The uniformed foot patrol officer is the
most effective response to any
discussion about community policing.
Who Wants to be a Foot Patrol Officer?

Nobody.  Well, perhaps that's an
exaggeration, but it's not too far off.  
When you become a police officer, you'll
want to get a police car, because you've
been conditioned to view police officers
with police cars.  New police officers like
the idea of riding around in police cars
with red and blue lights and sirens.  I
wasn't any different, and I was
disappointed when I didn't get that car
right out of the police academy.

It didn't take me long, however, to realize
what a good deal I had with a foot patrol
assignment.  I wasn't burdened with
being assigned calls for service.  I could
handle any call I wanted to handle, and
I'd often take calls from others when I
knew the incidents were interesting and
worthy of additional investigation.  East
Baltimore was a veritable laboratory for
criminal investigation, and the foot patrol
assignments afforded me the time to
investigate and solve all type of crimes.  I
didn't have to spend seven years on
those foot post assignments, but I was
having the time of my life and learning so
much along the way.
"As a foot patrol officer, you'll be
explaining the actions of other police
officers to your neighborhood
residents on a continual basis."
~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker  

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