James Q. Wilson, an American criminologist, identified the primary functions of police departments as law enforcement, order maintenance, and service delivery (Liederbach & Travis, III, 2008). In 1968, he observed patterns of discretionary behavior in eight police departments (Police: Organization and Management - Variation in Style and Structure, 2011). From these observations he concluded that police organizations, depending on their approach to these functions, could be categorized into three basic styles of policing. These operational styles are the Watchman, the Legalistic, and the Service styles.
The Watchman style is based primarily on the use of uniformed police patrol (Grant & Terry, 2008). Wilson noted that the patrolman’s role was defined more by his responsibility for maintaining order than by his responsibility for enforcing the law (Wilson, 1978). This style of policing includes a considerable use of police discretion. There are few policies and procedures, therefore allowing for an individual approach by officers towards problems. This form of policing is less pro-active than other forms, and as a result, officers are distanced from the people in the community.
The Legalistic style of policing emphasizes the importance of law enforcement and maintaining clear and impartial legal standards for both the police and the public alike (Grant & Terry, 2008). In this form of policing, there is a high level of commitment to professionalism and considerable importance is placed upon research and planning. In legalistic-style departments, officers initiate formal contact with citizens and structure their work according to the criminal law (Police: Organization and Management - Variation in Style and Structure, 2011). These police departments have no interest in social problems and…...