Police Enforcement: Theory and Practice

Contribution to 'The 23rd European Transport Forum', 11-15 September 1995, Warwick, England

Also published as

Police Enforcement: Theory and Practice. In: Traffic Management and road safety. Proceedings of the 23rd PTRC European Transport Forum, 11-15 September 1995, Warwick, England. p.13-26.


Goldenbeld, Dr. Ch.



The general ground rules for effective police enforcement are known (publicity preceding and during enforcement operations, unpredictability of controls, a selective mix of visible and less visible controls, continuity over time). Based on Dutch research in the last fifteen years, an overview is presented of how these ground rules have been operationalized in optimal strategies of enforcement. In respect of four spearheads of national traffic policy (drinking and driving, speeding, seat belt use and behaviour of young moped riders), exemplary strategies of enforcement are described. The development and testing of these strategies has been done in conformance with the simple rule that these strategies should not require a police input that is above the conventional input planned for enforcement projects. The strategy of enforcement of drinking and driving is based on a carefully selected mix of general and specific deterrence activities. The strategy of enforcement of speeding relies on automated enforcement operations on specially selected stretches of road, preferably within a larger network of interconnected roads. The speed checkpoints themselves are rotated among different locations, and each passing motorist is given feed-back that his speed has been checked. An alternative to this automated strategy makes use of the tactic of obtrusively stopping motorists in combination with radar controls. The notion underlying the alternative strategy is to make the level of intensity of police enforcement dependent upon the proportion of speeding vehicles. The strategies of enforcement of seat belt use and the control of traffic violations by young moped riders emphasize persuasive and educative activities of police as a complement to the direct enforcement operations. The described strategies represent a model of how police ideally should operate, but they cannot be taken as a general description of actual enforcement strategies. There are some important barriers between ideal and actual police operations. A number of these barriers derive from the professional culture of the police, and have to do with how policemen - at both upper and lower levels - view their profession and their own identity

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