Police patrol is as old as the concept of modern policing. Yet, despite its long history, little has been done over the years to systematically and accurately track these patrols. Practitioners and police scholars alike are generally unable to tell what dosage is, or should be, applied to routine or special police operations, especially when it comes to directed and preventative patrol. Given the state of knowledge about tracking mechanisms and their consequences, this article has three aims: first, to review tracking mechanisms of patrol, historically as well as contemporarily. Previous attempts by the police to track patrol have moved on a sliding spectrum of capacity, ranging from a fixed-points system and a beat system, through personal radios and ABC Surveys, to advanced GPS trackers and currently body-worn videos. Importantly, recent technological advancements in tracking potentials have thus shifted the focus from technical concerns about the feasibility of tracking, to larger policy questions. Therefore, the second aim of this article is to contextualize more broadly the contemporary use of tracking within police culture, specifically in the context of accountability and surveillance. We argue that although surveillance is perceived negatively by police officers and may therefore be resisted; tracking can also enhance personal and organizational accountability, which is often perceived as a positive outcome of tracking. Police leaders must be attuned to both these opposing consequences when considering the implementation of advanced tracking mechanisms. Finally, the article concludes with a list of research questions which, given the gaps in the literature, police scholars should focus on in the near future.
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© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press.