Policing a Negotiated World: A Partial Test of Klinger’s Ecological Theory of Policing

Christopher Salvatore, Montclair State University
Travis A. Taniguchi, RTI International



Klinger’s (Criminology 35(2): 277–306, 1997) ecological theory of policing addresses the intersection of environment and police organizational structure on police patrol practices. The current study addresses the following question: ‘Is police response to calls for service influenced by the level of serious violent crime or the level of officer staffing?’


This question was addressed using crime, incident, and staffing data supplied by the Philadelphia Police Department. The dependent variable was the number of unfounded events per month, per police district, from 2004 to 2008. The analysis controlled for linear and non-linear trends, average monthly temperature, month length, and spatial effects. Data were analyzed using repeated measures of multilevel modeling.


Findings suggested that the quantity of unfounded events was associated with both workload and officer staffing levels. Consistent with theoretical predictions, the higher workload was associated with more unfounded incidents while higher levels of officer staffing were associated with fewer unfounded incidents, net of ongoing trends and spatial effects.


These findings are consistent with the Ecological Theory of Policing and suggest that officers may shed workload in response to higher demands for service or lower levels of officer availability.