Book: Foot Patrol: Rethinking the Cornerstone of Policing

This SpringerBriefs in Criminology book examines foot patrol with emphasis on the quantitative and qualitative results from the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, a citywide randomized and controlled field experiment that sparked a review of decades of thinking about the role of foot beats in modern policing. The authors, two former police officers who have both worked foot beats in their respective police departments, bring a practical and accessible approach to the topic in a manner designed for operational police officers and research-focused command staff.

This book reviews the history of foot patrol from the first modern police service in 1829 and the community policing era of the 1980s, to the current research-driven resurgence in places such as Philadelphia. The brief summarizes the existing literature and new research covering the efficacy of foot patrol for violence reduction, harm prevention and community engagement. It summarizes and compares the results from the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment and the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment and also explores the personal experiences of police officers on patrol. This combination of quantitative and qualitative findings provides an ideal overview of the value and challenges of implementing foot patrol in a modern urban environment.

The brief concludes with an operationally focused chapter dedicated to policy recommendations around foot patrol, and the value it will bring to a police department.

Suggested citation

Ratcliffe, J.H. and Sorg, E.T. (2017) Foot Patrol: Rethinking the Cornerstone of Policing. Springer: New York.

Where to buy the book

The book is available from the Springer website.

It is also available from Amazon, though appears to be more expensive from them.


Crowd-Pleasers and Crime Fighters

This brief chapter introduces the book and why foot patrol is fundamentally different to other forms of patrol and police work. It also outlines the foot beat experience that the authors bring to the book. The chapter outlines some of the key themes that are explored in greater depth in the rest of the work, including the pace of foot patrol, the value in taking time to patrol the community, and the possibilities for information gathering.

A History of Foot Patrol

This chapter reviews the role of foot beats within the wider context of police patrols. Starting prior to the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829, the chapter examines the place of foot beats from Peel’s London to the political era of nineteenth-century big city American policing. It then charts the decline of foot patrols as professionalization takes over US police agencies, when radios and fast cars made walking on foot appear outdated and inefficient. While the rise of experimentation and the growth of the community policing movement heralded a return to foot beats, police executives were often employing foot officers as a replacement for cars on beats too large to effectively police. The end of the chapter points to the next chapter that specifically addresses attempts to measure the effect of smaller, more focused foot patrols in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Experience

Starting with a brief review of the twentieth century policing in Philadelphia and formidable police chief Frank Rizzo’s perspective of foot beats in the late 1960s, this chapter explains the organizational and political background to the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. It emphasizes the role of Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in creating an environment open to exploring new ways of policing and running a randomized and controlled field experiment. The chapter describes the experimental design, implementation, and results in detail. It also documents some of the qualitative findings. The chapter then describes the foot patrol component of the subsequent Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment. It concludes with a review of the differences between the experiments and why the results differed.

The Foot Beat Experience

This chapter examines the pros and cons of foot patrol work from the perspective of officers performing the duty, using extensive field notes and officer quotes throughout. It explores the notion of what is “real police work” and how in the minds of many officers foot beats are not real policing, a view often shared by their commanders. The chapter explores how officers learn to use a variety of legal and informal means to police their beats and develop a rapport with the entire community, law abiding and otherwise. A section examines the potential to generate work statistics and the pressure of performance evaluations in driving busy work that is not necessarily effective at community crime and disorder control. The chapter concludes by discussing beat integrity, the reasons why officers leave their assigned beats, and the impact that might have on crime prevention.

Foot Patrol Policies

The final chapter draws together the evidence from the preceding chapters as well as the assessments of the authors to outline a range of policy options that are suggested would spur effective foot patrol assignments. These include selecting the right officers for the role, training for foot beat assignments, and the geographic scope of the foot patrol areas. An example of the Hotspot Matrix is adapted for foot patrol demonstrating where it is likely most effective and cost-efficient. Additional sections include discussing the role of foot patrol in a wider crime control strategy, involving the community, and assessing foot patrol’s effectiveness.

About the authors (from the book)

Dr. Jerry H. Ratcliffe is Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Center for Security and Crime Science at Temple University, Philadelphia. He served for over a decade as a police officer with London’s Metropolitan Police (UK), has a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham, and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was the lead researcher on the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment and has published over 80 research articles and five books in the areas of intelligence-led policing, spatial analysis, criminal intelligence, and crime science. He has been a research adviser to both the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and to the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI. He recently completed an experiment examining predictive policing strategies.


Dr. Evan T. Sorg is an Assistant Professor of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan University, an affiliated instructor and researcher in the Center for Security and Crime Science at Temple University and a former New York City police officer. He served as a research assistant on the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment during his PhD work at Temple. He has published several research articles on the topics of hot spots policing and crime analysis, three of which involve the topic of foot patrol, and stemmed from the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment. He has taught numerous cohorts of police officers and crime analysts on the topic of crime mapping and crime analysis, and he teaches Central American police commanders on the topic of intelligence-led policing.