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Police Response Time: Its Determinants and Effects

Publication Date

January 1976


Tony Pate, Amy Ferrara, Robert A. Bowers, and Jon Lorence


It has traditionally been assumed that rapid police response to calls for service is of sufficient importance to justify the expenditure of considerable amounts of money and effort. Response time is a difficult variable to measure and its interpretation as a performance criterion has not yet been clearly established. Many would argue that the more rapidly a department responds to calls, the more effectively that department is serving the public. However, it may also be argued that the allocation and distribution of personnel and resources to maintain a uniformly short response time negatively affects other police services. This report is strictly exploratory, and is designed to contribute to the discussion of some of these issues by exploring the degree of association between selected determinants and consequences of police response time. The data for this report was collected as part of the Kansas City Police Department’s Preventative Patrol Experiment. The variables that were found to be significantly correlated with response time were the starting time of the officer and the distance traveled. When looking at variables considered likely to be affected by response time, it was found that response time was not a significant predictor of any of the variables. The data suggests that response time, when compared with other variables, may not be as crucial a determinant of citizens’ evaluations of the police as has been hypothesized.

Research Design

Randomized controlled trial (RCT)

Research Methods

Secondary data analysis, Interviews, Observation / Participant observation, Surveys, Field-based experiment

Recommended Citation

Pate, T., Ferrara, A., Bowers, R. A., & Lorence, J. (1976). Police response time: Its determinants and effects. Washington, DC: National Policing Institute. https://www.policinginstitute.org/publication/police-response-time-its-determinants-and-effects/