Re-Assessing Measurement Error in Police Calls for Service: Classifications of Events by Dispatchers and Officers

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Police calls for service are an important conduit by which officers and researchers can obtain insight into public requests for police service. Questions remain, however, about the quality of these data, and, particularly, the prevalence of measurement error in the classifications of events. As part of the present research, we assess the accuracy of call-types used by police dispatchers to describe events that are responded to by police officers. Drawing upon a sample of 515,155 calls for police service, we explore the differences among initial call-types, cleared call-types, and crime-types as documented in crime reports. Our analyses reveal that although the majority of calls for service exhibit overlap in their classifications, many still exhibit evidence of misclassification. Our analyses also reveal that such patterns vary as a function of call- and crime-type categories. We discuss our findings in light of the challenges of the classification process and the associated implications.
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