Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Distraction while using mobile technology devices such as a cell phone or tablet computer is a common occurrence within the civilian population of the United States. U.S. police officers are increasingly utilizing these types of devices within the patrol environment. However, little is known as to how distraction affects police officers while they interact with these devices in the course of their daily duties. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how officers process potential officer safety issues on patrol, while interacting with mobile technology, by questioning participants' perception of distraction. This was accomplished through a phenomenological paradigm that was framed within the concepts of unintended consequences (a subset of systems theory) and load-induced blindness (a subset of cognitive load theory). Data were collected through 10 semi-structured interviews, 2 extensive observations, and researcher-authored memos in conjunction with police officers of a medium-sized city in a western state. These data were analyzed in order to discover themes using a modified Van Kaam methodology. Results were expressed in 7 themes: conflicts with policy intent versus application, uncertainty in chain-of-command communication, reluctance to take tablets outside patrol vehicles, technology distraction's relationship to stress, presence of load-induced blindness, depressed ability to self-assess levels of distraction, and active engagement in risk-lowering strategies related to technology distraction. Implications for social change include informing police administrators and policy creators about research outcomes applicable to: modifications of policy, work-flow optimization, and technology use.