Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 109
4 Explaining Police Behavior: People and Situations C hapter 3 outlines the many things that police do. This chapter ex- amines the forces that influence how, and how much, these things are done. Knowledge about these influences is essential for imple- menting policies that contribute to the fulfillment of the two public expec- tations expressed as core themes of this volume: crime control effectiveness and fairness. Achieving greater effectiveness and fairness depends in large part on the capacity of a society to get its police to carry out legitimate policies designed to further these ends. For example, knowing which prac- tices will reduce domestic violence tells us nothing of how to ensure that officers engage in these practices at the appropriate times and places. Do the background characteristics of officers affect their enforcement practices? Can officers be trained to behave in certain ways, and what sort of training is most effective? Are certain work incentives and disciplinary practices nec- essary? Or to consider an example about police fairness, it is one thing to suggest that police who behave in a disrespectful manner toward citizens are perceived as less fair and less legitimate than those who avoid disre- spectful behavior. But it is quite another thing to determine what causes police to behave disrespectfully toward some citizens and how to devise ways of preventing disrespectful officer behavior. Can officers be trained or disciplined not to be disrespectful? Can citizens be educated to behave in ways that avoid precipitating police disrespect while maintaining their own sense of self-respect? The first step toward answering questions such as these is to appreciate the state of knowledge about the causes of police practice. 109
OCR for page 110
110 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING Although most of the research in this review addresses academic ques- tions about the causes of police practice, this literature has important impli- cations for the central policy question of how to control police practice. "Control" is probably a misnomer if it is interpreted as "ruling" or "deter- mining" what police do--as in the "command and control" model of police administration that became popular as an ideal by the mid-20th century (Wilson, 1963). Most current analysts and reformers accept some degree of police autonomy in decision making as a good thing, or at least an inevi- table one (see, for example, Kelling, 1999; Moore and Stephens, 1991). Thus the term, as it used here, is intended to connote a significant degree of influence on police practice, but one that does not necessarily meet the command and control ideal of determining it. Whenever possible, we at- tempt to draw the implications of extant research for the control of what police do and how they do it. Ultimately, the findings of Chapters 4 and 5 speak to the governability of policing as communities experience it. Ac- countability of the police assumes a capacity to shape, if not determine, what they do. This review covers a wide range of police activities and policies--from how police treat citizens they encounter on the street to the kinds of policies and organizational structures implemented by police departments. The sub- stantial literature involved in this broad range has been divided into four general categories, beginning with the explanatory factors closest to every- day police work, namely, the characteristics of the situations in which offic- ers make decisions, such as whether to make an arrest, use force, or engage in community policing. Such situational characteristics include, for example, the strength of evidence available to an officer about a suspect's guilt, the personal characteristics of the suspect, and the characteristics of the victim. This chapter then examines the characteristics and outlooks of the police officers who make those decisions--such things as their age, race, sex, edu- cation, and training. We examine these two proximate elements: the degree and the ways in which characteristics of people (both officer and citizen) and situations influence police actions. In the next chapter, we consider less proximate but presumably influen- tial factors that affect police behavior. For instance, policies and other char- acteristics of the police organization that may influence police behavior, such as policies on deadly force, structures and styles of supervision, perfor- mance incentive systems, and the nature of department leadership. The com- mittee also examines forces external to police organizations, such as the social and economic makeup of the neighborhoods or jurisdiction served by the police, the political culture of the community, and political processes and decisions made in the jurisdiction, including the law. In order to distill the considerable research on each of the above types of influences, the committee considers a series of commonly expressed views
OCR for page 111
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 111 about the causes of police practice that have received publicity or consider- ation in the research literature. In many instances, there has not been enough research from which to generalize, but whenever possible the committee states a proposition about these influences based on its evaluation of the research literature. When the evidence is inadequate, the committee indi- cates the sort of research that would help to fill this knowledge gap. Before turning to these propositions, each chapter considers the nature of the evi- dence available in the research literature. NATURE OF THE EVIDENCE The studies reviewed for both this chapter and the next draw on a wide range of measurement and data collection methods and employ a similarly diverse set of designs. However, the preponderance of the literature is con- centrated in certain areas; therefore this discussion is limited to the strengths and limitations of those methods. By far the largest proportion of empirical research on police practice has concentrated on patrol officers, who consti- tute the largest portion of the nation's police force. There are a handful of relevant studies on criminal investigators, juvenile officers, other sworn spe- cialists, and telephone complaint operators and dispatchers. There are even fewer systematic studies of the behavior of police executives and middle management, constituting a major gap in knowledge about the causes of police behavior outside the realm of the rank-and-file patrol officer. Thus, most of the committee's analysis, especially when addressing the literature on the influences on individual officers, is in effect a discussion of what is known about police patrol. Research on the forces that influence police behavior has been based on: (1) police records, such as incident reports or firearms discharge re- ports; (2) direct observation of police in the field; (3) surveys of the public about their contacts with the police; and (4) surveys of police officers. Most of the research on individual officer decision making draws on field obser- vations of police, and much of that can be characterized as systematic social observation (Reiss, 1971; Mastrofski et al., 1998). Such studies employ trained observers who are assigned to accompany officers in selected beats on selected work shifts. Observers take brief field notes on officers' activi- ties and behaviors and on the citizens with whom they interact, and later code data about police actions and other variables according to a standard- ized form. Measures based on observational data are more valid than those based on police records, which serve organizational purposes and hence may be biased or incomplete. Some observational studies have linked obser- vations to surveys of officers, so that observations of individual officers can be combined with the same officers' survey responses.
OCR for page 112
112 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING Several systematic observation studies of police patrol, conducted since the 1960s, have produced a significant number of publications.1 Three of these warrant more detailed description, due to their scale and the extent to which analyses of the data collected for these studies have been used by police researchers. The first large-scale observational study of police was undertaken by Albert J. Reiss, Jr., for the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (Black and Reiss, 1967). Con- ducted during summer 1966 in Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Washington, DC, observers accompanied patrol officers on sampled shifts in selected high-crime precincts. "In the data collection, emphasis was placed upon gaining detailed descriptions of police and citizen behavior.... The social and demographic characteristics of the participants as well as a detailed description of the settings and qualities of the encounters were also ob- tained" (Black and Reiss 1967:15; emphasis in original). The Police Services Study (PSS), which was funded by the National Science Foundation, was designed to examine the effects of institutional arrangements on the delivery of police services. The second phase of the study provided for the collection of various kinds of data about 24 police departments in 3 metropolitan areas (Rochester, NY; St. Louis, MO; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL), with attention focused particularly on 60 neigh- borhoods served by those departments. During summer 1977, trained ob- servers accompanied patrol officers on 900 patrol shifts, 15 in each of the 60 neighborhoods. Observers recorded information about 5,688 police-citi- zen encounters. In addition, the observed officers (and samples of other officers) were surveyed. The departments studied for this phase of the PSS ranged in size from 1 with only 13 officers to 1 with over 2,000, serving municipalities whose populations ranged from 6,000 to almost 500,000. Within jurisdictions, neighborhoods were selected with explicit reference to racial composition and wealth to ensure that different types of neighbor- hoods were represented. The departments and neighborhoods provide a rough cross-section of organizational arrangements and residential service conditions for urban policing in the United States, and thus the PSS data provide a much firmer basis for generalizing about police practices in U.S. metropolitan areas (and not only in urban, high-crime areas). Finally, the Project on Policing Neighborhoods (POPN), which was funded by the National Institute of Justice, provided for direct observation 1See the following for details on the methodology of the more widely published of these studies (Bayley and Garofalo, 1989; Black and Reiss, 1967; Frank, 1996; Frank and Travis, 1998; Klinger, 1994; Mastrofski and Parks, 1990; Mastrofski et al., 1995; Mastrofski et al., 1998; Sykes and Brent, 1980; Worden, 1989). See Riksheim and Chermak, 1993, and Sherman, 1980, for reviews of the publications that drew on some of these projects.
OCR for page 113
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 113 of police in two cities, Indianapolis and St. Petersburg, during 1996 and 1997, respectively. Observation focused on 12 selected police beats in each city and over 5,700 hours of observation (approximately 30 shifts per beat), yielding information on approximately 11,000 police-citizen contacts. Beats were selected from each of three strata of socioeconomic distress, with se- lection biased toward the more distressed beats, in order to maximize the number of police-citizen encounters subject to observation. In addition, patrol officers and field supervisors in each department were surveyed. Because of the rigor of the methodological design and the scale of systematic observation studies, they comprise the strongest data from which to draw conclusions regarding police behavior. Yet observational data are not without shortcomings. They may be tainted by officers' "reac- tivity" to observation, that is, officers might refrain from some actions (such as the use of force, running personal errands) or engage in other actions (such as stopping cars) due to the presence of observers. Efforts to assess the bias introduced by reactivity suggest that the validity of observa- tional data, in general, is quite high (Mastrofski and Parks, 1990; Spano, 2002); moreover, evidence shows that the relationships between some forms of police behavior and other variables (such as characteristics of the situation) are unaffected by reactivity (Worden, 1989). As Reiss (1971:24) observes, "it is sociologically naive to assume that for many events the presence or participation of the observer is more controlling than other factors in the situation." Observational data have other limitations. Direct observation of police is labor-intensive, making observational studies very costly; only three large- scale observational studies have been conducted. Furthermore, observa- tional studies can be conducted only with the express permission and coop- eration of the police departments, and as Fyfe et al. (1997) suggest, the findings from research in such police departments may not be generalizable to other U.S. police agencies. Observational studies are best suited to inform judgments regarding the proximate and immediate influences at work during a police-citizen en- counter. In the next chapter, data and research methodologies that examine police as organizations or look outside the police force--to the community, for instance--to explain police behavior are examined. Finally, it must be noted that the vast majority of studies in this area rely on correlational designs. A smaller number are case studies, and a very small number use quasi-experiments or experimental designs. Since all stud- ies are subject to error, the committee has rated these studies differently based on the strength of their design--that is, their ability to discount other variables that might explain the behavior under examination. Throughout we committee disclose our judgments regarding the strength and rigor of research design.
OCR for page 114
114 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING SITUATIONAL INFLUENCES ON POLICE BEHAVIOR Situational influences represent forces that operate at what is some- times called the tactical level of police decision making. These represent circumstances that vary from situation to situation and are expected to play a central role in shaping how officers act. Situational influences that have received considerable empirical evaluation include: the social class, race, gender, and demeanor of complainants and their dispositional preferences (e.g., whether they want offenders arrested or prefer that offenders not be arrested); the social class, race, age, gender, sobriety, and demeanor of sus- pects; the seriousness of the offense or problem and evidence available (if any); the nature of the relationships between complainants and suspects; the visibility of the encounters (whether they transpire in public or private locations, whether bystanders are present); the numbers of officers at the scene; and the character of the neighborhoods in which encounters take place. Which situational factors are studied and how they are interpreted de- pends on the researcher's theoretical perspective. For example, Donald Black and Albert Reiss (1967:8-9) posited that police action is influenced by a citizen's "sanctioning capacity," which is, in turn, a function of the citizen's status--both social (gender, age, race, class) and situational (as complain- ant, suspect, witness, etc.)--and by the citizen's "subversive capability," that is, the "capability to undermine the means the police use to attain their goals." From this perspective, situational factors (Sherman, 1980a) are the cues on which officers form judgments about how incidents should be handled (Wilson, 1968; Berk and Loseke, 1981). Perhaps the most compre- hensive statement of situational factors was that of Bittner, who posited that "the role of the police is best understood as a mechanism for the distri- bution of non-negotiably coercive force employed in accordance with the dictates of an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies" (Bittner 1970:46; emphasis added). The situational framework has been applied most fre- quently to the use of coercion by patrol officers, but also to the decisions of juvenile detectives and other investigators (e.g., Bynum, Cordner, and Green, 1982; Brandl, 1993; Terry, 1967). To the extent that Bittner's is a valid and comprehensive description of police work, it suggests that the greatest part of the variation in police officer behavior will be accounted for by establishing those situational exi- gencies that most powerfully shape police action. Other influences, such as the officer's personal characteristics and attitudes, or department policy, would manifest more subtle effects. That is, in fact, the finding of virtually all studies that compare situational influences to officer and organization characteristics (see Riksheim and Chermak, 1993, and Worden, 1989, for reviews).
OCR for page 115
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 115 One objective in much of the research on situational influences is to determine whether patterns of police behavior are affected by factors that should, in a moral or legal sense, have no bearing on police dispositions, such as race and gender (see Bernard and Engel, 2001). The analytic strat- egy of such research has been to control statistically for the effects of legal factors--particularly the strength of evidence, the seriousness of the offense, and the preferences and cooperation of complainants--which are unam- biguously legitimate criteria for police decision making and to estimate how much if any of the remaining variation in police behavior is attributable to extralegal factors, such as race. Research of this genre has found that most extralegal, situational factors have weak and inconsistent effects. LEGAL FACTORS Proposition 1: There is considerable public concern that police officer decision making ignores the constraints of the law. The evidence re- viewed by the committee indicates that the exercise of police authority to control citizens is most heavily influenced by legal factors associated with each situation, particularly the seriousness of the reported inci- dent, the evidence of wrongdoing, and the willingness of a complainant to request a controlling intervention. Public opinion surveys show that a significant minority of the Ameri- can public regards police as unfair and untrustworthy, and some fear being arrested when innocent (Gallagher et al., 2001; LaFree, 1998). However, evidence reviewed by the committee indicates that officers' use of coer- cion--their decisions to arrest or not and their use of physical force or verbal control--is most heavily influenced by legal factors (Black and Reiss, 1970; Black, 1971; Lundman, 1974; Freidrich, 1977; Lundman et al., 1978; Smith and Visher, 1981; Bayley, 1986; Mastrofski et al., 1995; Mastrofski et al., 2000; Worden and Myers, 1999; Terrill, 2001). In their encounters with suspected offenders, the likelihood that police will invoke their au- thority by making arrests, using physical force, or verbal methods of con- trol rises directly with the strength of the evidence of criminal wrongdoing. So too does the likelihood of coercive action rise with the seriousness of the offense: thus police are more likely to make arrests or use force when the offense is a felony than when it is a lesser offense. But, as noted in Chapter 1, police frequently do not invoke the law, even when they have the author- ity to do so; when they have evidence of offending; or even sometimes when the alleged or suspected offense is a serious one. Important evidence on the influence of legal factors comes from major observational studies. Black (1971), for example, found that police were less likely to arrest when they did not observe the offense themselves and had to rely on citizen testimony
OCR for page 116
116 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING instead; he also reports, however, that officers arrested only slightly more than half of the felony suspects against whom they had testimonial evi- dence. Most recently, Mastrofski et al. (1995), using a more comprehensive measure of evidence, found that the likelihood of arrest rose directly, and fairly steeply, with the strength of the evidence, a finding reproduced in a later observational study that examined only those cases in which a com- plainant requested that officers do something to control another citizen (Mastrofski et al., 2000). Officers' decisions to arrest are also strongly influenced by the prefer- ences of complainants, especially (but not only) when the offense is a less serious one and especially when the preference is for leniency. Complain- ants do not always articulate a clear preference for or against legal action, but when they do, police tend to comply. Smith and Visher (1981), for example, found that police made an arrest in almost half (46.6 percent) of the encounters in which the victim requested that an arrest be made, in only one-fifth (18.8 percent) of the cases in which the victim expressed no prefer- ence, and in less than one-tenth (6.6 percent) of the cases in which the victim requested that an arrest not be made. Black (1971) observes that this tendency "gives police work a radically democratic character" and also that the standard of justice that police apply is not uniform but rather varies with the moral standards of complainants. This is a pattern that has been observed in domestic incidents (Berk and Loseke, 1981), and it is one that recent pro-arrest statutory and policy changes have sought to alter, under the assumption that victims of abuse are not always in a position to request legal action against their abuser (see Ferraro, 1989; Jones and Belknap, 1999). Researchers have observed that the preference of the complainant is most influential when they request levels of police control lower than mak- ing an arrest: advice and persuasion, warnings and threats, and banishment from the scene (Mastrofski et al., 2000). Furthermore, the success of a complainant's arrest request was highly sensitive to the strength of evidence available; the likelihood that police officers would fulfill a request for an arrest was found to be much higher in situations in which evidence was strong compared to those in which it was weak. Complainants requesting lesser forms of control experienced high levels of police compliance, regard- less of evidence strength, although even here, stronger evidence produced a significantly higher chance of having the request fulfilled. One dispositional factor, juvenile status, does not appear to affect po- lice practice, in that patterns of decision making are based on the same criteria and weighed in the same ways (Worden and Myers, 2000). Riksheim and Chermak (1993) note that in the 1970s age was inversely related to the likelihood of arrest, but in the 1980s, controlling for other factors, suspects' age did not affect the likelihood of arrest (e.g., Smith and Visher, 1981; but
OCR for page 117
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 117 compare Mastrofski et al., 1995). This shift may reflect the last decade's well-documented trend in public attitudes and justice system practices to- ward treating juveniles more like adults, especially those suspected of seri- ous offenses (Triplett, 1996; National Research Council, 2001:Ch. 5). One 1970 observational study of drunk-driving arrests in a Midwest- ern city did produce results somewhat at odds with others reviewed above (Lundman, 1998). It found that, although some legal variables showed sig- nificant effects (whether the officers had to chase the suspect and the degree of intoxication), they were less powerful than several extralegal influences, such as the suspect's social class and demeanor. Before turning to the extralegal considerations in police practice, two caveats are in order. First, being influenced by the law is not the same as being governed by it. Studies of arrest show that as evidence of wrongdoing increases, so does the probability of arrest, but these studies do not judge how often the police ignore the specific standard of legal evidence that ap- plies to the case, such as probable cause. Indeed, because we know that police often overlook minor violations, even when the evidence is strong, we must be careful not to interpret these findings as suggesting that police serve as legal automatons. Second, the available research suggests that of- ficers tend to be constrained by law, but there are occasions when they clearly act outside it. However infrequent such incidents might be, they have a large impact on the perceived legitimacy of the police, in part be- cause when they become known to the press, they are highly publicized, an issue considered in Chapter 8. Extralegal Factors Although most research shows that many police actions constrained by law (e.g., arrest) are most strongly influenced by legal considerations, it is still possible for extralegal influences to exert a significant effect. Indeed the available research shows that police behavior is also influenced by extrale- gal factors, but, for the most part, findings have not been consistent as to the nature and strength of those effects. Citizens' Demeanor Toward the Police Proposition 2: It is widely believed that officers punish citizens based on the citizen's untoward demeanor toward the police, even when that demeanor is itself not a legal violation. The committee finds conflicting evidence regarding the impact of suspects' demeanor on police actions toward suspects and victim-complainants.
OCR for page 118
118 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING The proposition that police officers respond punitively to suspects who fail to accord them deference emerged from some of the earliest systematic inquiry into police behavior. Westley (1953, 1970) found that the mainte- nance of respect is an important norm among police. Disrespect for the police, he reports, is symbolized by "the `wise guy,' the fellow who thinks he knows more than they do, the fellow who talks back, the fellow who insults the policeman" (1970:123; see also Van Maanen, 1978) and, fur- thermore, such disrespect legitimates the use of force to compel deference. Analyses of data collected in the 1960s and 1970s consistently found that the demeanor of suspects toward police affects the likelihood that they will be arrested and the likelihood that officers will use physical force against them (Black and Reiss, 1970; Black, 1971; Lundman, 1974, 1994, 1996, 1998; Sykes et al., 1974; Smith and Visher, 1981; Worden, 1989, 1995a; Worden and Shepard, 1996; Worden and Myers, 2000; compare Mastrofski et al., 1995; also see Van Maanen, 1978). Given the tendency of the police to underenforce the law (Wilson, 1968; also see Black, 1971; LaFave, 1965), this means that suspects who fail to show deference to police authority are less likely to get a break--to avoid justifiable arrest or to receive the benefit of an evidentiary doubt. Moreover, the magnitude of the estimated effect was substantial: one analysis of data collected in 1977 indicated that a disrespectful demeanor raised the estimated likelihood of arrest from .11 to .28 (Worden and Shepard, 1996), and the results of another analysis of the same data (Engel et al., 2000) indicated that police were 5.8 times more likely to use force against disrespectful suspects than against more deferential suspects. Analyses of more recent data, however, are mixed. Two studies using data on police intervention into disputes, collected in 1986, yielded mixed findings on the effect of demeanor on arrest (Klinger, 1994, 1996). An analysis of data collected in 1992 showed that the likelihood of arrest was greater when the suspect resisted police authority--if, for example, they refused to comply with an explicit police command, acted threateningly, or offered physical resistance (Mastrofski et al., 1995). The effect of resistance on arrest was limited to citizens' actions that were illegal; resistance that did not take the form of illegal action did not affect the likelihood of arrest. Data collected for the Project on Policing Neighborhoods in 1996-1997 shows that disrespect by suspects raises the probability of arrest (Worden and Myers, 2000), and it is by far the most powerful situational influence on whether the officer will act disrespectfully toward the suspect (Mastrofski et al., 2002a). Importantly, however, it has no detectable effect on officers' use of coercion more generally (Terrill and Mastrofski, 2002). However, another study, based on officer self-report data on custody arrests in six jurisdictions, found that an antagonistic demeanor, as well as physical resis- tance, substantially increased the likelihood of police use of physical force
OCR for page 119
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 119 (Garner et al., 2002). Thus it appears that the effect of demeanor on police behavior may be quite complex, perhaps contingent on other factors: the era (contemporary police may be less prone to apply the "attitude test"),2 the police department, and even the nature of the encounters in which po- lice and suspects interact. The demeanor of complainants and victims toward police has also dem- onstrated mixed effects on how police treat them. In one study, disrespect- ful demeanor from complainants was found to influence the likelihood that police will exert the degree of control on another citizen requested by the complainant, but this effect was evident in only one of the two cities studied (Mastrofski et al., 2000). Another study of a single department found that a complainant's display of disrespect toward the police did significantly re- duce the likelihood that police would try to control the targeted offender (Snipes, 2001). A disrespectful demeanor by the offender had no bearing on the police response in the two-city study (Mastrofski et al., 2000), but an uncooperative demeanor toward the police did produce a significantly re- duced likelihood that the police would try to control the offender in the single-city study (Snipes, 2001). When citizens asked the police for assis- tance that did not require controlling another person (e.g., help with a flat tire), the citizen's demeanor was found to exert no influence on the out- come of the request (Snipes, 2001). However, this study found that disre- spectful citizens requesting any form of assistance were generally less likely to be treated by police in a friendly or comforting manner. This contrasts with the finding of the two-city study, in which the likelihood that police comforted citizens experiencing some form of distress was shown to be unrelated to the citizen's demeanor toward the officer (Mastrofski et al., 1998). What can be taken from the studies on citizen demeanor that produce such a mixed pattern of findings? First, some of the diversity of the findings may be attributable to variations in how researchers have defined and mea- sured citizens' demeanor (Worden et al., 1996). Some consider it to be any- thing that police might interpret negatively; others emphasize failure to show deference (involving both verbal and physical acts); and others distinguish verbal acts of disrespect from acts of resistance (some defining it as physical only, and others including both physical and verbal resistance). In general, physical acts of resistance fairly consistently increase the risk of a punitive police response. Second, effects of citizen demeanor may vary according to the particular feature of police behavior under consideration: arrest, use of force, granting citizens requests, and affective displays toward the citizen. 2However, a recent survey of police (Weisburd et al., 2000) revealed that nearly half agreed with the statement "A police officer is more likely to arrest a person who displays what he or she considers to be a bad attitude."
OCR for page 144
144 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING The contingent nature of training's effects appears to depend not only on what kind of officer receives it, but also on the kind of organizational environment in which the officer is operating. For example, training to deal with drunk-driving violations (driving under the influence or DUI) was found to be related to the number of arrests patrol officers made and that the effects of this training depended on the organizational environment in which the officers worked (Mastrofksi et al., 1996; Mastrofski and Ritti, 1996). When training was supported by ongoing supervisory and manage- ment practices that favored DUI arrest (leading by example, having officers work closely with victims' groups, closely monitoring arrest statistics, and supporting and protecting from internal criticism officers whose DUI arrest rates were exceptionally high). In departments that failed to provide a nur- turing environment to sustain the DUI training, the amount of training re- ceived had no effect on the officers' DUI arrest rate. A study of community policing training produced similar conclusions to the DUI study, in that academy training that was not reinforced in the field usually failed to produce lasting changes in officers' attitudes and be- liefs (Haarr, 2001). This study of Arizona police recruits found that at the end of a 16-week program of training, recruits tended to show a more positive outlook toward community policing, problem solving, and tradi- tional policing than when they began the training. However, these effects dissipated during the 12-week field training experience (except for views on the need for good police-public relations), and by the end of their 1-year probationary period, they tended to hold more negative attitudes toward community policing than they did at the end of academy training (except for police-public relations). Overall, with the exceptions of views on the need for good police-public relations and self-assessed capabilities in problemsolving, recruits entered the academy with more positive views than they held after one year on the job. During field training, the most powerful predictors of attitude were department policies supporting community po- licing. The change in attitude from pre-academy to the end of the one-year probationary period was strongly influenced by the officers' perceived view of coworkers' attitude toward community policing and the assigned work shift (presumably representing opportunities to spend time doing commu- nity policing on less busy shifts). Although this study focused on attitude changes and not performance, it underscores the notion that to sustain training's effects, it must be reinforced. A survey of training for community policing in over 500 police agencies indicated that few police agencies were even going so far as to require that their field training officers have knowl- edge of community policing (McEwen, 1997). There are numerous limitations to the correlational research on train- ing, including measurement of training itself. Most of this research is lim- ited to measuring the amount of training but does not consider that the
OCR for page 145
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 145 character, quality, and timing of the training can vary, even within the same department.7 For example, some observers have criticized much police train- ing for attempting to change officers' belief systems, while paying little or no attention to giving them the skills and incentives to change their prac- tices, a common approach in the areas of domestic violence, cultural sensi- tivity, and community policing (Buerger, 1998; Haar, 2001). According to critics, such training is doomed to fail because it attempts to overcome strongly embedded habits and norms using a relatively light dose (at most, a few days of training), offers no really useful tools that officers can use, and fails to reinforce the training on the job. Nonetheless, much contempo- rary police training does attempt to imbue officers with a different set of outlooks about their work, so it would behoove researchers to take the content of the training into account. Another important unresolved issue about training content is determining what sort of curriculum is most effec- tive in promoting the practice of various aspects of community policing. Minimum training standards are established by each state's police officer standards and training council, but there is virtually no rigorous research to guide them on how to structure recruit training curricula most effectively (for example, whether to integrate community policing training seamlessly throughout the curriculum or whether to highlight it in special segments).8 Similarly, evidence is lacking on what sort of curriculum will best promote effective problem-solving projects. Should it be academic in nature (teach- ing recruits the rudiments of social science evaluation research), or should it be more inductive and experiential? Correlational research has also failed to look for different patterns of training effects according to the type of officer who receives it. For ex- ample, it is conceivable that training on a given topic (such as handling domestic disputes) will be most effective when introduced in discrete seg- ments over time, rather than all at once. Officers may need an opportunity to learn basic skills and try them out before moving on to more advanced techniques. The notion that training should be designed to build on past skill acquisition is different from the more common approach of simply retraining officers with the same material periodically. Until studies get more detailed information on when training of a given type was received in an officer's career, little will be known about the most effective way to develop a long-term training program for police. What is known about the effects of training on police performance and 7Officers are typically asked to indicate how many hours of training on a given topic they have received in the last x time period. 8One analysis suggests that even after more than a decade in which community policing became very popular among police, training for officers has not changed much from its tradi- tional focus on reactive activities (Bradford and Pynes, 1999).
OCR for page 146
146 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING practice is very limited, making the need for a systematic and rigorous re- search program in this area quite compelling. For example, recommenda- tions about what constitutes desirable training to control police abuse of force do exist, but there is virtually no empirical validation of these claims (Geller and Toch, 1995:318). A number of issues that in the committee's view require attention: · What should the content of training be? Should it focus on changing attitudes, developing skills, or both? How generalized can training be, and to what extent must it be tailored to the needs of the locale (Fyfe, 1995:171)? · What training methods work best? Is realistic training that attempts to simulate conditions on the job the most effective (Fyfe, 1995:167)? For what kinds of training topics is "roll-call" training effective, and for what types of topics is more training immersion required? · Who make the most effective instructors, those who are experts in training or those who are experts in the content area of interest?9 Does the sworn versus civilian status of the instructor affect the willingness of offic- ers to accept and implement the training? · At what point in their career should officers receive training of a given type, what kind of follow-up training is effective, and when and how should it be given? · What is the appropriate duration, intensity, or dosage of a given type of training? · For a given type of training, what kind of on-the-job reinforcement is required to produce the desired change in officer behavior? How impor- tant are departmental rewards and sanctions for performing according to training compared with an individual officer's sense that the skills learned in training are useful? Is training an effective way to initiate change in an organization, or to be effective must it follow other organizational changes in such areas as supervision, incentive and disciplinary systems, and perfor- mance accountability? · How long do the effects of training last? That is, how quickly do any effects decay over time? The received wisdom is that police academy train- ing is quickly undercut by what officers learn from their more experienced colleagues on the job (Bayley and Bittner, 1984; Haar, 2001). Is this neces- sarily so for all training? What kinds of recruit training, if any, do officers find useful and follow as they gain experience? · What kinds of control groups are appropriate? 9Experts may vary considerably in their ability to teach, but they will generally be far more knowledgeable about their topic, motivated to "sell" the training, and have higher credibility with the trainees (Buerger, 1998).
OCR for page 147
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 147 Given that departments invest extraordinary resources in training every year, the committee strongly recommends more research on police training. Perhaps the ultimate question for future research is to determine the limits of the effects of training. That is, just how much can training influence officers' attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and skills? Much can undoubtedly be learned by studies of the effects of training in the military, the clergy, medi- cine, and the law. Ultimately, however, training competes with many other forces that come into play, so it is especially important to gain a realistic sense of what sorts of transformations can be expected. The committee anticipates that research on this issue will benefit from a careful consider- ation of two things: what skills and values police trainees bring to their experiences and the organizational context to which they return when they have been trained. Specifically, it is important for training evaluations to go beyond a narrow focus on the training program itself; they need to incorpo- rate the entire package of management decisions made for monitoring, su- pervising, and rewarding desired behaviors. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AND THE EFFECTS OF OFFICER RACE AND SEX As discussed in Chapter 1, the trend in federal and state laws over the last 35 years has been to force police agencies to open their doors wider to racial and ethnic minorities and women. Although the principal legal justi- fication for these laws has been to end and rectify employment discrimina- tion, reformers have also argued that minority and female officers (a) will perform better (at least in certain situations or with certain groups of people) than white and male officers and (b) that their presence on the force will help to change the predispositions of the police subculture (Walker, 1998:232). Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action have served as principles that appear to have increased the representation of ra- cial minorities and females on America's police forces (Walker, 1985; Mar- tin, 1990), but does the race and gender of the officer have a significant effect on the way that officers exercise discretion? The short answer to this question is that the limited research available provides little support for the notion that race and gender have a significant influence on officer behavior. Some recent research shows that female po- lice officers are more inclined to engage in community policing and caregiving behavior, but the pattern is mixed and the number of studies limited. Indeed, the received wisdom from the research community is that whatever influence race and gender may exert on behavior is overwhelmed by the unifying effects of occupational socialization (see Donohue and Levitt, 2001, for a review). This may be disappointing to some reformers, who expected improved performance, but it may also be interpreted as good
OCR for page 148
148 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING news, inasmuch as it discredits past discriminatory practices that equal em- ployment policies attempted to rectify, and it shows that no appreciable differences in policing practice by officer race or sex should be anticipated. Officer's Race Proposition 15: Many reformers have argued that increasing the num- ber of racial and ethnic minority group officers will lead to improved policing and better police-community relations. This proposition is based on the assumption that, for example, black officers will be less likely to shoot, arrest, or stop black citizens than white officers. The committee finds that in the small body of relevant studies there is no credible evidence that officers of different racial or ethnic backgrounds perform differently during interactions with citizens simply because of race or ethnicity. Reformers of American police have for some time couched their criti- cisms and claims as if the race of the police officer has a significant influ- ence on how the officer behaves (Kerner Commission, 1968:315). Many have argued that police forces will be more caring and service-oriented when the racial makeup of the police force approximates that of the department's jurisdiction, and for most center-city urban areas, that has meant increasing the number of minority officers on the force. Underlying this notion is that people with the same racial background will be more solicitous of each other. A contrary hypothesis is offered by Black (1976, 1980:9), who ar- gues that citizens of high or dominant status are more likely to receive favorable police response when the lawgiver (i.e., police officer) is of a lower or nondominant status. Conversely, when the citizen is of a lower status than the officer, the probability of a favorable police action is lowest. Like- status individuals fall between these two poles, according to Black. Virtu- ally all of the available studies compare whites and blacks. Some research has found that officers of different races do tend to have different occupational outlooks (Alex, 1969; Rossi, 1974; Jacobs and Cohen, 1978; Decker and Smith, 1981; Leinen, 1984; Paoline et al., 2000; Weisburd et al., 2000) and knowledge about their neighborhoods (Mastrofski, 1983), but these differences do not seem to translate into sig- nificantly different patterns of behavior. Virtually all multivariate analyses that have tested for the effects of an officer's race on the use of coercion (arrest or force) show no appreciable difference between races (Reiss, 1968; Fyfe, 1981a; Smith and Klein, 1983; Worden, 1989, 1995a; Mastrofski et al., 1998; Engel, 2000; Terrill, 2001). A study of police disrespect toward suspects found that, in one of two cities studied, white officers were more
OCR for page 149
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 149 inclined to be disrespectful to white suspects than minority suspects, an effect that the researchers suggested might have been due to the minority chief's strenuous efforts to reduce both police incivility and racial discrimi- nation (Mastrofski et al., 2002a). As with the punitive aspects of police work, little evidence in support of officer race effects has been found when researchers have attempted to pre- dict various forms of order maintenance, police assistance, and engagement in community policing. Novak et al. (1999:176) found no effects of officer's race on the probability that officers would initiate order maintenance activ- ity with suspects and disputants. DeJong (2000) found that the officer's race had no significant effect on the likelihood that a citizen would be com- forted. Mastrofski (1998) found the same result when looking at officer- citizen race dyads. Two analyses of the effects of officer-citizen racial pair- ings found no effect on the likelihood that officers would grant citizens' requests to control another citizen (Mastrofski et al., 2000; Snipes, 2001). Only one of the reviewed studies found an officer race effect (Engel et al., 2000). White officers spent more time on problem-solving activities than did black officers. In contrast to the above studies, all of which are based on field observa- tions of individual officers' encounters with the public, is an analysis of arrest rates in 122 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 for a time period spanning 1977-1993 (Donohue and Levitt, 2001). This study found that increases in the number of minority officers were associated with increases in arrests of whites (but not minority citizens), while more white police produced increases in the arrest rate of nonwhites (but not white citizens). These effects were particularly strong for minor offenses, such as public order offenses, prostitution, drunk driving, and other minor crimes. Extrapolating their results, the researchers estimated that "moving from random assignment of officers by race to a scenario in which same- race policing is maximized would lead arrests to decrease by over 15 per- cent" (Donohue and Levitt, 2001:390). It is important to note that this research does not allow us to make valid predictions about the effects of race on individual officers' behaviors, because the unit of analysis in this study is at an aggregated level--the entire municipal department. Arrest rates by officers' race may be affected by a number of factors not taken into account in this study (beat and shift assignment patterns), as well as other policies and practices that are associated with both the racial distribution of the police force and the distribution of arrests across citizens of different races. Moreover, arrest rates are calculated on the basis of people in a given population rather than on the number of incidents that could have resulted in an arrest. Inasmuch as quantitative analyses of individual officers' arrest
OCR for page 150
150 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING practices have not produced similar cross-race effects as found in this aggre- gate study, it should be interpreted with great caution.10 One possible race effect is that the distribution of officers by race in a department affects the way that individual officers (by race) behave (Walker, 1985; Mastrofski et al., 1998). The vast majority of officers in most Ameri- can police agencies are white, but possibly in those few departments in which the majority of officers are black, both black and white officers may behave differently, because there are a sufficient number of minority offic- ers to sustain an alternative culture to that which has been found repeatedly in white-dominated departments. Underlying this notion is that a police force that is well integrated provides a context for developing greater mu- tual respect and understanding, as officers come to know each other as individuals. That is, the process may also change police officers' stereotypi- cal views about people of a race other than their own. It also seems reason- able to hypothesize that when there is substantial racial heterogeneity in a police force, and that force also experiences substantial race-based tensions, officers' race may have an effect on how they practice policing, although the nature of the effects could well differ from situations in which there is racial heterogeneity and no such tension. Although nearly all of the available multivariate research suggests that an officer's race is not a significant influence on police behavior, this issue should be explored more fully by considering different contexts in which the officer's race might matter. Researchers could test more fully the possi- bility that the effects of the officer's race depend on that of the citizens with whom they interact. More importantly, researchers should compare officer race effects in departments in which officers of a minority race constitute the majority of the sworn force, thus considering the possibility that these effects differ from departments in which minority race officers also com- prise a minority of the sworn force. 10Indeed, a field observation study of Richmond, Virginia, in the early 1990s found that white officers dealing with minority citizens were the most likely to receive a compliant re- sponse when ordering a citizen not to engage in undesired behavior, and minority officers dealing with white citizens were the least likely (Mastrofski et al., 1996). Like-race pairings of officer and citizen were indistinguishable from each other in their success at securing citizen compliance and fell between the two racially heterogeneous pairings. Assuming that citizen compliance mitigates the need for arrest, these findings would predict that minority officers would have fewer enforcement alternatives to arrest when dealing with white citizens, while white officers dealing with minority citizens would have less need for arrest, given their higher rate of compliance success with that racial group.
OCR for page 151
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 151 Officer's Sex Proposition 16: Many argue that the employment of more female offic- ers will lead to changes in policing. This assumption is based on the belief that women are less aggressive and more nurturing than men and therefore more likely to use less coercion, relying instead on persuasion and assistance in dealing with citizens who cause problems or need help. The committee finds that the body of available research is too small and the findings too variable to draw firm conclusions about the effects of officer sex on police practice. Relatively little work has been done on the differences in how men and women practice policing. A number of studies fail to find differences be- tween male and female officers' beliefs and perceptions (Worden, 1993; Lasley, 1994; Finn and Stalans, 1997; Stewart and Maddren, 1997), and early evaluations of female officers indicated no sex-based differences in officer performance (see Feinman, 1994, for a review), focusing on the "masculine" or enforcement-oriented aspects of police work. Some of the early empirical work on police behavior suggested that female officers are less aggressive, less inclined to make arrests and citations, and less inclined to misbehave (see Sherman, 1980; Mastrofski, 1990; Riksheim and Cher- mak, 1993, for reviews). But this research suffers a number of methodologi- cal limitations, such as inadequate control for such confounding factors as age, experience, and duty assignment. Recent studies that control for many of these potentially confounding effects also fail to show significant differ- ences between male and female officers in making arrests, issuing citations, and using force (Worden, 1989, 1995a; Engel, 2000; Terrill, 2001). Some work has focused on specific community policing and order main- tenance practices. Two of six systematic observation studies of patrol indi- cated that women were more inclined to engage in assistance or community policing; one study indicated that females were less inclined to do so; and three showed no difference. Engel et al. (2000) found that female officers spent more time on problem solving than male officers. Snipes (2001) found no difference between male and female officers in the amount of time they spent on encounters in which a citizen requested some form of assistance, and DeJong (2000) found that females were significantly more likely to comfort female citizens than males were to comfort male citizens. Cross- gender pairings of officer and citizen were not significantly different from the female officer-female citizen pairing. But Mastrofski et al. (2000) found that female officers were less likely to grant citizens' requests to control others who were causing trouble, regardless of the degree of control re- quested (ranging from advice to arrest). Snipes (2001) found a similar rela- tionship in another city, but the sample of cases was much smaller and the
OCR for page 152
152 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING results not significant. Finally, Novak (1999) found no difference between men and women in their proclivity to initiate order maintenance activities on their own. Thus, two of the studies do suggest that female officers are more likely to engage in the caregiving sorts of community building and problem-solving aspects of community policing, while the evidence is less clear on the kinds of behaviors that constitute a projection of the more intrusive and coercive aspects of police authority. Future research exploring the possibility that officers' gender influences practice would benefit from a number of improvements. First, more refined measures of police practice should be considered. For example, whether or not an officer makes an arrest may not be linked to an officer's gender, but how that officer treats the people involved (whether or not an arrest was made) might be influenced by the officer's gender. Whether female officers tend to listen more to both sides of the story in a dispute is a question worth answering. Second, an examination of how officers spend their time that is free from assignments from the dispatcher and supervisors might reveal sex-linked differences. That is, there are few formal constraints determining when and where officers choose to mobilize, so any sex-linked inclinations would be most likely to be revealed in these patterns of behavior. IMPLICATIONS The committee explored research relevant to a number of propositions about the proximate influences of police behavior; both characteristics of the situation and of the officers. Virtually all of the literature reviewed fo- cused on patrol officers. We found that the evidence available to test most of these propositions was inadequate to draw firm conclusions. Some impli- cations are nonetheless possible. That police practices, especially those tied to the enforcement function, are influenced far more by legal than extralegal considerations is encourag- ing news for those wishing to assess the state of policing in America. This is not necessarily cause for celebration, however, since there are a sufficient number of studies finding that race, sex, and social class influence police practice to be cause for concern. And even if these effects are much smaller than those of legal considerations, this says nothing about how much toler- ance a society should have for these influences. Indeed the mixed evidence calls for more rigorous research to determine the circumstances under which the personal characteristics of the citizen do affect police practice. The situ- ation with regard to the effects of citizen demeanor is different, inasmuch as a great deal of research has found this to be a relatively strong influence on whether a suspect is arrested. There is still debate about how much the extralegal aspects of citizen demeanor influence police enforcement prac- tices, once the legally relevant aspects of that demeanor (constituting viola-
OCR for page 153
EXPLAINING POLICE BEHAVIOR: PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS 153 tions of the law) are taken into account, an issue that future research should resolve. More important for policy purposes, however, is determining what interventions, such as training, supervision, and discipline, prove most ef- fective in reducing the scope of the extralegal aspects of citizen demeanor. Researchers still have plenty to learn about the effects of legal and ex- tralegal situational influences on police practices, but future research will make especially valuable contributions to improving policing if it can deter- mine the sources of variation in these effects. For example, when legal con- siderations are not as influential as desired, is this due to a lack of police knowledge about legal requirements? Difficulties in applying the law to specific situations? A negative attitude about the law? The impact of com- peting priorities, such as the need to husband resources or deliver substan- tive justice? Are extralegal factors, such as revealed in race effects, less likely in departments with more active systems for detecting, correcting, or pun- ishing racially biased officer practices? Despite the considerable effort police leaders have devoted to winning the hearts and minds of police officers, the available evidence is not encour- aging about the prospects of changing officer behavior by changing their outlook. Research on general outlooks (authoritarian personality, police culture, cynicism, and job satisfaction) has for the most part not tested the effects of these constructs, due in part to formidable measurement difficul- ties. The small body of research that has tested the influence of specific attitudes has shown at most only weak linkages between attitude and be- havior, a finding that is consistent with findings in the field of social psy- chology generally. One implication is that attitudes and attitudinal change are poor proxies for actual practice when evaluating the impact of policy interventions on actual police practices. A second implication is that poli- cies and management practices designed to shape officers' philosophies about their work appear to be unfruitful. However, an encouraging feature of this pattern of results is that police agencies may be fairly effective in breaking the link between individual beliefs and preferences on one hand and practice on the other. What remains to be shown is how successful organizations are--and through what mechanisms--in getting officers to pattern their practices consistent with the goals of the organization. While the improvement of knowledge, skills, and abilities of police of- ficers seems an unassailable objective, available research leaves largely un- tested the degree of influence these things exert on actual police practice, so policy makers and the public remain uninformed on the actual return re- ceived from these investments. This is also the case for two specific strate- gies that have been the mainstays of professional reform: increasing the quality and quantity of education and training for police. The small number of studies and the methodological limitations of most studies mean that particular programs to enhance police training and education are developed
OCR for page 154
154 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING and offered without scientific evidence of their likely effects. Given the im- portance of these tools to those striving to improve policing, the committee cannot overstate the importance of developing a comprehensive and scien- tifically rigorous program to learn what is and is not effective in the educa- tion and training of police officers. Such evaluations should measure out- comes in terms of actual policing practices rather than tests and other proxies. The absence of effects on police behavior related to the officer's race suggests that it may be irrelevant to actual practice on the street, although it leaves untested the impact of a more racially diverse police workforce on the legitimacy of the police (a topic for Chapter 8). Because the available evidence on the effects of an officer's gender is inadequate to draw conclusions, it is difficult to draw specific implications in this area. Certainly there is a need for research that looks with greater care for areas of police practice in which differences between the sexes are most likely. Such studies will prove of limited practical value, however, unless they are able to determine the source of those differences. To what extent are they based on physiology, sex-role expectations, work environ- ment differences, and so on? Ultimately, the search for the causes and control of police behavior must extend beyond the limited domains of the situations and individual officers who handle them. Policing is shaped by the organizational and com- munity contexts in which these events occur. These are the focus of the following chapter.
Representative terms from entire chapter: