U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Applying Tittle's Control Balance Theory to Police Deviance

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 24 Issue: 4 Dated: 2001 Pages: 497-519
Date Published
23 pages

The authors review the "Control-Balance Theory," developed in the context of deviance prediction in the general population to analyze deviance prediction and prevention for police behavior.


The authors felt that a void existed in the theoretical research on police behavior in general, and deviant police behavior specifically. The authors reviewed and analyzed Tittle’s Control Balance Theory, originally intended as a theoretical explanation for deviance in the general population, as a potential new tool in police deviance research. The theory posits that "the amount of control to which one is subject relative to the amount of control one can exercise (the control ratio) affects both the probability of deviance as well as the specific form of deviance." The authors explained the general operation of the theory and then discussed the application of each of the major components of the theory; motivation, constraint, opportunity, and the control ratio, to the police setting. The authors sought to test the theory in the context of police deviance by administering a self-report survey to 499 randomly selected members of the Philadelphia Police Department. Their analysis of the data collected from those surveys appears in this article. The authors findings specific to police behavior were consistent with Tittle’s findings regarding general deviant behavior. Findings included the correlation of control deficits, not control surpluses, with an increased tendency among police to report the deviant behavior of their colleagues. The authors suggest moving police officers into more balanced control situations to reduce incidence of deviance. 4 tables, 8 notes, 51 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001