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Macro-Level Influences on Police Decision-Making and Engagement with Victims of Serious Violent Crime: A Narrative Case Study of Two States

NCJ Number
Date Published
332 pages

This study examines influences on police decision-making and engagement with crime victims in two states.


This dissertation presents original empirical research exploring the structural level influences on police decision-making and how these factors may shape engagement with victims of serious violent crime in four jurisdictions across two states. Findings shine a light on some of the structural pathways that may play a role in revictimizing those who report a violent victimization to the police. From a social work perspective, the current study expands the understanding and use of the person in environment perspective by applying it to the police, one of many occupational groups working on the frontline. Utilizing a narrative case study design, this study explores the occupational, organizational, and legal statutory elements that shape officer behavior in serious violent criminal investigations. Study findings reveal three main or critical themes: officer identity and role conceptualizations, managing expectations – of self, agency, publics, victims, the law - and costs of doing the job. These themes emerged as officers narrated their experiences and opened up about what it means to be a police officer investigating serious violent crime in their communities. Officers describe holding multiple tensions between dual roles of care and control; limited training and institutional supports are provided to help manage these tensions or the role conflict and confusion that appears to arise from them. Further, officers describe two defaults when making decisions about their cases: 1) will this violate due process, and 2) can I build a good case for prosecution.

Date Published: January 1, 2022