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Structural Change in Large Police Agencies During the 1990's

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: 2003 Pages: 251-275
Date Published
25 pages

This longitudinal study examined the evidence for changes in the structure of large municipal police organizations during the 1990's.


Throughout the twentieth century, the organizational structures of large municipal police departments in the United States have changed significantly. Over the past two decades community policing reformers have advocated for a revamping of organizational structures and administrative practices in several ways: reducing the size of their administrative components, decentralize, de-specialize, reduce the depth of their hierarchies, and to civilianize, replacing sworn officers with civilians in various occupational specialties. This restructuring is seen as essential for community policing practices to take root. This paper, supported by the U. S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, examines the evidence for change in one substantive domain: formal organizational structure. Data are used from six different sources: three waves of data from the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Series (LEMAS)(1990, 1993, and 1997), two waves of data (1993 and 1996) on the organizational structures of police agencies collected by Maguire (2002), and data from a 1998 University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) survey of police agencies conducted by Maguire (2002). Overall, 353 agencies provided sufficient data to compute functional differentiation scores for each of the six sources. Findings provided mixed news for community policing advocates. Large municipal police organizations in the United States experienced significant decreases in centralization and administrative intensity, together with significant increases in occupational differentiation. These changes are consistent with the structural reform agendas of community policing advocates. Overall, the evidence provides more room for optimism among community policing reformers than previous research, with some structural elements changing in the direction urged by reformers. References

Date Published: January 1, 2003