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Community Policing, Loose Coupling, and Sensemaking in American Police Agencies

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 503-536
Edward R. Maguire; Charles M. Katz
Date Published
September 2002
34 pages
Using the concepts of loose coupling and sensemaking from organizational theory, this article discusses the United States community policing movement.
Community policing in the United States is analyzed and discussed in this article by drawing on two concepts from organizational theory. Focusing on loose coupling and sensemaking, this article focuses on police agencies’ community policing claims. After introducing the concept of loose coupling as a situation in which organizational elements are only loosely or minimally connected, the authors discuss another concept from organizational theory, sensemaking, as an effort to create order and make retrospective sense of what occurs. In order to examine how police agencies interpret, define, and react to community policing, the authors used the theories of loose coupling and sensemaking in this study. Using 1993 survey data from 1,600 police and sheriffs’ agencies in the United States, the authors compared mean scores on 4 indices, indicating general community policing claims made by the various agencies. Results indicate that specific dimensions of community policing activity are moderately coupled with organizations’ general claims of community policing, with organization size and region playing important roles. The authors conclude that because community policing is an inherently ambiguous concept, local police agencies must engage in some sort of sense making process to determine if it should be implemented. Tables, references


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