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Understanding the Organizational Factors That Impact Police-Community Relations, Summary Overview

NCJ Number
Andrea Marie Headley
Date Published
September 2018
35 pages
Since there is minimal empirical research on the organizational and managerial correlates of police-community relations, this report summarizes research that examined the impact that police departments' organizational and managerial characteristics had on police-community relations.
Overall, the study found that few, but specific, police agency organizational and managerial characteristics impacted police-community relations. Agencies that had formal partnerships with the community, dedicated beat patrol officers, and minority representation in personnel had lower levels of cases of use of force. Also, agencies with higher percentages of officers dedicated to problem-solving activities in the community had lower levels of citizen complaints; in contrast, agencies that were more formalized in interactions with the community had higher levels of citizen complaints. Thus, police agencies that focused on constructive officer attitudes and behaviors in interactions with community residents and that gave high priority to the level and quality of services rendered to the community as a whole and to individual residents had fewer citizen complaints and cases that involved the use of force. This study compiled a large nationwide dataset of local police departments that encompassed citizen complaints, police use of fore, assaults against police officers, and civilian deaths caused by police. Comparisons among agencies took into account differences in levels of poverty, unemployment, violent crime, median income, median age, and owner-occupied housing. The study also examined the role that specific police organizational characteristics had on police-community relations, such as community-oriented policing, passive representation, professionalism, and control mechanisms. This was done by using ordinary least squares regression analyses of just over 250 police agencies. This study also conducted a case study of the causal mechanisms that undergirded organizational factors and police-community relations for the police department in Hartford, Connecticut. 9 tables, 3 figures, and 38 references