Bryce Elling Peterson and Daniel S. Lawrence
Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are small devices that police officers can affix to their person—in a head-, shoulder-, or chest-mounted position—that can audio and video record their interactions with community members. BWCs have received strong support from the public and, in recent years, widespread buy-in from police leadership and officers because of their ability to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the collection of evidence. Implementation guidelines recommend that officers activate their BWCs during each officer–citizen interaction and inform the people they encounter that they are being recorded. Early research on this technology found that officers equipped with body cameras were significantly less likely to engage in force and receive citizen complaints. However, more recent studies with larger samples have had mixed findings about the impact of body cameras on use of force, citizen complaints, and other police activities and behaviors.
Numerous legal and ethical considerations are associated with BWCs, including their implications for privacy concerns and public disclosure. However, police officials, policymakers, civil rights groups, and the public must continue to weigh these privacy concerns against the potential for BWCs to enhance police accountability and transparency. Future scholarship should focus on the degree to which BWCs can improve police–community relations and yield valuable evidence for both criminal cases and internal investigations.
Kenneth J. Peak
Since 9/11 and the burgeoning number of mass shootings across the United States (one of the more recent such tragedies, at a Parkland, Florida high school in February 2018, resulted in 17 people being murdered, 17 wounded, and worldwide student protests for gun control), police at all levels and of all jurisdictions have had to train and prepare for security threats and attacks of all types. Certainly, policing on postsecondary campuses is no exception. Recognizing that campuses are no longer wholly safe, violence-free enclaves, higher education administrators have necessarily sought highly trained and equipped campus police agencies to provide a safer environment for their academic communities.
Policing on college and university (postsecondary) campuses has a unique history, philosophy, role, and functions. Specifically, from their humble beginnings in the early 1900s through the social and campus unrest of the 1960s and 1970s, and until today, their administration, jurisdiction, authority, methods, legal mandates, technologies, and personnel have had to evolve with the times and with new challenges. In addition, like their local and state counterparts, they have come to embrace community policing and problem solving as well as develop plans for all types of critical incidents, both acts of nature and acts of terrorism. In short, history has shown that these organizations must be prepared for the entire gamut of human and natural disorder.
John L. Worrall and Zachary A. Powell
Charged with enforcing the law and regulating human behavior, the police have considerable leeway in their ability to control the population. On occasion, situations arise in which police officers misuse their authority, resulting in racially discriminatory practices, illegal searches and seizures, abusive use of force, or other forms of misbehavior. In some cases, unconstitutional practices are isolated incidents that are restricted to the actions of a small group of officers; in other cases, misbehavior may be more emblematic of a systemic problem within a criminal justice agency. To the extent that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional behavior exists, the interest of any government, and the people governed, is in limiting official misconduct.
One method of correcting unconstitutional behavior is through a consent decree, a court-ordered agreement following a major U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that is designed to correct long-standing unconstitutional practices within police departments.
Despite the fact that consent decrees have been available to the DOJ for nearly 25 years, their use is somewhat limited (especially lately, in light of the Trump administration’s resistance to their use). A small body of evidence suggests there is promise for consent decrees as a tool for correcting police misbehavior. Existing studies show consent decrees are correlated with boosted citizen perceptions of treated police departments, lower counts of civil rights litigation, and improved methods for recording and disciplining police misbehavior. The influence of a consent decree may gradually build up over time before lapsing post-treatment. In addition, focus group interviews with law enforcement officers suggest that many express apprehension about the goals of reform and the impact on the day-to-day lives of police officers. A number of questions remain unanswered that require further exploration from the field.
David Weisburd and Sean Wire
Hot spots of crime, and the criminology of place more generally, deviate from the traditional paradigm of criminology, in which the primary assumption and goal is to explain who is likely to commit crime and their motivations, and to explore interventions aimed at reducing individual criminality. Alternatively, crime hot spots account for the “where” of crime, specifically referring to the concentration of crime in small geographic areas. The criminology of place demands a rethinking in regard to how we understand the crime problem and offers alternate ways to predict, explain, and prevent crime. While place, as large geographic units, has been important since the inception of criminology as a discipline, research examining crime concentrations at a micro-geographic level has only recently begun to be developed. This approach has been facilitated by improvements to data availability, technology, and the understanding of crime as a function of the environment. The new crime and place paradigm is rooted in the past three decades of criminological research centered on routine activity theory, crime concentrations, and hot spots policing.
The focus on crime hot spots has led to several core empirical findings. First, crime is meaningfully concentrated, such that a large proportion of crime events occur at relatively few places within larger geographies like cities. This may be termed the law of crime concentration at places (see Weisburd, 2015). Additionally, most hot spots of crime are stable over time, and thus present promising opportunities for crime prevention. Crime hot spots vary within higher geographic units, suggesting both that there is a loss of information at higher levels of aggregation and that there are clear “micro communities” within the larger conceptualization of a neighborhood. Finally, crime at place is predictable, which is important for being able to understand why crime is concentrated in one place and not another, as well as to develop crime prevention strategies. These empirical characteristics of crime hot spots have led to the development of successful police interventions to reduce crime. These interventions are generally termed hot spots policing.
Each year, millions of individuals worldwide find themselves victims of online fraud. Whether it is responding to a fraudulent email with bank account details or being defrauded through a false relationship, fraud can have a life-changing impact on an individual victim. For many victims, this goes beyond pure monetary losses and impacts their physical and emotional health and well-being. Historically, fraud has not been the priority of police or government agencies; however, increased developments in technology mean that fraud is affecting a greater number of victims than ever before. The online nature of many fraudulent approaches carries with it a new set of unique challenges associated with the policing and prevention of online fraud, and victim support services are currently not well equipped (if even in existence) to deal with the aftermath of victimization.
John E. Eck
Place management theory—a part of routine activity theory—explains why a relatively few places have a great deal of crime while most places have little or no crime. The explanation is the way place managers carry out their four primary functions: organization of space, regulation of conduct, control of access, and acquisition of resources.
Place managers are those people and organizations that own and operate businesses, homes, hotels, drinking establishments, schools, government offices, places of worship, health centers, and other specific locations. They can even operate mobile places such as busses, trains, ships, and aircraft. Some are large—a multi-story office tower for example—while others are tiny—a bus stop, for example. Place managers are important because they can exercise control over the people who use these locations and in doing so contribute to public order and safety. Consequently, it is important to understand place management, how it can fail, and what one can do to prevent failures.
Place management has implications beyond high-crime sites. When crime places are connected, they can create crime hot spots in an area. The concentration of high crime places can inflate crime in a neighborhood. Moreover, place management can be applied to virtual locations, such as servers, websites, and other network infrastructures.
There is considerable evaluation evidence that place managers can change high crime locations to low crime locations. Research also shows that displacement to other places, though possible, is far from inevitable. Indeed, research shows that improving a high crime place can reduce crime at places nearby places. Although much of this research has studied how police intervene with place managers, non-police regulatory agencies can carry out this public safety function.
Since the end of the Second World War, police cooperation has experienced several transformations affecting the conduct of law enforcement operations across jurisdictions. These critical changes emerged from global legal, political and socioeconomic trends that constantly redefining the nature, structure and the role of actors involved in policing cooperation. For instance, the creation of vast free trade zones in North America, Europe and Asia has provided an important momentum for collaboration and coordination among national justice systems and the protection of the sovereignty of states. Moreover, the evolution of transnational criminal networks and the internationalization of terrorist activities have directly contributed to the multiplication of law enforcement and intelligence initiatives that transcends local and national jurisdictions. The so-called wars on crime, drug and terrorism ranging from 1960’s to 2010’s have generated the deployment of a formidable web of policing activities across the globe. In the 21st Century, a complex assemblage of public and private actors conducts police cooperation activities. These actors operate at several levels of geographical jurisdictions and cooperate through different organizational structures and legal frameworks.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Please check back later for the full article.
Police corruption is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed, and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn to when seeking justice. Third, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher crime rates. Finally, and in extreme cases, low levels of citizen trust in law enforcement agencies can undermine a state’s legitimacy, with all the negative knock-on effects of this.
Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other state officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption comes in various forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans, and sometimes even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, viz. “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry syndrome,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society. Many factors drive police corruption, including inadequate salaries, frustration with the leniency of the courts, opportunity, envy (of wealthy criminals), and simple greed. Combating it is no easy task, but methods that have significantly lowered corruption rates in countries such as Singapore and Georgia include reducing discretionary decision-making, radical re-structuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police.
John M. Violanti
All too often we emphasize the dangers of police work, but seem to neglect the hidden psychological danger of this profession. Suicide is a consequence of that hidden danger. It is a clear indication of the intolerable strain placed on the police officer’s work and life roles. Policing is an occupation replete with stress and traumatic incidents. For example, witnessing death, encountering abused children, and experiencing violent street combat weigh heavily as precipitants to depression, alcohol use, and suicide among police. Ideas as far back as Freud’s aggression theory relate to the police because officers cannot legally express anger and aggression outwardly and turn it within. Following Freud, other studies examined the frustration of police work and how it was turned inward. Other theoretical ideas concerning police suicide that have emerged over the years are included in this article—police cultural socialization, strain theory, and interpersonal suicide theory.
Scientific research on police suicide has helped to focus on this topic. Much research is on suicide rates in an effort to determine the scope of this problem. Several recent studies are discussed in this article, including a national study. Such studies, however, are not without controversy and more work is necessary to clarify the validity of findings. There is lack of data available on police suicide, which adds to the problem of research. Many believe that causes of police suicide are really no different than those in other groups in society, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or significant loss. While scholars cannot yet be certain that police work is an etiological suicide risk factor, we can with some assurance state that it serves as a fertile arena for suicide precipitants. Culturally approved alcohol use and maladaptive coping, firearms availability, and exposure to psychologically adverse incidents all add to the suicide nexus.
Last, and most important, the issue of police suicide prevention is discussed. Likely the biggest challenge in prevention is convincing officers to go for help. The police and societal culture at large attach a stigma to suicide which is difficult to deal with. Additionally, the police culture does not allow for weakness of any kind, either physical or psychological. Several promising prevention approaches are discussed. Given the reluctance to report the deaths of police officers as suicides unfortunately leaves us in a position of “best guess” based on what evidence we can collect. Looking to the future, the development of a national database focused on police suicide would help to establish the actual scope of this tragic loss of life. Interventions need to more efficaciously target at-risk police officers. More research, using longitudinal study designs, is needed to inform interventions and, in particular, to determine how suicide prevention efforts can be modified to meet the unique needs of law enforcement officers.
Jenna Milani, Ben Bradford, and Jonathan Jackson
The ability of the police to assert social control and reproduce social order depends, crucially, on the capacity to use force to achieve these ends—whether when restraining someone attempting to self-harm or shooting dead an armed terrorist. But what do we know about police use of force in the United States and England and Wales? Why does unjustified police use of force occur? And why do citizens have different views on the acceptability and unacceptability of various forms of police violence?
Gangs have been subjects of extensive empirical research since the 1920s. Scholarly interest in gangs was largely due to gang members’ increased likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior. Gang members have been involved in criminal activities ranging from drug dealing to theft, property offenses, gun violence, and homicide. In the 1980s, there was nationwide concern about gangs as violent gang-related crimes increased and drew media attention. As a result, important legislation was implemented that made gang membership illegal. These policies were designed to curb gang involvement and de-escalate gang violence. The legislation included civil gang injunctions, the development of gang databases, and the formation and strengthening of gang task force units. Indeed, the policies resulted in an increase of gang unit officers focused on mitigating gang involvement and gang crime. Officer strategies focused on stopping, detaining, and arresting individuals who often fit certain stereotypes. Specifically, officers routinely based gang-related encounters on suspects’ race, age, clothing, gender, and geographic location, focusing mostly on young men of color in economically depressed neighborhoods. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of problems and concerns related to aggressive and biased police behavior surfaced, resulting in questionable outcomes of gang suppression. Research suggests that directed patrols and removing leadership might not be effective. Instead, alternate policies should include policing in conjunction with support from community-based nonprofit organizations and research that accounts for gang members’ experiences of law enforcement strategies.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Please check back later for the full article.
Street gangs are prevalent throughout the United States. Recent estimates provided by law enforcement agencies note that there are approximately 30,000 gangs and 850,000 gang members across the United States. The most common crimes street gangs commit are assaults, street-level drug trafficking, robberies, and threats and intimidation. Rival gang members or law-abiding citizens are often the targets of these crimes. Other than crime, the influence of gangs can disrupt the socializing power of schools, families, and communities. These institutions help socialize young people to learn and follow the appropriate rules of a law-abiding society. Gangs also have an impact on the quality of life in neighborhoods and cities. The presence of gangs and gang-related activity induces fear in the local community and imposes a great concern for citizens. To confront these concerns, law enforcement is often considered the first line of defense. Despite the relationship between law enforcement and gangs being tenuous, police officers have special knowledge and access to gang members and at-risk youth, which puts law enforcement in a unique position to help prevent gang membership and respond to and mitigate gang violence.
There are several ways in which law enforcement is involved in confronting gang violence. In the effort to prevent gang violence, law enforcement plays a crucial role monitoring and regulating gang activity and preventing those at risk from joining gangs. Law enforcement can reduce gang violence by implementing gang prevention strategies that either increase awareness or directly attempt to prevent individuals from joining gangs. Awareness programs are wide in focus and attempt to teach youths the skills to resist peer pressure to join a gang. Gang membership prevention programs are narrower in focus and look to identify youths with risk factors for joining gangs. Police help refer at-risk youths to programs where they are offered psychological and substance abuse counseling, tutoring, and employment training, among other services. Law enforcement can also reduce gang violence by implementing activity regulation strategies that provide alternatives to gang membership and that either prevent or suppress gang activity. Gang alternative programs look to get individuals to leave their gangs, and they provide opportunities to prevent the individual from rejoining the gang. Gang activity prevention strategies focus on specific activities, places, or behaviors associated with gang activity. These strategies typically include special laws, mediation, and situational crime prevention strategies. Gang activity suppression strategies are deterrence-based strategies. The main difference between prevention and suppression strategies is that prevention strategies try to make committing gang activity more difficult while suppression prioritizes arrests and imprisonment. Although the effectiveness of these programs varies, law enforcement is better utilized in a prevention capacity rather than an enforcement one. Also, law enforcement should not tackle gang violence alone, but in partnership with other community organizations and stakeholders. These partnerships with community organizations, along with a visible commitment to combating gang violence through prevention and suppression efforts, can build trust and increase police legitimacy in at-risk communities.
Regulatory and legal approaches to prostitution are subject to considerable debate among researchers, policymakers, and those tasked with the everyday enforcement of measures intended to control, abate, or otherwise manage the sex industry. Law, policy, and everyday policing practices all contribute to the de jure and de facto organization of the sex industry at the levels of policy formulation, coordination between police, social services, and other socio-institutional forces, and encounters between sex workers and criminal justice professionals. Despite considerable cultural-contextual variations, researchers have ascertained three predominant approaches to regulating prostitution worldwide: criminalization, legalization, and decriminalization. Each of these approaches takes a unique form in the specific cultural context in which local authorities implement them, thereby generating special issues for policing with respect to ideological frameworks and police–sex worker encounters. Taken together, the philosophical and pragmatic concerns raised by policing or otherwise regulating prostitution encompass an extraordinary gamut of deeply human concerns regarding political power, sexual behavior, individual rights, historically rooted inequalities, and state responsibility
Stephen T. Holmes, Ross Wolf, and Bryan M. Holmes
Private and public policing agencies share a rich history. Each was set up, designed, and organized to address specific problems, whether street crime or corporate security. Each organization type has its strengths and weaknesses depending on its environment and the types of duties assigned. However, it is only in the early 21st century that city government actors have begun to look at private police agencies as a way to supplement traditional policing services at a lower cost. The extant literature is replete with articles detailing the scope, nature, and legal authority of private police agencies, but little real-world experimentation has been done where private police agencies have been used to supplement police services in diverse high-crime neighborhoods. This article examines the history of both public and private police agencies and then details the results of an experiment in Orange County, Florida, where the sheriff contracted with one of the world’s largest private police agencies to patrol and provide additional police services to two communities in need. The results can be generalized to communities that are most in need of police services.