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Article

Tina Maschi, Keith Morgen, Annette Hintenach, and Adriana Kaye

There has been a growing awareness among academic and professional communities, as well as the general public, of the global rise in the number of aging prisoners across the world. Both the scholarly literature and social media have documented the high human, social, and economic costs of housing older adults with complex physical, mental health, legal, and social needs. It is imperative to explore the crisis and select correctional policies and practices that have contributed to the rise in the aging and the seriously and terminally ill populations in global prisons. A comparative framing and analysis across the globe show how some countries, such as the United States, have a higher per capita rate of incarcerating older adults in prisons compared to other countries, such as Northern Ireland. Variations in profiles and manifestations of personal and social conditions affect pathways to prison for some older adults. Explanatory perspectives describe why some individuals are at an increased risk of growing old in prison compared to other individuals. Indigeneity, globalization, race and ethnicity, power and inequality, and processes of development and underdevelopment have affected the growth of the aging prison population. Promising practices have the potential to disengage social mechanisms that have contributed to the mass incarceration of the elderly and engage a more compassionate approach to crime and punishment for people of all ages, their families, and communities.

Article

Rob Hornsby and Dick Hobbs

The United Kingdom has seen the rise and subsequent demise of armed robbery by serious and organized criminals. The emergence of armed robbery must be considered within a context of criminal progression forged by the wider political economy and its developments, which shape the opportunities and characteristics of professional criminals. The shift from a cash-based economy towards a credit-constructed economic milieu witnessed the demise of craft crimes such as safe-cracking and the growth of project-based criminality such as armed robbery. The subsequent decline in professional armed robbers attacking banks, post offices, building societies, and cash-in-transit targets can be regarded as the result of control-of-crime strategies and situational crime prevention tactics. There has been increasing use of security measures, including (but not exclusively) within the banking sector, such as in-house closed-circuit television (CCTV), indelible dyes for tainting stolen money, and wider “risk society” measures including, for example, widespread street CCTV, automated number plate recognition, and an increasing shift to credit or debit card transactions. This approach to situational crime control has been successful, leading “elite” professional criminals to seek alternative illicit opportunities and leaving contemporary armed robbers, generally amateurs, deskilled and often desperate individuals.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Heather Prince, Kiseong Kuen, and Danielle S. Rudes

In recent years, research on policing, police legitimacy, and police decision-making has increased dramatically in part due to several high-profile police use of force and deadly shooting incidents in the United States. This line of studies largely focuses on individual-level factors such as police procedural justice during interactions with citizens from the perspective of the public. However, a growing body of studies suggests that police authority and legitimacy is not only formed by citizens’ evaluations and perceptions derived from police behaviors during the interactions. It is also shaped by factors from both individual-level and structural-level external sources of police organizations, such as citizens’ animus toward the police and crime rates of the jurisdiction. More importantly, research suggests that police culture and organizational-level factors, such as organizational justice and feeling recognition from others in an organization, play large roles in shaping officers’ self-legitimacy. The sense of low self-legitimacy derived from the above sources can lead officers to make racially biased decisions to reinforce their legitimate status with the public. Officers’ decision-making as well as their perceptions of self-legitimacy, by interacting each other, can play crucial roles in police negative behaviors toward citizens, such as use of deadly force, especially toward racial minorities. Some organizations have implemented changes such as implicit bias and procedural justice trainings, or body-worn camera requirements, but changes must be made at the overall organizational level to reduce racially biased police decision-making.

Article

Taryn Zastrow and Danielle S. Rudes

Civilian oversight of police is a tool commonly used in cities across the United States to hold police accountable for misconduct. Law enforcement agencies have a history of violence, brutality, and misconduct, specifically toward marginalized populations. Thus, oversight of police by civilians can be traced to the early 20th century, but models for implementing oversight have evolved over time. Literature on civilian oversight identifies three contemporary oversight models: investigative agencies, review boards, and auditor/monitor agencies. These models play different roles in providing oversight of police, including independently investigating civilian complaints, reviewing internal investigations of complaints, developing recommendations for police executives, and overseeing department practices and patterns. However, oversight agencies and boards often lack any legal power to enforce their recommendations, making them virtually ineffective. The lack of power held by oversight agencies can be traced to political pushback as well as conflicting organizational models within police departments. Given the variability between and within different oversight models, scholars have struggled to adequately study these agencies. However, some proposed solutions to ineffective oversight have been identified in the literature, including making the oversight agencies more autonomous. Further, when civilian oversight agencies are improved and public confidence in them increases, agencies should be provided with adequate resources to deal with the potential influx of civilian complaints.

Article

Jacques de Maillard and Jan Terpstra

Community (oriented) policing has become one of the most popular models of policing worldwide. After its initial implementation in many Western countries, community policing has also been transferred to transitional societies, which often lack strong democratic traditions. The international diffusion of community policing should not make us forget that community policing comes in all shapes and sizes and is highly varied in its operations. After having defined the concept and analyzed its rise in Anglo-American countries, this diversity is illustrated by scrutinizing its implementation in different national configurations: a continental European country relatively open to Anglo-American influences (the Netherlands), socially homogeneous countries with a high level of trust in the police (the Nordic countries), a centralized country with an administrative Napoleonic tradition (France), and postconflict societies (South Africa and Northern Ireland). These various national trajectories highlight the common drivers and barriers in community policing reforms: political priorities (through emphasizing crime fighting or zero tolerance policing), socioeconomic disparities and ethnic tensions (which may imply a history of mistrust and vicious circles between the police and some segments of the public), professional identities and interests (disqualifying community police officers as “social workers”), and organizational resources (managerial procedures, lack of training and human resources) that may hinder the reform process. These diverse experiences also draw attention to the variety of context-dependent factors that impact the fate of community policing reforms. Political climates, police–government relations, socioeconomic inequalities, and police traditions may differ, which requires further analysis of the various political, historical, socioeconomic, and cultural contexts of specific community policing reforms.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Brooke McQuerrey Tuttle, Daniel M. Blumberg, and Konstantinos Papazoglou

Police officers face unique challenges in the line of duty that threaten their health and well-being. Officers experience organizational, operational, community-related, and personal stressors ranging from shift work and critical incident response to public pressures related to police-community relations and social media. Exposure to police stress and trauma presents external challenges to wellness which makes officers vulnerable to experiencing compassion fatigue, moral injury, and burnout. Compassion fatigue, resulting from caring for those who suffer, is associated with feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, and powerlessness. Other symptoms may include emotional instability, diminished self-esteem, self-harm, inability to concentrate, hypervigilance, disorientation, rigidity, apathy, perfectionism, and preoccupation to trauma. Furthermore, moral injury occurs when officers witness or take part in acts that violate their deeply held moral beliefs, which in turn carries implications for psychological and spiritual well-being. The interconnectedness of challenges to officer wellness are detrimental to physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, behavioral, and social health. Negative health outcomes include risk for sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, destructive coping, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide. Implications from prior research with police, other frontline professionals, veterans, and military personnel have led to a number of interventions and techniques that can potentially promote wellness and effective stress management for police officers. Training related to stress management and wellness promotion have been found to significantly improve officers’ performance in the line of duty and overall health. This includes viewing wellness as a perishable skill, requiring ongoing practice, updated training, and numerous outside resources (e.g., psychological services, posttrauma intervention, peer support, and chaplaincy). Stress management techniques, gratitude and appreciation letters, mindfulness, and other community-oriented programs are some examples of effective strategies to promote the health of the law enforcement community. Furthermore, compassion satisfaction, emotional intelligence, and emotional regulation play a significant role in helping officers maintain stability in their personal and professional lives while capably serving their communities.

Article

Errors of justice are a serious problem, and the police contribute substantially to them. Much can be done to reduce these errors, involving overreaction, underreaction, and misreaction that imposes either due process errors on the arrested or errors of impunity on the community, or both. The sources, severity, and frequency of these errors vary considerably, and they vary by circumstance and the characteristics of the victim, suspect, and community. Dealing with them effectively begins with understanding these variants and the costs, both social and fiscal, of each type of error on the community. Police legitimacy is likely to be enhanced in the process.

Article

Roberto R. Aspholm

Street gangs first emerged on a broad scale in U.S. cities in the late 19th century in step with industrialization, urbanization, and mass waves of European immigration. Up until the 1960s, the vast majority of gang members in the United States were second- and third-generation European immigrants. Like their Black and Latino successors, these groups routinely engaged in collective violence, which helped push nationwide levels of homicide to a historic peak toward the end of Prohibition. At the same time, White ethnic gangs were integrated into the urban political machines and organized crime syndicates of that era. Moreover, these groups existed within a burgeoning urban industrial economy in which an abundance of low-skilled manufacturing jobs provided readily available opportunities for gang members to transition out of gang life in late adolescence or early adulthood. New Deal policies institutionalizing protections for unions and workers and expanding homeownership opportunities via federal mortgage underwriting, in turn, greatly enhanced economic security for widening sectors of the working class, especially White workers. In short, political patronage, lucrative illegal rackets, a vibrant labor movement, and New Deal labor and housing policies variously punched a ticket to upward mobility for countless White gang members during this period, and, by the mid-1960s, White street gangs had largely disappeared from the urban landscape. During and after World War II, meanwhile, millions of Southern Blacks as well as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans migrated to America’s urban industrial centers. Conversely, millions of Whites left these cities in the postwar decades, an exodus facilitated by federal highway construction and housing policies that promoted racially exclusive suburbanization. Industry largely followed this outmigration in search of cheaper land, more pliable labor, lower taxes, and greater profits, leaving many central cities economically devastated and without an industrial base for their increasingly Black and Latino working class. At the same time, the urban political machines and organized crime groups that had once provided mobility for White ethnic gangs were in dramatic decline as municipal governance was bureaucratized and criminal rackets were supplanted by the development and expansion of legalized gambling and revolving credit markets. It is within this context that contemporary Black and Latino street gangs emerged and have persisted since the 1960s. Unlike their White predecessors, today’s gang members have been largely excluded from the conventional economy at the same time that society has abandoned the welfare state in favor of incarceration as its major strategy for managing inequality. Prison, the illicit drug trade, and persistent economic dislocation are among the fundamental realities shaping life for contemporary gang members. Street gangs, violence, and crime, both historical and contemporary, must be understood against this broader backdrop of societal transformation.

Article

Clifford Shearing and Philip Stenning

Significant developments in our understandings of, and thinking about, “policing” have occurred in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. These have been reflected in redefinitions of the words “police” and “policing” that scholars use when writing about it. By the middle of the 19th century the word "police" in English was understood to refer to the state-sponsored institution responsible for order maintenance, crime control, and law enforcement, and its officers; and the word policing referred to what its officers did to achieve these objectives. Police were typically referred to as “the police,” indicating that they uniquely performed this role. But in the decades after the Second World War, scholars and consultants brought the world’s attention to a dramatic growth in nonstate institutions that were fulfilling similar roles; they were referred to as “private security.” Research revealed that private security were undertaking the same tasks and responsibilities as the police were but doing so in different ways, with different objectives, and different means. They more often saw their role as loss prevention—rather than crime control—and did not see presenting offenders before the criminal justice system as a good way to achieve that. Rather, they developed ways of achieving order and preventing losses that drew on the power of their clients—for instance to exclude troublemakers from their property—rather than the kinds of legal powers relied on by the police, which they typically did not have anyway. Policing scholars began to talk of “private police” and “private policing.” What is more, research revealed that within a couple of decades of the end of the Second World War, private security personnel had come to outnumber public police personnel, in some countries by as much as 3 to 1. It also became apparent that even within government there was an increasing number of organizations and personnel, other than “the police,” such as customs officials, tax inspectors, and so forth, who could also be considered to be doing policing. Many police researchers redefined themselves as policing researchers, interested in studying all these different public and private organizations and personnel who seemed to be doing policing, and what their relationships with each other were. By the 1990s, in light of these research findings, policing scholars began to talk about plural policing provision, rather than just about the relationships between “private security” and “the police.” A whole lot of new questions arose: Who is doing policing? What are the different ways of doing it? In whose interests is it being done? What are the implications of this for policing policy? How can policing provision be effectively governed given its prolific diversity? How are developments like globalization and technological advances impacting the challenges faced by policing providers? And which providers are best placed to meet which of these challenges? And finally, is policing just about addressing human threats to safety and security ? What about threats to safety and security arising from natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and droughts, or other manifestations of climate change such as global warming? Or from pandemics and the like? Or from the development of artificial intelligence? In short, what do “policing” and policing provision mean in the 21st century? And how will we understand and think about them in the future? Certainly not as we understood them in the middle of the 20th century.

Article

Cassandra Cross

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.

Article

The evidence-based approach uses scientific evidence to influence decision-making. Evidence-based practices (EBPs) are practices, programs, or interventions found to be effective through scientific evaluation. Community supervision as a field is shifting toward an increased use of EBPs when working with clients. Implementing EBPs is no simple task, and supervision departments must navigate a host of potential barriers in order to be successful. Taking a macro-level approach, supervision organizations are open systems capable of self-maintenance through reaction to their environment. Considering the connection between society and criminal justice approaches, understanding the changes in supervision is best done through a sociohistorical approach. Throughout the history of the United States, there have been philosophic shifts between rehabilitative and punishment approaches to crime control. Community supervision was developed as a rehabilitative institution popular in part due to its alignment with the rehabilitative ideal. During the 1960s and 1970s, the rehabilitative ideal fell out of favor, being replaced with retributive, incapacitation, and deterrence models. Supervision, even with its rehabilitative origins, was able to withstand this shift by adjusting its purpose to surveillance, monitoring, and risk management. During the past 30 years, supervision has been experiencing another shift in philosophy. With the empirical foundation being rebuilt through the development of EBPs and evidence-based supervision models (e.g., the risk–need–responsivity model), rehabilitation is being established as the most effective way to reduce recidivism. In order to properly implement these new rehabilitation-focused practices and models, supervision organizations must structure themselves in particular ways. Specifically, it is important that supervision organizations develop sound dissemination strategies to introduce and support their staff in order to transfer scientific technology into the field. Furthermore, organizations need to develop processes that effectively connect new practices to old processes in a way that displays the ease and utility of the new practices to ensure fidelity. When done correctly, these processes and support strategies can create an organizational climate that supports the change and makes it permanent. On the other hand, when done incorrectly, the scientific technology will not be transferred correctly, which has been shown to increase the chances of recidivism for clients. Supervision officers are justice actors who have a great deal of discretion in their work and who need to navigate a host of institutional barriers to do their job as directed. These barriers come in the form of conflicting or ambiguous job duties and working in an environment lacking resources. In the event that officers do not believe they are being supported or their prescribed duties are unachievable, they will reject the formal prescription and create their own standard. This is evidenced through the variety of reasons officers reject use of EBPs. Considering specifically the use of risk assessments, officers are known to not trust the risk assessment, not use the assessment results in case planning, manipulate the results of the assessment to overclassify their client’s risk, and reject using the assessment due to conflict with their occupational philosophy.

Article

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.

Article

Police and the media have had a close relationship but it has become an increasingly uneasy one. For more than a century, the mainstream United States media—mainly newspapers, radio, television and magazines—have depended on the police for raw material for a steady diet of crime stories. For its part, law enforcement regards the media as something of an adversary. The relationship has changed because of the growth of investigative reporting and of the Internet. Both developments have increased the volume of material critical of the police. At the same time, law enforcement has used social media as a means to bypass the mainstream media to try getting its message directly to the public. However, the news media in all of its forms remains a powerful interpreter of how law enforcement does its job.

Article

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.

Article

Leslie Holmes

Police corruption is ubiquitous and 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 when seeking justice. Leading on from this, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher unsolved crime rates. Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other public officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption assumes numerous 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 occasionally even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, namely “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry problem,” 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 restructuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, civilian review, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police. But police corruption is ultimately a “wicked” problem, meaning that it is so complex and changeable that it can never be completely solved; the best that can be hoped for is that it will be brought down to manageable proportions.

Article

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.