In Search of Police Legitimacy: Territoriality, Isomorphism, and Changes in Policing Practices

In Search of Police Legitimacy: Territoriality, Isomorphism, and Changes in Policing Practices

In Search of Police Legitimacy: Territoriality, Isomorphism, and Changes in Policing Practices

In Search of Police Legitimacy: Territoriality, Isomorphism, and Changes in Policing Practices

Synopsis

Cooper answers two questions: why do police precincts look similar, despite being situated in very different environments? And, why do police engage in behavior that does not result in crime control? These two questions are closely related. Drawing from institutional theory and employing spatial analytic techniques, Cooper finds that certain police precincts unduly influence the behavior of neighboring precincts. In the language of institutional theory, this is sovereign isomorphism: precincts behave similarly because they see other precincts as leaders. Such isomorphism results in behavior that does not reduce crime because the borrowed behavior has no connection with the precinct's immediate environment. These findings hold great potential for inducing organizational change by tapping into the strategic power of such sovereign precincts.

Excerpt

In contemporary Criminal Justice scholarship steady advancement is clearly being made over prior work done in the field, both in the depth of theoretical conceptualization and in the sophistication of our statistical analytical tools. One could make a good argument that what Kuhn (1962) referred to as the “normal science” being done within the discipline at this time – namely, research carried on within the bounds of the prevailing dominant behavioral paradigm with conventionally accepted measures and analytical techniques in common use – is patently better than it was a decade ago, and will likely be even better a decade hence. This very LFB Scholarly Publications Criminal Justice Series has been the obvious beneficiary of this ongoing improvement in the quality of Criminal Justice work, expressed here in the form of substantial research monographs being done at our best graduate programs in the U.S. and other countries. The advancements in information storage and management hardware, analytical software, data archive building, metadata sharing norms, global Internet penetration and ever more demanding and exacting graduate training programs in the field have lead to a truly global community of Criminal Justice and Criminology scholarship adding to our store of cumulative insight and deepening our understanding.

While all of this is clearly true in my view, I believe it is also sadly the case that not nearly enough work is being done in the critical paradigm broadening realm of scholarship. That is to say, it is important that our increasingly powerful tools in the form of conceptual frameworks and statistical tests be applied to the study of our perennial questions of criminal justice concern, and that we systematically replicate earlier studies done with less powerful analytical tools to strengthen our claims to disciplinary scientific insight. There will ever be a need for such work . . .

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