|Thinking out loud: How far has CJ research come in 10 years?
(The following roundtable is adapted from a panel discussion held on April 30 in San Francisco as part of the annual meeting of the Police Executive Research Forum. Moderated by Jeremy Travis, the Director of the National Institute of Justice, the panel included three of the leading researchers and theorists in criminal justice and public-sector organization and management:
Steven Mastrofski, of George Mason University in Virginia, who is conducting Federally funded research to replicate and advance earlier studies to find out what police do and how the day-to-day work of policing has changed;
Mark Moore, of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who is widely published on the subject of public-sector management and organizational change within policing;
Wes Skogan, of Northwestern University, who is leader of a team conducting long-term evaluations of the Chicago Police Department’s evolution to a community-policing footing.
Under the overall heading of “Police Research: What Have We Learned During the Past 10 Years,” panelists were asked to focus on several separate questions: How has the field of policing changed in the past generation, and what observable changes have there been in the way police work is actually carried out? How has the field of policing specifically advanced with respect to crime control, working with citizens to reduce fear of crime, and other fundamental objectives of policing? How are police organizations adapting to and advancing change within the field? What are the outstanding research questions that the field should focus on in the future?)
MASTROFSKI: How has the field of policing changed in the last generation or so? There are two things to consider: how police organizations are structured and how the structures might have changed, and how the technologies police use have changed.
Over the last century or so, the dominant trend in the structure of police organization has been, at least internally, to bureaucratize. Go back to the turn of the century, and look where we are now. Internally, police are more bureaucratic and organized than they were at the turn of the century. Externally, the pressure has been to isolate the policeman from the popular political process. The community policing movement has sought to reverse these trends, and some observers have concluded, or at least hoped, that the community policing movement represents a paradigm shift, a sea change in the blue line, or even a quiet revolution. What do the data show about the status of that revolution? Until recently we really haven’t had a lot more than anecdotes and case studies. But recently Ed Maguire at the University of Nebraska-Omaha has done some research that I think is very valuable. Based on national surveys of departments of over 100 sworn, he’s found that between 1987 and 1993 there was very little change in the structure of police organizations, and really no change in the degree of centralization of decision-making. Police organizations looked about as formalized as they’d ever been, still very hierarchical and becoming even more specialized,. But between 1993 and the present he found decision-making becoming somewhat more decentralized, geographic command and authority becoming more popular, and hierarchies flattening in these organizations. But the most important thing to take from this research is that these changes are very, very small. The pace, at least right now, is glacial. It’s not fair to characterize what’s going on as a revolution...