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Compromised Police Legitimacy as a Predictor of Violent Crime in Structurally Disadvantaged Communities

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2005 Pages: 469-498
Date Published
May 2005
30 pages

This study examined whether indicators of compromised police legitimacy (police misconduct and over-policing and under-protection) explained variations in violent crime in New York City police precincts between 1975 and 1996.


To be consistent with prior research, the study constructed a composite index of structural disadvantage that included indicators of both the social and economic structure as well as the presence or absence of conventional role models. The structural variables included percentages of Black residents, female-headed households with children, households that received public assistance, adult unemployment rates, and the percentage of persons with low educational attainment (no high school diploma or equivalent). This information was collected by precinct from the U.S. census for the years 1970, 1980, and 1990. In addition to structural disadvantage, the study also developed a measure of residential stability in order to estimate the relative presence of attenuated social ties. To identify police misconduct events in the precincts, a records analysis of personnel orders was conducted to identify the number of officers discharged from the department due to misconduct for the years 1975 to 1996. To estimate the potential conflict created by over-enforcement and under-protection, the study created an indicator of police responsiveness based on the mean number of violent crimes per precinct by the number of officers for each year studied. The study found that in communities with high disadvantage, incidents of police misconduct predicted variations in violent crime; when disadvantage was extreme, both indicators of compromised police legitimacy (misconduct and over-policing) predicted variation in violence. There were no significant links between police legitimacy and violent crime in communities with low disadvantage. 7 tables and 54 references

Date Published: May 1, 2005