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Doing What We've Always Done: A Case Study of Rural Policing

NCJ Number
Date Published
52 pages
Because policing in rural communities provides a useful example of how social forces shape rural law enforcement and about 50 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies are in rural areas or small towns, this baseline study was conducted to evaluate policing in a rural Kansas community.
The study had four objectives: (1) describe the existing policing model from the perspectives of citizens, community leaders, and law enforcement; (2) identify indicators of success or the effectiveness of law enforcement; (3) identify law enforcement priorities and preferred policing models; and (4) make recommendations for rural law enforcement policy and training. Data were obtained from official crime data, a random telephone and mailed survey of community citizens, and a hands-on survey of local law enforcement. Data were also collected from participatory meetings with key community organizations and interviews with community gatekeepers. Citizen response to most indicators of law enforcement effectiveness was positive and supportive of the existing policing model. The response to law enforcement, in contrast, was mixed. When asked how law enforcement should be done, citizen responses indicated a conflict between their beliefs about how policing should be carried out and their evaluations of success in the delivery of local law enforcement services. The author believes that the theory of cognitive dissonance represents a useful theoretical framework for understanding the conflict between citizen perceptions of the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies and the "Wild West" image of fighting crime. 21 references, 12 endnotes, 3 tables, and 1 figure

Date Published: January 1, 1999