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Police Integrity and Accountability in Philadelphia: Predicting and Assessing Police Misconduct

NCJ Number
Date Published
123 pages
This study explored indicators of potential problem behavior in police officers, as well as officer attitudes and beliefs concerning police work.
Police integrity and accountability have come into the public’s focus in recent years. There is a growing trend in the policing industry to develop and implement Early Warning Systems (EWS) to identify negative behavior patterns in officers before they become problematic. It is widely believed that a small proportion of officers in any agency are responsible for a large proportion of the problems, leading to the call to identify characteristics likely to indicate a potential problem officer. The current study drew on police officer background files and academy records of nearly 2,000 officers within the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) in order to identify differences in characteristics associated with future disciplinary problems as an officer. Dependent variables under exploration included various indicators of problematic behavior in officers, such as citizen complaints, internal investigations, and departmental discipline. The attitudes of officers regarding police work, their department, and toward inappropriate police conduct were explored through the use of a survey administered to almost 4,000 patrol officers within the PPD. Results of quantitative and qualitative analyses indicate that several background, academy performance, contextual, and attitudinal variables are useful in predicting future problematic behavior in police officers. The strongest indicator of problematic officer behavior was departmental discipline, followed by physical abuse complaints, internal investigations, and off-duty incidents. Contextual variables impacting problem behavior include working in a district characterized by low education and high arrest rates. Other indicators of future problematic behavior include youthful age, having traffic offenses, and having prior contact with the criminal justice system. The survey data on police attitudes produced mixed results and suggested that in the aggregate, police officers held unfavorable opinions of the public and press. The consistent finding of this research and previous studies is that past indicators of behavior are effective predictors of future behavior. Figures, references, appendixes

Date Published: January 1, 2004