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A Typological Approach to Studying Policing

NCJ Number
This study explored patterns in policing via a novel, typological approach, using six waves of data (1993, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2013) from the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) data series.
Policing in the United States has experienced immense change throughout the past quarter-century. Although police agencies have shared their goals of preserving life and protecting property, their philosophies and practices for achieving these goals have differed. In an effort to examine changes in policing over time, the current study first used factor analyses to generate indices for six important policing dimensions: (1) officer diversity, (2) community policing, (3) patrol strategy diversity, (4) militancy, (5) technology, and (6) staffing rigor. Using these indices, the study then used latent class analyses to construct typologies of police agencies and to examine the distribution of such typologies across space at various points in time. These analyses produced several key findings. It identified consistent patterns in typologies across time, including classes with high militancy, high diversity, or low staffing rigor (among others). Within these sets of classes, the analysis also detected micro-heterogeneity among patterns of index values: for example, subsets of classes which all scored high on one dimension but scored high versus low on other dimensions. Finally, the study found evidence to suggest spatial convergence of typologies in one large geographic region, i.e., Southern California. By offering a multidimensional classification scheme over a 20-year period, this study contributes to the policing literature by highlighting the importance and implications of studying multiple policing dimensions simultaneously. (publisher abstract modified)
Date Created: January 28, 2021