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Understanding the Organizational Factors that Impact Police-Community Relations

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $149,793)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Graduate Research Fellowship Program
provides awards to accredited universities for doctoral student research that uses criminal justice data or statistical series and focuses on crime, violence, and other criminal justice-related topics.

BJS invests in doctoral education by supporting universities that sponsor students who demonstrate the potential to complete doctoral degree programs successfully in disciplines relevant to the mission of BJS, and who are in the final stages of graduate study.

The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the pool of researchers using criminal justice statistical data generated by BJS, thereby contributing solutions that better prevent and control crime and help ensure the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice in the United States.

Under this award, BJS is funding the dissertation research proposed by Florida International University on behalf of Andrea Marie Headley entitled, "Understanding the Organizational Factors the Impact Police-Community Relations."

The research proposed will attempt to address a gap in police-community research by creating a police-citizen conflict index in order to identify the organizational characteristics that impact police-community relations. This measure will include data on citizen complaints, officers killed and assaulted by civilians, and civilians killed by officers. The study will address three research questions:

(1) Do organizational characteristics of police agencies influence police-citizen conflict?

(2) Which specific organizational characteristics influence police-citizen conflict and under what conditions?

(3) Why and how do organizational characteristics influence police-citizen conflict?

Answering these questions can provide useful information for police agencies and policy-makers alike to reduce police-citizen conflict and improve police-community relations. The unit of analysis for this study will be the city level, while the unit of observation includes police agency characteristics and community level characteristics. Moreover, a mixed-methods research design will be utilized in order to answer the three research questions posed. The quantitative component will include a cross-sectional regression analysis for count dependent variables and a pooled cross-sectional time-series analysis. These statistical analyses are primarily used to answer research questions one and two. While the research questions do not specify impact over time, by controlling for such variations this provides more conclusive findings, which can be suggestive of cause and effect relationships.

The qualitative component of this study seeks to answer the last research question. This component will include in-depth case studies to examine the relationships between two police agencies and the respective cities they serve. These agencies will be identified based upon their police-citizen conflict index ratings. Thus, one agency with a high index and another agency with a low index will be examined. The case studies will entail in-depth interviews, observational analyses, and a review of secondary sources for each of the agencies and their communities.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 30, 2015