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The effect of community-oriented policing on police use of force: does community matter?

Molly Miranda McCarthy (Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Louise E. Porter (Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Michael Townsley (Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Geoffrey P. Alpert (University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 9 January 2019

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether community-oriented policing (COP) influences rates of police use of force across communities, and whether the impact of COP varies according to the level of violent crime in communities.

Design/methodology/approach

A range of data sources including police use of force reports, online surveys of Officers-in-Charge and recorded crime data was used to examine the association between formal and informal community consultation and the frequency of police use of force, across 64 socially challenged communities in Australia.

Findings

Poisson multilevel modelling indicated no overall association between informal or formal community engagement and rates of police use of force. However, significant interaction terms for both informal and formal community consultation with violent crime rates indicated that higher levels of informal and formal community consultation were associated with lower rates of police use of force in communities with higher levels of violent crime. This relationship was not evident in low violent crime areas.

Research limitations/implications

Communities were purposively sampled to have a high propensity for police use of force, on the basis that they had high rates of violent crime, or high levels of socio-economic disadvantage, or both. This research should be replicated with a representative sample of communities.

Practical implications

The findings extend the potential benefits of COP to reducing the use of coercive policing tactics in high violent crime communities.

Originality/value

This study finds that COP can reduce the frequency of violent encounters between police and community members in high violent crime communities.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Queensland Police Service (QPS) for their assistance with this research. The views expressed in this material are those of the authors and are not those of the QPS. Responsibility for any errors of omission or commission remains with the authors. The QPS expressly disclaims any liability for any damage resulting from the use of the material contained in this publication and will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising, from the use of or reliance on this material. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the use of the services and facilities of the Griffith Criminology Institute’s Social Analytics Lab at Griffith University.

Citation

McCarthy, M.M., Porter, L.E., Townsley, M. and Alpert, G.P. (2019), "The effect of community-oriented policing on police use of force: does community matter?", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 556-570. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-10-2018-0148

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited