September 19, 2021 23:10

Weekly academic research summary

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Academic Journals

Crime Science

A Machine Learning Analysis of Serious Misconduct Among Australian Police by Timothy I. C. Cubitt, Ken R. Wooden and Karl A. Roberts

Fairness in policing, driven by the effective and transparent investigation and remediation of police misconduct, is vital to maintaining the legitimacy of policing agencies, and the capacity for police to function within society. Research into police misconduct in Australia has traditionally been performed on an ad-hoc basis, with limited access to law enforcement data. This research seeks to identify the antecedents of serious police misconduct, resulting in the dismissal or criminal charge of officers, among a large police misconduct dataset. Demographic and misconduct data were sourced for a sample of 600 officers who have committed instances of serious misconduct, and a matched sample of 600 comparison officers across a 13-year period. A machine learning analysis, random forest, was utilised to produce a robust predictive model, with Partial Dependence Plots employed to demonstrate within variable interaction with serious misconduct. Prior instances of serious misconduct were particularly predictive of further serious misconduct, while misconduct was most prominent around mid-career. Secondary employment, and performance issues were important predictors, while demographic variables typically outperformed complaint variables. This research suggests that serious misconduct is similarly prevalent among experienced officers, as it is junior officers, while secondary employment is an important indicator of misconduct risk. Findings provide guidance for misconduct prevention policy among policing agencies.

Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

Using Theory and Data in Forensic Research and Practice by Kirk Heilbrun

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Mind the Gap! Decoupling Between Policy and Practice in the Policing of Illegal Wildlife Trade by Siv Rebekka Runhovde

Despite numerous promises and pledges at national and international levels to confront what many acknowledge as a crisis, illegal trade in wild plants and animals continues to grow and diversify. Empirical research conducted in Norway and Uganda from 2013 to 2015 indicates that despite the different circumstances in which law enforcement operates in the two countries, policing agents face a number of comparable challenges. Drawing on institutional theory the paper argues that decoupling, that is, gaps between official policies and daily work activities within the policing organizations, compromises enforcement in both countries. Challenges stem from conflicting demands, poor resources and want of guidelines that oblige officers to prioritize the control of illegal wildlife trade in practice.

Journal of Criminal Justice Education

The Open-Access Availability of Criminological Research to Practitioners and Policy Makers by Matthew P J Ashby

Criminology produces policy-relevant research and criminologists often seek to influence practice, but most criminological research is confined to expensive subscription journals. This disadvantages researchers in the global south, policy makers and practitioners who have the skills to use research findings but do not have journal subscriptions. Open access seeks to increase availability of research, but take-up among criminologists has been low. This study used a sample of 12,541 articles published in criminology journals between 2017 and 2019 to estimate the proportion of articles available via different types of open access. Overall 22% of research was available to non-subscribers, about half that found in other disciplines, even though authors had the right to make articles open without payment in at least 95% of cases. Open access was even less common in many leading journals and among researchers in the United States. Open access has the potential to increase access to research for those outside academia, but few scholars exercise their existing rights to distribute freely the submitted or accepted versions of their articles online. Policies to incentivise authors to make research open access where possible are needed unlock the benefits of greater access to criminological research.

Journal of Crime and Justice

Drivers of Perceived Safety: Do They Differ in Contexts Where Violence and Police Saturation Feel ‘normal’? by Tammy R. Kochel, Seyvan Nouri

Feelings of safety vary by context, with disordered, high-crime areas typically generating more fear among residents. However, scholars have suggested that when violence permeates the daily routines in an area, it can begin to feel ‘normal.’ Residents may become desensitized to the risky conditions and grow accustomed to a high police presence, more aggressive tactics, and being stopped by police. Thus, lived differences with crime and police may alter the lens through which residents interpret environmental cues about their safety. The current study draws on 820 household surveys of residents from high-, moderate- and low-violence areas in an effort to inform police and communities about strategies that promote feelings of safety within different contexts. Our findings demonstrate that collective efficacy is consistently important to residents’ feelings of safety, across all contexts. Hearing gunfire reduces feelings of safety most in the area with moderate levels of gun violence. The results imply a need to tailor safety strategies to what makes people feel safer in areas with different levels of violence.

Journal of Experimental Criminology

A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Impact of Body-Worn Camera Activation on the Outcomes of Individual Incidents by Jessica Huff, Charles M. Katz and E. C. Hedberg

Evaluate the impact of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on officer-initiated activity, arrests, use of force, and complaints. We use instrumental variable analysis to examine the impact of BWC assignment and BWC activation on the outcomes of individual incidents through a randomized controlled trial of 436 officers in the Phoenix Police Department. Incidents involving BWC activations were associated with a lower likelihood of officer-initiated contacts and complaints, but a greater likelihood of arrests and use of force. BWC assignment alone was unrelated to arrests or complaints; however, incidents involving officers who were assigned and activated their BWC were significantly more likely to result in an arrest and less likely to result in a complaint. Future researchers should account for BWC activation to better estimate the effects of BWCs on officer behavior. To maximize the effects of BWCs, police agencies should ensure that officers are complying with activation policies.

Journal of Interpersonal Violence

Thai Police Officers’ Attitudes Toward Intimate Partner Violence and Victim Blaming: the Influence of Sexism and Female Gender Roles by Piyakrita Kruahiran, Watcharaporn Boonyasiriwat, Kakanang Maneesri

Police officers are typically the first responders when victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) report abuse. Therefore, police officers’ attitudes toward IPV and victim blaming are crucial. This study aimed to observe how police officers’ sexist attitudes affect their perspectives on IPV and their victim-blaming attitudes, depending on the gender role exhibited by the victim. The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory was used to classify 139 Thai male police officers into four groups of sexism: hostile sexist, benevolent sexist, ambivalent sexist, and nonsexist. Then, the participants were randomly assigned to watch a simulation video, in which a victim of IPV filed a report after being abused by her husband. There were two versions of the video, one in which the victim played a traditional gender role and the other a nontraditional role. Multivariate analysis of variance was employed for data analysis. The results demonstrated statistically significant effects of ambivalent sexism and victim’s gender role on attitudes toward IPV and victim blaming. This study contributes to the growing body of research on police officers’ performances in the context of IPV in Thailand and contributes to existing scholarship. It provides Thai police precincts with information that can equip them to develop new sensitivity training programs and can help legislators improve the effectiveness of victim protection acts.

Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

The Effects of Intelligence and Personality on Performance in Simulated Interrogation Scenarios by Robert Morgan, Laurence Alison, Marek Palace, Neil Shortland & Michael Humann 

The paper explores the relationships between individual differences in intelligence and personality and the ability to extract critical information (and identify missing but required information) from a suspect’s brief sheet (i.e. model formulation) and develop a suitable line of questioning (i.e. approach strategizing) in interrogation scenarios. We hypothesised that cognitive flexibility, emotion management, low need for closure and rapport would all be predictors of these abilities. Two hundred and seventy-four participants of different backgrounds were exposed to two interrogation scenarios to assess model formation and approach strategizing abilities, as well as intelligence and personality tests. Benchmarks for performance were measured against two experienced interrogators and two psychologists’ calibrated performance. In terms of overall performance, only rapport and cognitive flexibility were significant positive predictors. Whereas only rapport was a positive predictor of approach strategizing, both rapport and cognitive flexibility were positive predictors of model formation. In conclusion, the data from the early stage of our project suggests that the examined factors should be carefully considered when training and selecting optimal interrogators. Though previous research has identified a number of individual differences in intelligence and personality that are important in demanding law-enforcement contexts, ours is the first to explore them with respect to effective interrogator performance.

Policing and Society

The Relationship Between Organisational Justice and Police Officer Attitudes Toward Misconduct by Lorie A. Fridell, Jon Maskaly, Christopher M. Donner

To address police misconduct, law enforcement agencies traditionally have used deterrence-based methods–in the form of ‘external controls’, which monitor and punish unacceptable behaviour. Some scholars, however, claim that ‘internal controls’ are more effective for addressing workplace misconduct and these controls are produced when employees perceive a greater degree of organisational justice within their agencies. Using survey data from 15,807 police officers from 101 agencies, this study tests whether (a) organisational justice impacts officers’ attitudinal support for misconduct, (b) organisational commitment is the mechanism that mediates the relationship, and (c) elements of command-and-control enhance or detract from the power of organisational justice to reduce attitudinal support for misconduct. Results suggest that organisational justice has both a direct and indirect (through organisational commitment) effect on officers’ assessments of misconduct and that elements of command-and-control can enhance the power of organisational justice to reduce attitudinal support for misconduct among police officers.

Police Complaints and Discipline: Integrity, Lesson Learning, Independence and Accountability: Some Implications of the Reforms Under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 by Clare Torrible

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 (PACA) aims to promote integrity within policing via a reformed police complaints and discipline process that focuses on lesson learning. Integrity and lesson learning are virtuous aspirations, but this paper queries the degree to which the reforms deliver them. Importantly, the analysis here provides a novel contribution to debates about lesson learning within the police by distinguishing lesson learning directed towards street-level officers from the accountability of police professional standards departments (PSDs) for how that is delivered. Focusing on the latter and drawing on the findings of the Chapman Review and a detailed analysis of police complaints statistics, it concludes that true lesson learning (from which increased integrity within forces can develop) requires increased external scrutiny of PSDs. In contrast, the analysis demonstrates that the PACA significantly increases PSDs’ de facto autonomy over the police complaints and discipline process and incorporates a shift in how independent oversight of police complaints is conceived. The paper borrows from Valverde’s suggested analytical framework to probe the underlying logic of the reforms, considering also the techniques they employ and the scale at which they operate. This reveals that the lesson learning agenda reframes expressions by citizens of mistreatment at the hands of the police as data upon which future policy might be based. In doing so, far from working to improve integrity, it may instead be ushering in a concerning biopolitical conception of policing which has the potential to exacerbate the worst features of police operational culture.

Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

The Barcelona and Cambrils Attacks: A Case Study of the Impact of Political Decentralization and Separatism on Counter Terrorism Policing by Rogelio Alonso, Jesús Castán

This article analyses how counter terrorism policing before and after the August 2017 jihadi attacks in Catalonia was negatively affected by two factors: the Spanish policing model based on a decentralized security system and the independentist challenge posed by the Catalan Government. Firstly, the article assesses the political and legal framework vis-à-vis security in a quasi-federal democracy like Spain. Secondly, it analyzes how the police response to the jihadist threat was impacted by this multilayer system structured around a central government, seventeen autonomous regions, two autonomous cities, and over eight thousand local councils. Thirdly, the article examines how the challenge posed by independentists in the Autonomous region of Catalonia, who in 2017 attempted to break away from Spain in defiance of the Spanish Constitution, exacerbated the structural problems of the security system. It concludes that the combination of several factors in a particularly conflictive political environment led to the failure of counter terrorism policing on three levels: proactive, preventive, and reactive.

Theoretical Criminology

Surveillance Arbitration in the Era of Digital Policing by Peter Fussey, Ajay Sandhu

This article analyses adoptions of innovative technology into police surveillance activities. Extending the nascent body of empirical research on digital policing, the article draws on qualitative interview data of operational police uses of advanced surveillance technologies. Separate illustrative examples are drawn from social media intelligence gathering, digital forensics and covert online child sexual exploitation investigations. Here, surveillance governance mechanisms, often authored in the ‘pre-digital’ era, are deemed ill-fitting to the possibilities brought by new technologies. This generates new spaces of interpretation, where regulatory frameworks become renegotiated and reinterpreted, a process defined here as ‘surveillance arbitration’. These deliberations are resolved in myriad ways, including perceived licence for extended surveillance and, conversely, more cautious approaches motivated by perceived exposure to regulatory sanction.


With grateful (and heartfelt) thanks to Matt Ashby and

Official Sources

Home Office

Policy paper: Response to the Operation of the Terrorism Acts in 2018 Report

Research and analysis: Evaluation of the Child Trafficking Protection Fund

Policy paper: Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: overarching documents


IOCTA 2020

Other Sources


Policing new boundaries: Public perceptions on policing the modern world


Modern Slavery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Crest Advisory

Vulnerable children in county lines drugs networks: are we any closer to ‘borderless safeguarding’?


A force for change: Policing after the pandemic


The post Weekly academic research summary appeared first on Policing Insight.

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