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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Center on Police Practices and Community (COPPAC), of the Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research (ISBER), at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations amongst academics from UCSB and other institutions worldwide, law enforcement, and the community to enhance knowledge and theory on Police -- Community issues. Through this work, COPPAC empowers the community, policy makers and law enforcement to develop laws, policies and practices based solidly in research.

  • COPPAC brings members of law enforcement and the community to scholars so that academic research can be more relevant to the needs of law enforcement and the communities it serves.
  • COPPAC shares its expertise and research findings with law enforcement and the community to empower each to develop research based improvements in addressing issues of concern.
  • COPPAC joins together a multidisciplinary group of academics from UCSB and around the globe who share a common interest in issues relating to law enforcement and community.
  • COPPAC introduces police and community representatives into the UCSB classroom to bring course concepts and theories to life and into police training classrooms to make research applicable to real life situations.
  • COPPAC develops courses for the local and campus communities and training for law enforcement on police – community issues.
  • COPPAC facilitates research by collaborating with law enforcement and the community, always maintaining its academic integrity through the independence of its work.
Cover page of Community Review of Police Conduct: An Intergroup Perspective

Community Review of Police Conduct: An Intergroup Perspective


Law enforcement continually walks a fine-line between the protection and the violation of individual rights. It derives its power from the community it serves, and it is accountable to that community. To ensure the latter, some cities have implemented community review systems that monitor police conduct. These systems are intended to be impartial evaluators of law enforcement, in particular, complaints against law enforcement. We analyze the various structures and characteristics of community review systems, as well as the empirical research attending them. In doing so, we situate the problems associated with community review systems from a social psychological perspective, arguing that their shortcomings may be remedied through a consideration of intergroup processes which focus on shared identity and the role of power differentiation between police and community. Finally, we suggest improvements and further research.

Cover page of Accommodation and Institutional Talk:  Communicative Dimensions of Police-Civilian Interactions

Accommodation and Institutional Talk: Communicative Dimensions of Police-Civilian Interactions


In this chapter, we focus on Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT)'s utility for analyzing one under-studied domain of intergroup communication, namely police-civilian encounters. By so doing, we focus on one aspect of institutional talk where a power imbalance is clearly evident. In addition to presenting recent self-report data relevant to this initiative, new intercultural data from China, Taiwan and the US, are also introduced. But first, we overview some important assumptions and concepts of the theory, interlaced with a selection of empirical research studies.

Cover page of Accommodating a New Frontier:  The Context of Law Enforcement

Accommodating a New Frontier: The Context of Law Enforcement


This chapter spotlights communication accommodation theory (CAT: see Giles, Coupland & Coupland, 1991) -- a longstanding framework (Gallois, Ogay & Giles, 2005: Giles, 1973) that has been heralded as one of the most prominent in the social psychology of language (Tracy & Haspel, 2004) and one that has captured cross-disciplinary imaginations (Coupland & Jaworski, 1997). The theory has had a hsitory of application to an array of organizational contexts (e.g. Bourhis, 1991) and, herein, we add another exciting possibility, namely its relevance for a more incisive appreciation of understanding police-civilian relations. After a brief discussion about what images people hold of police officers, we introduce CAT with particular attention to its face and identity concerns, whilst we distil the theoretical essence of CAT down to four key principles, underscoring its potential for developing not only an innovative reserach agenda for the future, but also for suggesting new theoretical propositions to test in this applied domain.

Cover page of Communicative Dynamics of Police-Civilian Encounters: American and African Interethnic Data

Communicative Dynamics of Police-Civilian Encounters: American and African Interethnic Data


Research in the American West, China, and Taiwan has shown that officers’ communication accommodative practices (and attributed trust in them) can be more potent predictors of satisfaction with the police than are the socio-demographic characteristics of those judging. With Black and White respondents, this study continues this line of work in Louisiana and South Africa and tests a new model about the relationships among perceived officer accommodation, trust in the police, and reported voluntary compliance from civilians. In addition to an array of differences that emerged between nations and ethnicities, officer accommodativeness indirectly predicted civilian compliance through trust. The hypothesized model was partially supported and culturally-sensitive.

Cover page of Communication Accommodation:  Law Enforcement and the Public

Communication Accommodation: Law Enforcement and the Public


While there is a burgeoning literature on diverse aspects of intergroup communication and some attention to media depictions of police officers and policing, very little research addresses communicative dimensions of police-civilian encounters. This is important to the extent that while it has been estimated that the vast amount of police training is devoted to physical compliance issues, 98% of actual law enforcement practice revolves around communicating with the public and its safety needs. Thus, the communication between police officers and civilians warrants examination. In this chapter, we overview the separate literatures on attitudes toward the police and communication accommodation theory. The findings of three studies are presented exploring the role of accommodation, alongside socio-demographic and other variables, in predicting attitudes toward police. The three studies encompass three different populations: English-speaking adults, Spanish-speaking adults, and university students. Analyses reveal similar results across the samples. In general, accommodation by officers predicts civilians’ rating of officer performance as well as satisfaction when interacting with the police. These findings suggest that more attention should be directed at developing communication skills in general and accommodative ones in particular.

Cover page of Patronizing and Policing Elderly People

Patronizing and Policing Elderly People


426 students rated a vignette wherein an older person was patronized (more or less) or not by a police officer. Trait attributions were linearly related to extent of patronization: predictably negative for the patronizers, yet positive for the recipients. Visual appearances of patronizers and patronizees did not influence these patterns.