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A typological approach to studying policing


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. The present research, therefore, explores 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, we first employ 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, we then employ latent class analyses to construct typologies of police agencies, and examine the distribution of such typologies across space at various points in time. Our results reveal several key findings. We detect consistent patterns in typologies across time, including classes with high militancy, high diversity, or low staffing rigor (among others). Within these sets of classes, we also detect micro-heterogeneity amongst patterns of index values: for example, subsets of classes which all score high on one dimension but score high versus low on other dimensions. Finally, we find evidence to suggest spatial convergence of typologies in one large geographic region: Southern California. By offering a multidimensional classification scheme over a 20-year period, we contribute to the policing literature by highlighting the importance and implications of studying multiple policing dimensions simultaneously.

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