what, exactly, are the police maximizing?

Last week, discussed how police interact with urban communities and the hypothesis that police are rewarded for focusing on the drug trade and they are less rewarded for just keeping the peace. Once commenter asked: what are the goals of the police? What are they trying to maximize?

Upon reflection, I realize that I had no idea, but I could generate some hypotheses:

  • Income/salaries
  • Department budgets
  • Violent crime
  • Non-violent crime
  • Property crime
  • Victimless crime
  • Social control (i.e., controlling specific populations)
  • “Broken windows” – making certain locations look desirable
  • Self-image
  • Votes (for D.A.’s especially)

I’d be interested in any data show the relative importance of these goals, say, in police budgets, arrests, prosecutions, police hours, etc. Criminology readers – how would you rank these goals given your knowledge of the field?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power  


Written by fabiorojas

September 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I would add to your list “their own safety”. I don’t know the policing literature enough, but you should have a look at Peter Moskos’ book “Cop in the Hood”. My hunch is that there’s tremendous variation in the rank order of these factors by city. In Chicago, I’d say it depends on the local political climate. Right now, efforts are being made to reduce the number of homicides (even though homicides have been declining for years).



    September 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm

  2. @rob: Thanks for the note. In the aftermath of Ferguson, there was a lot of discussion of how police work has become safer over time. So your hypothesis is certainly supported.



    September 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm

  3. re safety of police work: I should track it down, but I think the data show the opposite, or at least somebody linked to something that showed that. Killings of police trended down while killings by police trended up.



    September 10, 2014 at 12:31 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: