Police Scholarship for the Future: Resisting the Pull of the Policy Audience

Law and Society, Vol. 30, 1996

15 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2008

See all articles by Richard A. Leo

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law


The essay argues that the police scholars in the 1980s and 1990s have not done as much theoretically-driven empirical research as previously because they have been primarily concerned with the needs of more specialized policy audiences. As police scholars internalize the interests and agendas of police leaders and policymakers, they become advocates of police reform agendas, and the quality of police scholarship becomes impoverished. The essay reviews David Bayley's Police for the Future (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), which is a good example of the pull of the policy audience in police scholarship. The goal of Police for the Future is to provide police leaders and policy makers with information that will assist them to restructure police organizations so as to more effectively and efficiently prevent and control crime. Because he is writing for police leaders, politicians, and executive policymakers, Bayley's academic agenda is atheoretical, and it does not seek to deepen or broaden our understanding of police institutions and behavior. This essay also reviews Paul Chevigny, Edge of the Knife: Police Violence in the Americas (New Press, 1995). Because Edge of the Knife was not written for police chiefs, executive funding agencies, police foundation, legislators, or other policymakers, it retains a critical distance from their interests, frames, and agendas. Unlike much police scholarship in the past two decades, Chevigny successfully resists the intellectually deadening pull of the policy audience. Edge of the Knife is a work whose theoretical, methodological, and critical aspirations other police scholars would do well to emulate in the future.

Keywords: Criminal justice, police scholarship, empirical research, David Bayley, Paul Chevigny

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A., Police Scholarship for the Future: Resisting the Pull of the Policy Audience. Law and Society, Vol. 30, 1996, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1144325

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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