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Policing Police Misconduct in a Democratic Society: The Judgments of Police Officers and White, Black, and Hispanic Citizens

49 Pages Posted: 18 May 2011 Last revised: 4 Jun 2012

Carroll Seron

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Department of Criminology, Law & Society

Joseph Pereira

The Graduate Center, CUNY - Data Service

Date Written: January 3, 2011

Abstract

Almost since their inception, there have been calls for the reform of civilian review boards. Many of these reforms call for greater independence of review boards, including the authority to carry out discipline of police officers for corroborated cases of police misconduct. To date, however, there has been little empirical research on what constitutes reasonable discipline for an alleged case of police misconduct. We seek to fill in this gap in our understanding by comparing citizens’ and officers’ judgments of appropriate discipline for alleged misconduct. Using a factorial design, our findings show that there is a surprisingly strong level of consensus between citizens and officers about which evidence is most significant to weigh in reaching a judgment but that there is a lack of consensus between citizens and officers about the appropriate level of discipline. Not surprisingly, police officers’ judgments of fair punishment are significantly lower than their citizen counterparts. That said, citizens’ judgments are, these findings show, reasonable and fair in light of the alleged infraction. As steps are taken to reform civilian review procedures, the findings reported here provide an empirical foundation for developing disciplinary guidelines that takes account of a community’s understanding of what constitutes fair and reasoned discipline.

Suggested Citation

Seron, Carroll and Pereira, Joseph, Policing Police Misconduct in a Democratic Society: The Judgments of Police Officers and White, Black, and Hispanic Citizens (January 3, 2011). UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1845813 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1845813

Carroll Seron (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law; Department of Criminology, Law & Society ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Joseph Pereira

The Graduate Center, CUNY - Data Service ( email )

New York, NY 10011
United States

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