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The Promise of a Network Approach for Policing Research
Justice Quarterly  (IF4.717),  Pub Date : 2020-12-21, DOI:
Marie Ouellet, Sadaf Hashimi, Jason Gravel, Dean Dabney

Abstract

Considerable attention has been devoted to understanding police socialization and the resulting culture, yet only recently have scholars turned to a network approach to understand the social relationships between officers. We extend these efforts with results from a pilot study of officer networks in a large US police department. Network data are collected from 88 front-line officers to examine officers’ informal working relationships. Our findings shed light on the connected nature of officer relationships, showing how personal support networks intersect and diverge from more formal advice and mentorship networks. The study provides an alternative starting point for understanding socialization as a vehicle of officer attitudes, values, and behaviors. Likewise, it demonstrates the applicability of a network approach for understanding departments’ social and structural organization. We conclude with a discussion on how officer networks can inform meaningful policy initiatives, including shifting organizational climate, enhancing retention, and curbing abuses.