Rage within the Machine: Political Organization of Policing and Police Agent Deference

Watson, Zachary, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Meng, Anne, Politics, University of Virginia

This thesis investigates how variation in the political organization of policing impacts police agents’ deference to their policing regimes in democratic contexts. After a review of past comparative politics scholarship on police behavior and attitudes, I propose three new measurements to capture variation in the degree of political centralization of policing systems: financial relationships, multi-level coordination, and overlapping jurisdictions. I then propose a cross-national regression design using my measures and a common act of police misconduct: bribery. Using an existing measure of police (de)centralization and civilian-reported police bribery data, I find no significant relationship between incidence of police bribery and variation in the political centralization of policing. Finally, I propose a second research design exploiting subnational variation in police system organization in the United States and direct surveying of police agents to understand how police perceive of who and what they “protect and serve.”

MA (Master of Arts)
police, centralization, bribery
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