Nov 28, 2020 in Coursework

Summary #1: Applying Social Learning Theory to Police Misconduct

This articles purpose is to establish if Akers social learning theory can be useful in explaining the instigating factors of police misconduct and corruption. The authors cite the dearth of investigative research on causes of police misconduct as the prime reason behind their research study. This study provides a unique theoretical lens through which to view police misconduct (Chappell & Piquero, 2004, p. 91).

While there are many ways to define police misconduct, for the purpose of this study the authors define it as taking presents and food from the public, opportunistic stealing, and using unnecessarily strong force (Chappell & Piquero, 2004, p. 90). It is important to study these behaviors because there is a lack of accurate reporting of misconduct incidents. This leads to using a proxy measure such as citizen complaints, which the authors find problematic.

The authors first argument is that using citizen complaints as a proxy measure for police misconduct is inappropriate. They cite three reasons for this assertion. Firstly, citizen complaints can be used to measure many things and, therefore, mean different things to different people. Secondly, the scope of citizen complaints varies greatly because officers define misconduct narrowly, whereas citizens define it more broadly. Thirdly, filing procedures can influence the willingness and ability of citizens to file legitimate complaints.

The authors second argument is that Akers social learning theory offers a good explanation for police deviant behavior. Newly hired officers join a peer group upon entry, where existing models of behavior influence the new officers behavior. This is supported by the authors literature review. Officers acquire corrupt behavior from encouraging cues they receive from their peer group. Hence, corruption arises through a process of interaction during which individual officers learn such behavior in accordance with responses of others.

The authors third argument is that officers who associate with deviant peers are likely to have more citizen complaints. They contend that officers who think that their peers view the use of excessive force as less serious are likely to have more citizen complaints. Thus, the perception of peer groups views about deviant behavior as serious or not has a significant impact on officers behavior.

The authors fourth argument is that officers who consider misconduct to be less serious will have a higher likelihood of citizen complaints, and vice versa. They contend that the study found officers to consider stealing and using excessive force to be serious violations. On the other hand, they consider accepting free gifts and meals from public as not so serious violations. They perceived theft to be most serious because they foresaw receiving the harshest punishment for it.

The authors use Akers social learning theory to underpin their arguments. According to this theory, individuals are influenced by the behavior of their peers, which they model. This influence of those with whom individuals associate frequently, determines whether the individuals will exhibit conforming or deviant behavior, based upon real or perceived rewards or punishments that follow such behavior (Chappell & Piquero, 2004, p. 93).

What I like about this article is that it makes an attempt to explain police deviant behavior and corruption using a scientific approach. It uses scientific research and hypothesis testing to arrive at its conclusions. The authors identify a specific gap in the literature. They then address it by providing a theoretical basis for explaining causes of police deviant behavior.

Summary #2: Hate crimes against the Amish: A qualitative analysis of bias motivation using routine activities theory

This articles purpose is to investigate hate crime offenders through their narratives of hate crime participation against the Amish in the context of routine activity theory. The authors highlight the importance of conducting this study by stating that hitherto research has focused solely on statistics. What is lacking is a qualitative focus on the issue that makes use of thick description of hate crimes.

The study focuses on claping as the deviant behavior. According to the authors, claping may involve any type of crime or deviance with the intent of instilling fear, though most claping does not involve violent crime (Byers & Crider, 2002, p. 116). The authors go on to say that claping may be considered a hate crime because it is often bias motivated.

The authors main argument is that routine activity theory explains hate crimes against the Amish by non-Amish people adequately. They contend that this theory is used for explaining crime in situations where three elements are present: motivated offenders, suitable targets, and the absence of capable guardians (Byers & Crider, 2002, p. 117). All three elements are significant in clapping incidents against the Amish.

The authors then argue that offenders interviewed for this study were motivated by several factors. The offenders viewed the Amish as different, the act of claping excited them when they were bored, they thought the Amish deserved to be treated this way, and that the Amish somehow provoked such acts. The authors cite excerpts from the interviews they conducted to support these broad analytical themes.

The authors further argue that offenders interviewed for this study viewed the Amish as suitable targets because of the very day-to-day activities that they perform in their daily lives. They contend that the distinctively plain dress worn by the Amish, their horse-drawn buggies and their general distaste for modern technology made them stand out as easy targets for direct contact with predatory crime (Byers and Crider, 2002, p. 130). Absence of consequences for the perpetrators, the perceived inferiority of the Amish people, and the ease with which they could be targeted are cited as factors that contribute to the Amish being considered suitable targets for hate crime.

Finally, the authors argue that lack of capable guardians facilitates hate crimes such as claping against the Amish. They contend that if people believe claping to be harmless, then it is unlikely that anyone will intervene on behalf of the victims. Without any worries of being caught or consequences, there is nothing to discourage offenders from indulging in acts that are considered hate crimes. Social acceptance, on the other hand, adds to the perpetrators bravado.

The authors use Cohen and Felsons routine activity theory as their theoretical foundation for explaining hate crimes against the Amish. This theory posits that everyday routines make victims more visible and accessible to crime. It identifies three elements necessary for hate crimes to occur. However, the absence of any one element can and may stop or prevent such crime from occurring.

What I like about this article is the use of qualitative data to explain a phenomenon that has been predominantly explained using statistics and numbers. The use of excerpts from participant interviews to highlight emerging themes from the interview data is particularly interesting. As the authors point out, it is an important study because it is one of only two published studies on claping. I also like the fact that the authors admit that the study only provides the perspective of the non-Amish offenders on why they did what they did. It misses out on the Amish perspective and the experience of law enforcement agencies.

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