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  • Police Departments as Institutionalized Organizations

    Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean

    Chapter from the book: Worden R. & McLean S. 2017. Mirage of Police Reform: Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy.


    This chapter sketches a view of police departments from the perspective of institutional theory, explaining what it means for an organization to be institutionalized and the implications of institutionalization for the “decoupling” or “loose coupling” of organizational structures and day-to-day work practices. The chapter also describes the contemporary institutional environment of policing in the United States, including a set of reforms—community policing, public accountability mechanisms, and Compstat—that in many agencies has been superimposed on existing structures, in spite of their incompatibilities with the technical core of policing, with the existing bureaucratic organization, and/or with one another. The institutional environments of the two study departments, which included all of these features, are also described. The recent histories of the departments stand in contrast, in that the Syracuse Police Department suffered no extraordinary challenges, while the Schenectady Police Department suffered a crisis of legitimacy following a string of scandals and a Department of Justice investigation into a “pattern or practice” of civil rights violations.

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    Worden R. & McLean S. 2017. Police Departments as Institutionalized Organizations. In: Worden R. & McLean S, Mirage of Police Reform. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.30.b

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    Published on May 12, 2017