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Research Briefs

Improving Case Clearance Rates in Criminal Investigations

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

While it is obviously best to prevent or deter crime before it occurs, this is not always possible. Despite the fact that modern policing tactics, such as problem-oriented policing and intelligence-led policing, have contributed to massive crime decreases since the 1990s, agencies still have to grapple with the challenge of solving crimes that cannot be prevented.

When criminal offenders avoid detection and punishment, it signals to the rest of society that the justice system is impotent and may encourage future offending. This applies not only to the most heinous crimes such as homicide and rape but also applies to violations of people’s fundamental sense of security in cases of burglary and robbery.

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Citizen Complaints and Misconduct—The 3 Career Paths

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Most research on citizen complaints and rule violations shows that allegations against police officers generally happen within the first five years of that officer’s career. If the officer is lucky enough to still have a job after these first five years, complaints and other career problems tend to subside for the rest of the officer’s career. Most officers who receive a complaint or two as they learn the craft of policing have learned how to deal with the public, and have learned to fit in within their organization, by year six. For the rest of an officer’s career, complaints and rule violations tend to be rare.

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Public Perceptions of Police Profanity

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

The use of profanity when dealing with members of the public has been debated in law enforcement circles for years. Most law enforcement leaders argue the use of profanity with members of the public is unprofessional and should be avoided whenever possible. Other leaders disagree with this. They instead argue that officers often need to use the “language of the street” in order to be understood and viewed as authoritative by some segments of the population.

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Not in Our House? Substance Abuse among Police and Firefighters

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

It is not something we like to think about, but the evidence reveals that many law enforcement officers and firefighters struggle with abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs. Public safety professionals experience unusually high levels of stress related to potential dangers to their physical safety and the effects of experiencing a multitude of gruesome events. Some, as a result, turn to alcohol and/or drugs as a coping mechanism. The prevalence of drug and alcohol use among police officers and firefighters may be higher than you think.

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How Dangerous Are Domestic Violence Calls to Officer Safety?

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Domestic violence (DV) calls carry a reputation for being extremely dangerous for officers. Some academics and DV victim advocates, however, have challenged this reputation and have suggested that DV calls are rarely dangerous for officers. This research brief will examine the research on assaults on officers at DV calls. Specifically, it will examine the prevalence of officer assaults, the trend of officer deaths at DV calls over time, what factors predict these officer assaults, the characteristics of lethal force assaults on officers at DV calls, and the factors that predict an officer surviving a lethal force assault at a DV call.

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Helping Domestic Violence Victims

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Domestic violence (DV) calls pose a number of physical safety and legal liability risks for law enforcement officers. These calls involve crimes between people with complex relationship issues that can make investigating these crimes very difficult for officers. In fact, one study that surveyed patrol officers from 13 different municipal police departments in the Chicago metro area revealed that, despite the physical dangers associated with DV calls, officers’ greatest
frustrations with handling these calls were associated with DV victims. Approximately 38% of surveyed officers indicated that dealing with victim behaviors was their greatest frustration about handling DV calls. Specifically, officers expressed frustration over victim behaviors such as refusing to cooperate with their investigation, recanting statements, refusing to testify, or refusing to end the relationship with the batterer. These are valid frustrations for officers, as DV victims are more likely to display these behaviors than are victims of other crimes.

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Developing Organizational Performance Leadership