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Democratic Control and Bureaucratic Responsiveness: The Police and Domestic Violence

Carole Kennedy Chaney and Grace Hall Saltzstein
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 42, No. 3 (Jul., 1998), pp. 745-768
DOI: 10.2307/2991728
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2991728
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Democratic Control and Bureaucratic Responsiveness: The Police and Domestic Violence
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Abstract

Theory: A principal-agent model is used to assess if police department practices regarding the handling of domestic violence calls are responsive to direct orders which mandate arrest of abusers. We also examine the competing and complementary effects of bureaucratic discretion on responsiveness to direct orders. Hypotheses: State and city laws mandating the arrest of perpetrators of domestic violence will positively influence municipal police departments' reported reliance on arrest as the usual disposition of domestic violence calls. It is expected, however, that city laws, with their more proximate locus of influence, will have a greater impact on police response than will state laws. Methods: Probit and ordered probit analysis of data collected from 1989 regarding the usual police response to domestic violence in three scenarios. Data were collected through mailed survey of a national sample of municipal police departments; national and state-level crime reports; directories of various service organizations; and census data. Results: Direct orders in the form of state and local laws requiring arrest of the perpetrators of domestic violence appear to be effective controls over police practice, but there is also evidence of bureaucratic discretion coexisting with political control. Further, both political control and bureaucratic discretion in this arena prove to be highly context-dependent.

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