2015 Undergraduate Awards

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This paper explores the critical societal issue of police misconduct. Though a vast amount of literature surrounds the issue of police misconduct, conclusions regarding the correlates of police misconduct remain inconclusive. Previous research that attempts to explain police misconduct has consistently shown to be divided based on either individual or organizational correlates. Thus, the crux of the debate has become whether police misconduct is the product of a "bad apple" (individual or micro-level correlates), or a "bad barrel" (organizational or macro-level correlates). The aim of this paper is to explore existing empirical evidence, and discover which factors most strongly correlate to police misconduct. Specifically, the author aims to determine which side of the theoretical debate is most supported by empirical evidence. Though empirical evidence abounds for both sides of the debate, the author concludes that the macro-level evidence is much stronger. In contrast to the inconsistencies and contradictions of the micro-level evidence, the macrolevel evidence is consistent and builds upon itself. Though the study is not an exhaustive review of the empirical evidence, the analysis demonstrates that organizational, structural, and social forces are powerful predictors of police misconduct. The findings of this study offers important insight as to where future research is warranted, as well as policies and strategies that could potentially be implemented.


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