Active representation and police response to sexual assault complaints

Year Published: 2016

Author: Melissa Morabito, Ph.D., April Pattavina, Ph.D., and Linda M. Williams, Ph.D.

Source: Journal of Crime and Justice

Policing has long been a profession dominated by white males. Yet, the organizational literature suggests that diverse public sector organizations are essential to a well-functioning democracy. Representative bureaucracy theory is the idea that public agencies should mirror the society in which it functions in order to best meet the needs of its citizens. There are three necessary conditions in order for representative bureaucracy theory to be applicable to a problem. First, bureaucrats must have discretion in decision-making. Next, bureaucrats must exercise discretion in a policy area that has important implications for the group they represent. Finally, bureaucrats must be directly associated with the decisions they make. Given that police work requires extraordinary discretion, representation holds great importance for police organizations. There has, however, been scant literature examining the interaction between representation, organizational characteristics of police agencies, and situational characteristics of sexual assault incidents. This paper builds upon previous research regarding the effect of diversity on public safety outcomes. A national sample of police organizations reporting to both Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics and National Incident-Based Reporting System are used with specific attention paid to interaction between organizational characteristics, agency innovativeness, and representation.