The effect of micro-level disorder incidents on public attitudes toward the police

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Purpose: Drawing upon the police accountability model, the purpose of this paper is to advance the research on public attitudes toward the police (PATP) by examining the effects of reported disorder incidents at the micro level on the two dimensions of PATP. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses two waves of random sample telephone survey of 2,393 residents in Houston, Texas. The disorder data were provided by the Houston Police Department. Disorder incidents surrounding each respondent’s residence were extracted by using geographic information systems technology. Structural equation modeling was used for the analysis. Findings: The main findings suggest that while the observational measure of disorder exerts no direct impact on residents’ general attitudes toward the police; it has a significant impact on specific attitudes toward the police measured by using the neighborhoods as the principle geographical context. In addition, documented disorder incidents are found to be a robust predictor of perceptions of disorder in both models. Originality/value: The measurement of PATP was ambiguous in the research literature and scholarly attention to the observational factors such as reported disorder incidents has been lacking. This study fills the gap of the relevant literature by measuring PATP as a two-dimensional concept and incorporating reported disorder incidents into the analysis.

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