Inequalities Regimes in Policing: Examining the Connection between Social Exclusion and Order Maintenance Strategies

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Acker, aggressive policing, broken widows theory, class, community policing, gender, inequality regimes, law enforcement, race, racialized policing


The purpose of this article is to evaluate how the intersection of race, class, and gender within law enforcement influences the utilization of public safety strategies grounded in the broken windows policing philosophy. Drawing from Acker’s inequality regime framework, we hypothesize that greater workplace inequalities produce institutionalized systems of social processes that increase the likelihood that organizations will implement aggressive enforcement of order maintenance offenses as a strategy for sustaining public safety. Using data collected from 1,218 U.S. police departments, the results suggest that stronger inequality regimes are associated with higher arrest rates for disorder offenses, marijuana possession, and liquor law violations. Further, the results suggest that stronger inequality regimes are related to higher arrest rates for Black community members. As many law enforcement agencies across the nation face a legitimacy crisis, prompted by concerns about how police interact with people of color, the results from this study suggest that increasing representation and reducing inequality in law enforcement should result in agencies becoming less reliant on large-scale arrest-driven order maintenance strategies by including more diverse perspectives in the decision-making process and developing alternative models for maintaining public safety.


This article was originally published in Journal of Race and Justice, https://doi.org/10.1177/2153368716689491.