Abstract

Scholars and practitioners in criminal justice and public administration have long debated the proper terminology that should be used in describing the residents in a jurisdiction who fund and receive services from local law enforcement agents. This debate is not simply one about semantics. Nor, at its heart, is it about street-level outputs. Instead, this debate encapsulates core normative questions about the relationship law enforcement agencies ought to develop with those they serve and protect. In this article, we will first examine findings from previous research which seem to indicate a fundamental difference in perception of service recipients between two distinct law enforcement managers: the elected county sheriff and the merit-appointed municipal police chief. After, we will consider whether these schema should be expected to manifest themselves in the values of first-line supervisors as measured by the views of street-level officers in each type of agency. We will argue that these differences should appear in the responses of street-level deputy sheriffs and police officers, leveraging evidence from a large N survey of thousands of deputies and officers. Our findings do not fall in line with theoretical expectations, reaching statistical significance and, given the sample size, substantive meaningfulness, but in the opposite direction than we expected. A discussion of these results will follow. Finally, we will conclude by recommending subsequent avenues for future research on this timely and important topic.

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