Monday, February 15, 2016

New Study Explores How Texas Police Chief Assess Disasters

Local police chiefs in Texas are more likely to view disasters in their community as more serious if they also view various external organizations as potentially important for their police agencies. The study, recently completed by researchers at Sam Houston State University, in conjunction with the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT), found evidence for a new perspective of police agencies called “organizational permeability.”

“In our everyday lives,” explained Dr. William King, “we are aware of the possibility that a car accident or cancer could alter our lives. The events are unlikely, but life altering. For a police agency, analogous events are disasters, such as a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or an industrial accident. Some people are more aware or concerned about their cancer risk or how they drive. Likewise, police agencies in Texas are differentially concerned about possible accidents and disasters. Our study explores the elements that make some agencies more or less open, or permeable, to the seriousness of these disasters.” Dr. King is the Associate Dean for Research and Program Development at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice.

The study, “Organizational Permeability to Environmental Conditions: Local Police Agency Assessments of Threats Posed by Disasters, Accidents, and Terrorism,” by Graduate Student Kadee L. Brinser and Dr. King, was published in the journal, Police Quarterly. The study is part of the Texas Chiefs of Police Panel Project (TCPPP), an ongoing survey of Texas’ top law enforcement leaders, which helps provide a better understanding of key issues police executives face.

The latest study was based on responses from 350 police chiefs in Texas. Chiefs were asked to rank 30 disasters, attacks, and accidents, based upon how serious they viewed each to be. Chiefs also rated the importance of 31 external entities, such as media outlets, community groups, and elected representatives. The analysis used local community factors, such as population change, and the ethnic makeup of each agencies’ locale, and measures of each police agencies’ structure, to explore for possible relationships which might influence how chiefs perceived the 30 disasters. The final analysis revealed that chiefs who viewed national media outlets, and other local law enforcement agencies (and EMS providers), as most influential also rated the various disasters as more serious. The findings suggest that chiefs who are permeable to the influence of key external entities (such as national media and local EMS and LE agencies) view disasters more seriously.

The TCPPP is a unique data collection project that takes place during regular professional development programs for Texas police chiefs. Started in 2011, it explores pressing issues facing police and solutions that have been employed. It provide a deeper understanding of changes in policing over time on a wide variety of topics and is used to develop future training opportunities as well as research opportunities for faculty and graduate students at Sam Houston State University.

To view the study, visit Police Quarterly. For more information about the program, visit the Texas Chiefs of Police Panel Project.