First Advisor

Don C. Gibbons

Term of Graduation

Summer 1979

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Police -- Washington (State) -- Seattle, Police -- Oregon -- Portland, Working class -- Political activity -- Washington (State) -- Seattle, Working class -- Political activity -- Oregon -- Portland, Social conflict



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, v, 282 pages)


Social scientists examining the police role have typically assumed that the individual police officer or department is relatively free to implement social policy as he/she or it sees fit. This assumption is reflected in many police studies which stress the importance of police chiefs, police discretion, and police personalities as being the decisive factors in police behavior.

A more tenable approach to studying the police would be to examine police behavior in terms of the place of the police in class conflict. This approach would focus mainly on how conditions outside of police organizations have shaped police response.

To date there have been few attempts to systematically collect and analyze data on the police role in any kind of class conflict. A potentially rich area of study involves the police response to the pitched battles fought between labor radicals and the dominant political and economic interests. Two key empirical issues in this area are: 1) What do the police do in times of worker rebellion and revolution? and 2) Why do they act the way that they do?

These type of queries have rarely been subjected to critical examination. Such a task was undertaken in this dissertation. More specifically, this dissertation was an exploratory study of the response of the urban police to labor radicalism. The purposes of the inquiry were to develop a conceptual framework that allowed for a more precise examination of police response than is currently feasible and to apply the framework in a comparative analysis of the responses of the city police in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington to radical labor unrest during the period of 1912-1920.

An exploratory approach was necessary because the theoretical work pertaining to police response is not sufficiently developed yet to generate rigorous hypotheses for testing. Additionally, the literature on this subject is limited and widely spread about in articles and books in the fields of labor history, policy history, urban history, criminology and criminal justice; these studies have yet to be combined into a single conceptual scheme. Hence, it was imperative to first systematize the knowledge of the area and to formulate "working" propositions; this made it possible to then conduct a more definitive investigation of the cases of the Portland and Seattle police.

The product of this approach is a dissertation in three main parts. In part one, a theoretical framework is explicated for the analysis of the police response to labor radicalism. The second part consists of an empirical study of the response of the Seattle and Portland police to the protest and unrest of labor radicals in 1912-1920. Finally, in the concluding section, the theoretical concepts and propositions in the first part of the dissertation are checked in terms of their applicability to the empirical data in the second part.


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