First Advisor

Craig W. Shinn

Term of Graduation

Winter 2008

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration and Policy


Public Administration




Sheriffs -- United States, Administration of Justice -- Political aspects -- United States, Police administration -- United States, Organization -- Research -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vii, 189 pages)


The landscape of American policing is comprised of a myriad of police organizations, each serving a distinct function and populace. Yet, police reformers rarely recognize this and continue to disseminate 'umbrella' policy prescriptions to all policing organizations. This body of research argues that public and police administrators must take into account the nature of the organization and its constraining forces before prescribing change or initiating policy. I argue that to intelligently construct police agencies, prescribe policy, and accurately diagnose police organization behavior we must first have a strong idea, if not solid understanding, of the factors that shape and constrain them. The way an organization is structured speaks to the manner in which it carries out its day-to-day work. Therefore, the investigation of structural antecedents provides insight into why some police organizations operate in the manner they do, which subsequently allows for a more informative administrative and policy making environment.

This research addresses the question of whether there is a difference in formal structure between police organization types and identifies what sets of conditions and theories contribute to the explanation of these differences. This is accomplished by employing a quantitative analytical approach utilizing secondary data sources that provide information about American police agencies as well as the communities in which they are located. Results of the multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA) suggest that there are differences in the formal structure between police organization types. Hierarchical multiple regression (HMR) was used to incrementally and sequentially examine the effects of organizational, environmental, and institutional contingencies on the organizational structure of police organization types. The results indicate that organizational contingencies predominantly explain the structures for all police organizations. The external environment had a discernable strong impact on smaller municipal police agencies but Sheriffs Offices are largely insulated. The institutional environment assists in explaining the formation of formal structures in all police organization types. The theoretical, methodological, and policy implications of the research are also discussed.


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