Environmental Predictors of Municipal Police Agency Goals

Date01 March 2019
Published date01 March 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Predictors of Municipal
Police Agency Goals
Matthew C. Matusiak
Applications of organizational theory to police organizations frequently employ the
framework of structural contingency or institutional theories. The current study
seeks to evaluate the impact of both technical and institutional environmental
aspects of policing on the goals of municipal police agencies. The influence of a
combination of environmental contingencies and chiefs’ ratings of institutional sec-
tors is explored to assess which theory better explains chiefs’ emphasis on police
agency goals. Relying on ordinary least squares regression models, the impact of two
competing theoretical frameworks is assessed. Findings suggest that chiefs’ demo-
graphics (control variables) and legitimacy (institutional) factors have a greater
impact than technical (structural contingency theory) elements on the goals that
chiefs emphasize within their agencies. Potential theoretical advancement employing
public sector agencies is also presented.
police chiefs, institutional theory, structural contingency theory,
organizational theory
Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Matthew C. Matusiak, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, 12805 PegasusDrive,
Orlando, FL 32816-1600, USA.
Email: Matthew.Matusiak@ucf.edu
Police Quarterly
2019, Vol. 22(1) 112–136
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611118797068
Policing research has frequently employed organizational theories in explaining
police organizational behavior. These analyses have focused most frequently on
two organizational theories: structural contingency theory (SCT) and organiza-
tional institutional theory. While research employing these two theories has
frequently identif‌ied support for both theories, little research has attempted to
demonstrate which theory better explains the behavior of police organizations.
SCT promotes the technical environment (e.g., jurisdiction population, racial
heterogeneity, agency size) as the driving force behind organizational decision-
making, while institutional theory is more concerned with the symbolic nature
(e.g., stakeholder relationships) of the environment surrounding an
Due to the nature of policing, it is clear that both technical and symbolic
environments must be considered when making decisions. Research, however, is
less clear on which environmental components (technical or symbolic) police
organizations are able to sense and to which they respond. In short, this research
explores which components of the environment permeate police organizations.
Should the technical environment primarily direct decision-making in police
organizations, it would suggest that policing responses to the environment are
more formulaic (if X, then Y). Findings suggesting that the symbolic environ-
ment directs decision-making in police organizations is more nuanced in relation
to the permeability of police organizations. This f‌inding is related to individuals’
subjective assessment of the symbolic environment and the necessity of under-
standing the underlying cognitive processes included in assessment of the envi-
ronment(s) surrounding police organizations. Through a better understanding
of how key environmental components are sensed and responded to by organ-
izations, researchers will gain greater understanding of organizational perme-
ability. By identifying these environmental components, the f‌indings of the
current research will inform researchers and those seeking to inf‌luence police
organizations as to whether organizational interests are primarily related to
those contingencies that promote technical outputs or whether establishment
and maintenance of relationships (i.e., legitimacy) is more inf‌luential.
In the following section, the literature related to SCT and organizational
institutional theories is broadly discussed with special note of the application
of each theory to policing. In addition, data sources and cleaning are described
prior to discussing three series of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression
models. The research concludes with several remarks intended to explore pos-
sible theoretical advancement.
Literature Review
According to SCT, organizations are seen as responsive to their technical envi-
ronment. Organizations must respond to this environment to maintain f‌it, or
optimal eff‌iciency and performance, within their operating environment.
Matusiak 113

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