Revisiting Police–Adult Probation Partnerships in Texas: Troubling Signs

AuthorJurg Gerber,Bitna Kim
Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Subject MatterArticles
untitled Article
Police Quarterly
Revisiting Police–Adult
2018, Vol. 21(3) 309–334
! The Author(s) 2018
Probation Partnerships
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611118760563
in Texas: Troubling
Bitna Kim1 and Jurg Gerber2
It has been almost 10 years since the Correctional Management Institute of Texas
surveyed police chiefs in Texas in 2007, concluding that the overwhelming majority of
police–probation partnerships in Texas were informal rather than formal. This study
revisits police–adult probation partnerships in Texas using new state-wide data
collected from both police and adult probation chiefs in 2016. This study found
some troubling signs in the nature and extent of partnerships: The majority of
police agencies in 2016 had no partnerships at all, but approximately 75 of probation
agencies did, albeit mostly informal ones. Although both police and adult probation
chiefs appeared to be open to future formal partnerships, they were only interested
if initiated by another agency. The findings of this study highlight the importance
of formalizing and institutionalizing partnerships for sustainability over the long
term. The roles of regional professional organizations will be critical to expand
police–adult probation partnerships, Texas, formal partnerships, police,
adult probation
1Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, USA
2College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Bitna Kim, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Wilson Hall 109, 411 North Walk, Indiana, PA 15705, USA.

Police Quarterly 21(3)
Research has concluded that partnerships with other agencies are an effective
strategy for police (Telep & Weisburd, 2016). Even if the benefits of such part-
nerships might not be directly crime-related in the short term, they can increase
community satisfaction and police legitimacy which ultimately lead to long-term
increases in compliance with the law (Telep & Weisburd, 2016). Of the inter-
agency partnerships in the criminal justice field, the concept of police–probation
partnerships has grown in popularity in response to a greater need for proactive
supervision of probationers (Kim, Matz, & Lee, 2017). Beginning in the
mid-1990s, police and probation officers began to collaborate informally on
work (Parent & Snyder, 1999). On the other hand, the advent of formal
police–probation partnerships represents a relatively recent strategy developed
to enhance the effectiveness and appeal of community corrections and commu-
nity policing (Kim, Gerber, & Beto, 2010).
There is only a limited literature on police–probation partnerships. The few
existing studies provide vital information on these partnerships including the
types of partnerships (Parent & Snyder, 1999) and the potential benefits and
problems of such partnerships (Beto, 2005; Corbett, 1998; Crawford & Talucci,
2000; Evans, 1997, 2000; International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP],
2012; Jannett & Lachman, 2011; Jordan, 1998; Kim et al., 2010; Matz,
DeMichele, & Lowe, 2012; Rinehart, Laszlo, & Briscoe, 2001). Parent and
Snyder (1999) presented five common types of police–probation partnerships:
enhanced supervision, information sharing, fugitive apprehension, specialized
enforcement, and interagency problem-solving partnerships. Regarding potential
benefits, advocates believe that participating agencies in the partnerships are likely
to prevent duplication of efforts, optimize the use of their resources toward a
common vision of public safety, and possibly provide a more systematic, com-
prehensive, and efficient approach to monitoring repeat offenders (Corbett, 1998).
On the other hand, critics have warned that the potential of partnerships to do
harm is as great as their potential to do good (Kim, Matz, & Gerber, 2017;
Murphy & Lutze, 2009). The potential harms include distortion of mission,
territorial disputes, and stalking horse concerns (Corbett, 1998; Kim et al., 2017).
There has been little empirical research on police–adult probation partnerships.
Exceptions include the state-level studies on the prevalence of police–probation
partnerships in Texas in 2007 (Kim et al., 2010) and in Pennsylvania in 2015 (Kim
et al., 2017). Both studies uncovered a pronounced lack of formal partnerships
between police and probation, while Pennsylvania seemed to have more formal
and informal partnerships than Texas. However, because the two studies utilized
different sampling strategies, police chiefs in Kim et al. (2010) and both police
chiefs and probation chiefs in Kim et al. (2017) in the two states, it is impossible to
draw firm conclusions concerning trends and patterns of police–probation

Kim and Gerber
The current study revisits police–adult probation partnerships in Texas using
new state-wide data collected from both police and adult probation chiefs in
2016. This study aims to investigate the changes in the extent and nature of
collaboration between law enforcement and adult probation by comparing the
current study’s findings with Kim et al.’s (2010) previous findings. As was the
case in Kim et al. (2010), the relationship between various agency characteristics
and the partnership status was explored. This study expanded on the previous
study by investigating the experience of chiefs whose agencies had formal
partnerships and the views of chiefs without such partnerships on the barriers
to formal partnerships and future collaboration. In addition, we asked both
police and adult probation chiefs about perceived need for entry-level training
for police–community corrections partnerships. In the current study, special
attention was paid to comparisons of perceptions of police and adult
probation chiefs.
Previous Statewide Studies on Police–Probation Partnerships
Using survey data from 102 sheriffs and 130 municipal police chiefs in Texas
in 2007, Kim et al. (2010) tested the patterns of police–adult probation
partnerships and police leaders’ perception of problems and benefits of such
partnerships. The study revealed that the overwhelming majority of police–
adult probation partnerships in Texas were informal (referring to programs
and initiatives forged on relationships between personnel) rather than formal
(referring to situations in which there were operational agreements, protocols,
contracts, and memoranda of understanding between organizations). One
encouraging finding from the 2007 Texas survey was that police chiefs and
sheriffs viewed partnerships with adult probation agencies favorably. In agen-
cies where collaborations were highest, there was a tendency for law enforce-
ment representatives to see their partnerships with adult probation agencies as
making considerable contributions in crime reduction and they were perceived
to lead to a better understanding of the role of adult probation agencies.
Furthermore, leaders in agencies with many partnerships reported less role
conflict than leaders with few partnerships.
More recently, Kim et al. (2017) conducted a statewide study of police–
community corrections partnerships in Pennsylvania in 2015. Unlike the
Texas study focusing on law enforcement leaders’ perspectives, their
Pennsylvania survey collected data from both municipal police chiefs and
county chief probation or parole officers. Overall, very few partnerships
in Pennsylvania were formalized and almost all were informal partnerships
reflecting personalized contacts and practices. Among the responding 119
police chiefs, 23 (19.3%) reported formal partnerships and 76 (63.9%) indicated
informal partnerships with adult probation agencies. No partnerships were
reported by 20 police chiefs (16.8%). Compared with police chiefs, probation

Police Quarterly 21(3)
or parole chiefs reported higher levels of partnerships with police. More specif-
ically, only one (1.2%) community corrections agency in the sample was not
involved in any partnerships, while 37 (45.1%) agencies engaged in formal
partnerships. Over half of the responding probation or parole agencies reported
involvement in informal partnerships with police.
One of the main research questions of the Pennsylvania partnership study
focused on a comparison between police chiefs and probation or parole chiefs in
their perceptions of the benefits and problems of police–probation or parole
partnerships (Kim et al., 2017). In general, police chiefs had less favorable
attitudes about partnerships than did chiefs of probation or parole offices.
This negative perception among police chiefs was most noticeable with the
question asking about the impact of partnerships on crime reduction. Given the
finding that a majority of partnerships in this study were informal, the responses
from the leaders might reflect the ineffectiveness of informal partnerships on
crime reduction.
Kim and Matz (in press) compared the perceptions concerning formal part-
nerships between 31 police chiefs and 37 probation or parole chiefs in
Pennsylvania who reported that they possessed formal police–community cor-
rections partnerships. Both police chiefs and probation or parole chiefs
expressed high satisfaction with existing formal partnerships. However, an
examination of additional qualitative comments led to the finding that a small
number of probation or parole chiefs mentioned a lack of understanding by
police of the core roles and responsibilities of probation and...

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