Using Network Analytics to Improve Targeted Disruption of Police Misconduct

AuthorTimothy I. C. Cubitt
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Police Quarterly
2023, Vol. 26(1) 2453
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10986111211057212
Using Network Analytics to
Improve Targeted Disruption
of Police Misconduct
Timothy I. C. Cubitt
Research into police misconduct traditionally considers the correlates and antecedents
of misconduct among individual off‌icers, as a means of disruption or prevention.
However, more recently, deviance among police has been considered through net-
work perspectives. This study considered 7755 allegations of misconduct accrued
by 1495 off‌icers from the Baltimore Police Department between January 2015 to
January 2020. A social network analysis was employed to consider the charac-
teristics and differences of misconduct networks between assignments and to
identify key off‌icers within these networks. Findings suggested that the misconduct
networks of patrol assignments functioned marginally different to investigations or
specialist duties. Discrete communities of misconduct were identif‌ied within each
assignment, including a small number of off‌icers that were particularly important
to supporting these networks. This study holds practical implications for the
identif‌ication and disruption of misconduct networks among law enforcement
police misconduct, social network analysis, broker, complaints, accountability
Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Timothy I. C. Cubitt, Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart,
Tasmania 7005, Australia.
The prevalence of deviance among police is subject to notable conjecture (Porter &
Warrender, 2009). However, it has recently received a considerable, and justif‌iable,
increase in attention. The ability of law enforcement agencies to maintain legitimacy,
both among the general public and their own staff (Walker & Archbold, 2005), relies on
robust methodologies for detection, investigation, and management of instances of
misconduct. In considering the phenomenon of police misconduct, there appear to be
two approaches under which an array of analyses may fall. The f‌irst approach considers
the individual characteristics of off‌icers who are prone to deviance (Kane & White,
2009), and the second approach favors the view that misconduct is a systemic phe-
nomenon and should be analyzed at the group level (Punch, 2003). At present, the
majority of research in this f‌ield considers the former, with the intention of identifying
characteristics of off‌icers, and antecedent behaviors to misconduct, that may aid
agencies in its disruption. The present research therefore seeks to consider the latter. In
particular, consideration is given to groupings of misconduct, termed communities, and
the role of off‌icers that may not be detected by prevalence of misconduct alone, in the
construction of these communities. The legitimacy of policing agencies relies upon the
ability to demonstrate accountability to the community, through detection and dis-
ruption of misconduct. This research considers the ability to identify groups of
misconduct and attempts to offer an additional detection methodology through the
application of network analytics.
Literature Review
Network Analysis
Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a methodology employed to understand human
behavior through interactions. These methods have been used to consider the function
of criminal networks, on the understanding that organized criminal enterprise is often
nested among a discrete group of individuals, rather than a series of disparate indi-
viduals (Kadushin, 2005). This is an important feature of crime analysis, as strategies
employed for disruption are often contingent upon whether the crime type is committed
by singular individuals or facilitated and committed by an embedded network (Johnson
& Reitzel, 2011). In this sense, the methodology employed for disruption of misconduct
among police is contingent upon an understanding of whether the misconduct is
embedded in a network or relates to an individual.
While network analyses are frequently attributed as originating in Stanley Milgram,
1967 small world problem,over time these methods have undergone substantial
analytical advancement, prior to application to crime. Employing SNA using crime data
may consist of the development of a sociogram, or a descriptive graph, and the ap-
plication of network measures to understand the function of the network and the roles of
individuals in that network (McGloin & Kirk, 2010). While the application of SNA to
Cubitt 25

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