Working Together or Working on the Same Task but Separately? A Comparison of Police Chief and Chief Probation or Parole Officer Perceptions of Partnership

Date01 March 2017
Published date01 March 2017
Subject MatterArticles
untitled Article
Police Quarterly
2017, Vol. 20(1) 24–60
Working Together or
! The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permissions:
Working on the Same
DOI: 10.1177/1098611116657283
Task but Separately?
A Comparison of
Police Chief and Chief
Probation or Parole
Officer Perceptions
of Partnership
Bitna Kim1, Adam K. Matz2,
and Selye Lee1
It remains unclear how pervasive police-community corrections partnerships are,
and to what extent they are integrated into routine practice, as well as whether
or not police chiefs and chief probation or parole officers within the same jurisdic-
tions perceive them to be effective. The current study enhances our understanding of
such partnerships between police and probation or parole. Data were collected
through a statewide survey of a random sample of municipal police chiefs and
county chief probation or parole officers in Pennsylvania. The primary research
questions focus on identifying the following: (a) empirically derived and meaningful
patterns of police-community corrections partnerships, (b) a comparison of police
chief and chief probation or parole officer perceptions of benefits and problems
regarding their partnerships, and (c) the predictors of these perceptions. Results
reveal that such partnerships are prevalent, but they are predominantly informal,
with formalization largely contingent on the progressiveness of the police chief
(i.e., newer police chiefs were more likely to engage in formalized partnerships).
1Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, USA
2Department of Criminal Justice, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA
Corresponding Author:
Bitna Kim, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana,
PA 15705, USA.

Kim et al.
Further, the crime prevention and recidivism reduction potential of these partner-
ships remain unclear from the perspectives of both law enforcement and community
supervision leaders. In general, Pennsylvania police chiefs are less favorable to the
partnerships than are the chiefs of probation or parole offices, and certain
partnership types relate to the negative perceptions of some agency leaders. The
implications of the findings reported here for policies, training, and future research
are discussed.
police-community corrections partnership, leadership, Pennsylvania
Police often come into repeated contact with the same individuals during the
course of their work. Recent research has further demonstrated that a signif‌icant
proportion of the individuals arrested are under some form of community super-
vision (i.e., probation, parole) at the time of the crime; the f‌igure could be as high
as one-in-f‌ive arrests (Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2013).
Research on gang behaviors has also demonstrated that probationers and
parolees are just as likely to be the victims of violence as they are to be the per-
petrators (Braga, 2008; Braga, Kennedy, Waring, & Piehl, 2001; Papachristos,
Meares, & Fagan, 2007).
This pronounced overlap between the clientele of probation and parole
agencies and contact with police has necessitated greater collaboration and
co-operation between these distinct criminal justice system functions, with
Boston’s Operation Night Light (ONL) being the f‌irst of several formalized
police-probation or parole partnerships to be developed in the United States
during the early 1990s (Concannon, 1996; Corbett, 1998; Minor & Matz,
2012). While funding for such joint initiatives was robust in the mid-to-late
1990s (Byrne & Hummer, 2004), by the early 2000s federal funding for police-
probation or parole partnerships waned considerably, placing much greater
emphasis on large, multiagency collaborations (Beto, 2005). It is noteworthy
that many such formalized partnerships have continued informally without
funding (Kim, Gerber, & Beto, 2010).
Although def‌initions and measurements vary, recidivism remains a persistent
problem in corrections, with states such as Colorado, Rhode Island, and
Wisconsin reporting rates in excess of 50% (Council of State Governments
Justice Center, 2014). Clearly, probationers and parolees continue to pose a
signif‌icant challenge to public safety (International Association of Chiefs of
Police [IACP], 2007a). The potential for crime and recidivism reduction through
partnerships is evident; both police and community corrections agencies stand to

Police Quarterly 20(1)
benef‌it from new and creative ways to work together in the interest of public
safety (IACP, 2012).
Over the past two decades, the concept of police-probation or parole part-
nerships has grown in popularity in response to a greater need for proactive
supervision of probationers and parolees (Beto, 2005; Kim et al., 2010; Kim,
Gerber, Beto, & Lamert, 2013). Yet, despite its potential, partnerships have
often been highly individualized, mostly informal, and generally resisted by
police (Kim, Gerber, et al., 2013; Murphy & Lutze, 2009). Giacomazzi and
Smithey (2001) explain that we are in an era of multiagency collaboration, but
not all personnel of relatively autonomous organizations have the organizational
capacity or the willingness to truly collaborate. History has shown that reform is
extremely dif‌f‌icult to achieve within police and corrections agencies (Murphy &
Lutze, 2009).
The management and policy literatures are rife with examples of the import-
ance of leadership for achieving signif‌icant organizational-level change in bur-
eaucratic, hierarchical criminal justice agencies (Jurik, Blumenthal, Smith, &
Portillos, 2000). In order for any reform initiative to be ef‌fective, it seems
clear that agency leaders must be invested in the mission of the reform program
and publicly pledge their support (Draper & Norton, 2013). Partnerships require
strong leadership to facilitate organizational change and encourage collaborative
ef‌forts (Draper & Norton, 2013; Solomon, 2008). As Beto (2005) explains,
“failure to develop and maintain meaningful partnership [between police and
probation/parole agencies] is a failure in stewardship and a failure in leadership”
(p. 11).
The relationship between police chiefs and chief probation or parole of‌f‌icers
can ultimately make or break partnerships. Without the support of the chief,
formalizing and sustaining partnerships become a largely fruitless endeavor.
Even when individual of‌f‌icers are able to build informal partnerships, they are
often not sustainable once the of‌f‌icers involved are reassigned, promoted,
or retired. Similarly, the routine exchange of information or the integration of
data systems requires formal acknowledgement from leadership, typically in the
form of a written memorandum of understanding.
Although the leaders’ perceptions on multiagency partnerships are important
in understanding the motivations behind forming partnerships, empirical
research on the respective views of law enforcement of‌f‌icials and community
corrections of‌f‌icials concerning police-probation or parole partnerships is
scarce (Murphy & Lutze, 2009; Parent & Snyder, 1999). Exceptions include
Kim et al. (2010) study using a statewide survey of police chiefs in Texas.
However, Kim et al. only focused on the views of police chiefs using data col-
lected in 2007, which is now relatively dated. The fact that only law enforcement
agencies were surveyed about partnerships, absent probation or parole perspec-
tives, presents a serious problem. It is unclear to what extent police and proba-
tion or parole leaders see a mutual benef‌it to partnership. For example, does one

Kim et al.
agency see an informal partnership as ef‌fective when their partner agency does
not? Are there dif‌ferences insofar that one agency values the partnership more
than the other? Does one agency support partnership more by providing greater
resources and more staf‌f ef‌fort? These and other questions can only be answered
by gathering insight from both law enforcement and probation or parole agen-
cies simultaneously. To address this gap in the extant partnership literature, this
study explored the nature and patterns of police-community corrections part-
nerships in Pennsylvania by analyzing the perspectives of both police chiefs and
chief probation or parole of‌f‌ices.
Literature Review
Community Policing and Partnering With Community Corrections
With unmanageably large caseloads and far too few staf‌f, it is little surprise that
probation or parole of‌f‌icers are limited in their capacity to assist and monitor
compliance with court-ordered sanctions (Jannetta & Lachman, 2011; Jones &
Singler, 2002). With the evolution of community- and problem-oriented policing
in recent decades, partnerships between law enforcement and community cor-
rections, like Boston’s ONL, have been chronicled and widely advocated to
address such criminal justice system weaknesses (IACP, 2007a; Jones &
Singler, 2002).
Absent conclusive empirical evidence, collaboration advocates have con-
tended that police-community corrections partnerships pose great potential
benef‌its (Kim et al., 2010; Matz, DeMichele, & Lowe, 2012). Both agencies
are likely to accomplish what each individual agency alone cannot, they could
prevent some duplication of ef‌fort, and they could optimize the use of their
resources toward a common vision of public safety, and possibly provide a
more systematic, comprehensive approach to monitoring repeat of‌fenders

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