Lawsuits involving the police: A content analysis of newspaper accounts

Policing An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management (Impact Factor: 0.55). 10/2006; 29(4):625-642. DOI: 10.1108/13639510610711574


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to study lawsuits involving the police using newspaper accounts from three large cities in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – A content analysis was conducted using 634 newspaper articles from the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Los Angeles Times from 1993-2003. Findings – Research findings reveal how prevalent racial and gender discrimination issues are in lawsuits involving the police; some of the differences in lawsuits filed by police employees compared to those filed by citizens; the extent of disciplinary action taken against police officers named in lawsuits, and any organizational changes (i.e. department policies, procedures, or training) made as a result of lawsuits filed against police agencies. Research limitations/implications – The findings from this study are based solely on what the newspapers chose to report. It may be the case that newspapers only report on extraordinary lawsuits involving the police, or lawsuits that result in moderate to large jury awards or settlements. Practical implications – Since there is currently no national data collection effort focused on lawsuits filed against the police, researchers are left to use the data sources available to them (in this case, newspaper articles). Originality/value – This paper presents the first study of lawsuits involving the police using newspaper accounts. Previous studies have used survey data, court records, and interviews.

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