skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 204754 Find in a Library
Title: Community Accountability, Minority Threat, and Police Brutality: An Examination of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints
Journal: Criminology  Volume:41  Issue:4  Dated:November 2003  Pages:1035-1063
Author(s): Brad W. Smith; Malcolm D. Holmes
Editor(s): Robert J. Bursik Jr.
Date Published: November 2003
Page Count: 29
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the effects of two structural-level theories, community accountability and minority threat, on the incidence of police brutality civil rights criminal complaints.
Abstract: Even though there is a growing body of evidence that minorities are disproportionately the victims of police brutality, important theoretical questions regarding the origin of the disproportion remain unclear. The few existing studies do not incorporate variables from alternative theoretical explanations, thereby limiting inferences regarding the reasons why racial and ethnic minorities are targeted for brutality. Drawing on the community accountability hypothesis and the minority threat hypothesis, this study tested the predictions of these two prominent structural-level explanations of police brutality in a study of civil rights criminal complaints. The community accountability perspective entails a set of closely related propositions derived from an organizational approach that maintain formal and informal characteristics of police organization influence officers’ street-level behavior, including excessive force. The threat argument maintains that aggregate measures of minority threat predict the employment of crime control mechanisms by the police. The civil rights criminal complaints dataset was extended to include community accountability variables. The study combined the central variables of the community accountability and threat hypotheses in a single analysis. The investigation focused on municipal police departments in cities across the county with populations of 150,000 or more. The theory that better explained the incidence of police brutality was identified as minority threat. The threat hypothesis is supported insofar as large effects of the measures of threatening people, percent Black and percent Hispanic in the Southwest exist despite the inclusion of five key community accountability variables. The findings for minority representation in police departments coincide with structural arguments concerning the social and economic organization of minority communities, consistent with conflict theory. The degree to which minority representation reduces police brutality may be largely contingent on the social organization of minority communities. Until exhaustive research has been done on police organization and police brutality, only guarded conclusions should be drawn. References
Main Term(s): Police Brutality
Index Term(s): Abuse of authority; Complaints against police; Harassment by police; Police attitudes; Police community relations; Police misconduct; Police organizational structure; Police-citizen interactions; Police-minority relations; Police-offender relations; Public Opinion of the Police; Racial discrimination
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.