Where did it all go wrong? Implementation failure—and more—in a field experiment of procedural justice policing
- 754 Downloads
This paper presents the findings from a retrospective qualitative process evaluation to the Scottish Community Engagement Trial (ScotCET). The study explores the unanticipated results of a randomized field trial testing the effect of ‘procedurally just’ modes of road policing on public perceptions of police. The ScotCET intervention failed to produce the hypothesized results, producing instead significant, and unexplained, negative effects on key aspects of public perception. The present study seeks to examine, from the perspectives of officers implementing the experiment, what the impacts (intended or otherwise) of participation were.
Group interviews were held within the ScotCET experiment ‘units’ to explore how officers had collectively interpreted and framed ScotCET, and responded as a group to its requirements/demands. Nine groups were held over a 5-month period post experiment completion.
Findings indicate that communication breakdowns during the ScotCET implementation led to misunderstandings of its aims and objectives, and of the requirements placed on officers. Within the context of organizational reform and perceived organizational ‘injustice’, commonly cited aspects of police culture were invoked to facilitate non-compliance with aspects of the experimental intervention, leading to implementation failures, and, possibly, a diffuse negative effect on the attitudes and behaviors of experiment officers.
Organizational structures and processes, and coercive top-down direction, are insufficient to ensure successful implementation of policing research, and, by implication, policing reforms, particularly those that demand alternative ways of ‘doing’ policing and ‘seeing’ citizens. Greater investment in organizational justice and encouraging openness to evidence-led knowledge is needed to promote change.
KeywordsExperimental research Implementation failure Organizational justice Police culture Procedural justice
- Cordner, G. (2000). Community policing: Elements and effects. In G. Alpert & A. Piquero (Eds.), Community policing: Contemporary readings. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
- Fielding, N. (1988). Joining forces: Police training, socialization and occupational competence. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Fielding, N. (1989). Police culture and police practice. In M. Weatheritt (Ed.), Police research: Some future prospects. Aldershot: Avebury.Google Scholar
- Greenberg, J. (2011). Organisational justice: The dynamics of fairness in the workplace. In Z. Sheldon (Ed.), APA handbook of industrial and organisational psychology (Maintaining, expanding and contracting the organisation, Vol. 3). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Moore, G. F., Audrey, S., Barker, M., Bond, L., Bonell, C., Hardeman, W., Moore, L., O’Cathain, A., Tinati, T., Wight, D., & Baird, J. (2015) Process evaluation of complex interventions: Medical Research Council guidance. BMJ 350(h1258).Google Scholar
- Murray, K. (2014) Stop and search in Scotland: An evaluation of police practice, SCCJR Research Report: University of Glasgow.Google Scholar
- Scottish Government. (2012). The strategy for justice in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.Google Scholar
- Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalised causal inference. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.Google Scholar
- Tankebe, J. (2010). Identifying the correlates of police organisational commitment in Ghana. Justice Quarterly, 13(1), 79–91.Google Scholar
- Trinkner, R., Tyler, T. R., & Goff, P. A. (2016). Justice from within: the relations between a procedurally just organizational climate and police organizational efficiency, endorsement of democratic policing, and officer well-being. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 22(2), 158–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tyler, T. R. (2006). Why people obey the law. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Tyler, T. R., & Huo, Y. J. (2002). Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
- Weisburd, D., & Neyroud, P. (2011) Police science: Towards a new paradigm. Cambridge: Harvard University https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/228922.pdf.
- Wheller, L., Quinton, P., Fildes, A., & Mills, A. (2013). The Greater Manchester Police procedural justice training experiment. London: College of Policing.Google Scholar