An environmental approach to police deviance: Exploring situational prevention possibilities using a crime triangle framework

Dr Kelly Hine1
1Australian National University , Acton, Australia

Members of the public entrust the police for safety and security, with the public largely dependent on police to uphold the law.  In order for the police to do this, we allow them to conduct their duties with discretion and substantial powers. However, this role and associated functions make them susceptible to behaviour that is deviant beyond their charter.  If police are seen as deviant, it can erode public trust and compliance with the police.  This study aimed to examine the possibility of an alternative approach to explain the causes of police deviance and suggest possible prevention techniques using environmental theories, specifically situational crime prevention.  Two research questions were asked; ‘can environmental theories help explain the problem of police deviance?’, and ‘how might situational crime prevention help in preventing or reducing police deviance?’  Fifty police misconduct cases containing 86 matters of police deviance extracted from court transcripts were content analysed for variables relating to the crime triangle elements which were then used to explore the relevance of the 25 situational crime prevention techniques. The study concludes that rational choice theory and routine activity theory can help to explain the causes of police deviance and tailor appropriate prevention strategies.  Consequently, this provides a new practical approach to contribute to the body of knowledge on reducing the problem of police deviance.


Kelly Hine is a Lecturer at the Australian National University and a researcher with the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.  Her research centers on police-citizen interactions including the use of force by police and officer injuries.  Her research examines the decision-making process, and impediments to this process, during situations that are typically dynamic and volatile.  In addition to her research interest in front-line policing, her areas of expertise include police misconduct and police integrity.



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