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Journal cover: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management

ISSN: 1363-951X
Previously published as: Police Studies: Intnl Review of Police Development
Incorporates: American Journal of Police

Online from: 1997

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Police accreditation and clearance rates


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DOI (Permanent URL): 10.1108/13639511211215423

Article citation: William M. Doerner, William G. Doerner, (2012) "Police accreditation and clearance rates", Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, Vol. 35 Iss: 1, pp.6 - 24


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The Authors

William M. Doerner, Department of Economics, College of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

William G. Doerner, College of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the editor and the reviewers for sharing their insights on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Abstract

Purpose – The aim of this paper is to examine whether accredited police agencies display higher clearance rates than their non-accredited counterparts.

Design/methodology/approach – The study group consists of all municipal police departments operating continuously in the State of Florida from 1997 through 2006. Independent variables capture organizational characteristics for nearly 260 agencies to determine whether becoming accredited improves clearance rates.

Findings – Random-effects Tobit analysis suggests that accreditation status does not affect violent and property crime clearance rates. Clearance rates are more influenced by the number of sworn personnel and law enforcement expenditures per capita.

Research limitations/implications – Much of what is currently known about the impact of accreditation stems from anecdotal and testimonial evidence. Still, the industry manages to expand and flourish. A glaring need for sound empirical research is evident.

Practical implications – Instead of advancing the protection of local communities and bringing about meaningful organizational reform, accreditation appears to be a useful tool for bureaucrats who wish to further their own careers.

Originality/value – Advocates link accreditation status to a number of benefits, including better investigatory practices that culminate in more solved cases. Recent academic work suggests that accreditation has dubious benefits, despite claims to the contrary. This study adds to that literature by showing that accreditation also fails to elevate clearance rates.

Article Type:

Research paper

Keyword(s):

Accreditation; Police; Innovation; Performance measures; Quality of policing; United States of America; Crime rates.

Journal:

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management

Volume:

35

Number:

1

Year:

2012

pp:

6-24

Copyright ©

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ISSN:

1363-951X

Introduction

Being accredited is a coveted status in many fields. It means that an institution or organization has satisfactorily demonstrated to an external oversight body that it meets or exceeds a host of state-of-the-art standards (Southerland et al., 2007; Thrasher, 1979). Compliance with these “best practices” criteria is associated with greater operational efficiency, outstanding service delivery, and exemplary achievement. A variety of fields (e.g. colleges and universities, hospital administration, law, engineering, counseling and therapy, and accounting) have embraced national and regional accreditation as a mechanism for avoiding mediocrity and promoting excellence. As of late, law enforcement has made overtures to join this movement.

The impetus for upgrading law enforcement agencies began in 1979 when four prominent national groups (International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs' Association, and Police Executive Research Forum) banded together to promote greater police professionalism. These efforts eventually led to the establishment of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which certified its first agency in 1984. Despite an initial wave of interest, enthusiasm soon subsided. While recent figures indicate that over 950 agencies are actively involved in the accreditation process (CALEA, 2009a), the fact remains that 25 years later CALEA has granted its seal of approval to no more than 3 percent of all law enforcement agencies in the US (Hougland and Mesloh, 2005). This attainment stands in direct contrast to an optimistic projection that CALEA had the potential to accredit just about every agency in this country within two decades of its inception (Mastrofski, 1986).

Much of the reluctance, especially for smaller agencies, to seek CALEA confirmation stems from the time commitment and costs associated with the entire review process (Carter and Sapp, 1994; DuPont, 1993; Kurz and Kelly, 2005). At least 17 States have tried to counteract this tendency by establishing their own local, and less expensive, versions of accreditation standards. Florida, the location of the present study, is one of those States.

Hardly any systematic information exists about the impact of police accreditation despite all the attendant fanfare, the multi-million dollar operation that CALEA oversees, and the cottage industry of consultants and free-lance advisors this enterprise has spawned. The CALEA web site, as well as those of parallel State organizations, relies heavily upon testimonials and anecdotal stories that extol the virtues of accreditation. On the academic side, the limited amount of research that does exist is rife with interpretational difficulties, shrouded with a variety of methodological shortcomings, and replete with simplistic analyses. For example, the Burlingame and Baro (2005) claim that accreditation standards produce greater personnel diversification remains unconvincing in the absence of any control for whether the agencies had fallen under a consent decree in the past. Similarly, reliance upon a series of difference-of-means tests to isolate disparities between accredited and non-accredited agencies (e.g. Hougland and Mesloh, 2005; McCabe and Fajardo, 2001) begs the question of whether the introduction of any control variables would alter the interpretations. As Doerner and Doerner (2009, p. 795) opine, the time is ripe to investigate the benefits of accreditation more stringently.

The accreditation movement

When CALEA arrived on the scene, a number of initiatives already were underway to improve personnel quality by instituting more stringent entrance requirements, providing better pre-service training for recruits, and recognizing the need for continuous in-service training for veteran officers. Scant energy was aimed at organizational reform to complement this individual-level focus. In one respect, CALEA was poised to fill an important niche.

The first task that awaited CALEA was to identify aspects critical to discharging a law enforcement agency's mission; six target areas were isolated (Cotter, 1983, pp. 20-21). They included the philosophy behind the law enforcement function, management and administrative practices, personnel policies, employee deployment and assignments, prisoner control and court-related activities, as well as support functions and technical services. The CALEA staff then developed a series of applicable standards that reflected critical concerns and would help mold or improve organizational practices within each area.

Once an agency decides to seek accreditation, it embarks on a self-study process. This one- to two-year period entails reviewing all policies, procedures, and activities to determine whether the agency satisfies CALEA standards or needs to take corrective actions that will bring it into accordance with these expectations. Compiling documents and supporting evidence that demonstrate alignment with industry standards allows external assessors the opportunity to conduct an independent evaluation of what the agency is doing. Once the outside review is completed, CALEA decides whether to issue its stamp of approval to the agency. The initial accreditation is valid for five years. After that period expires, an agency must demonstrate continued compliance with the original standards and demonstrate how its organizational practices satisfy any new or revised directives.

As mentioned earlier, the time commitment and expenditures associated with seeking national accreditation have proven to be daunting obstacles for some agencies, particularly smaller ones (Carter and Sapp, 1994; DuPont, 1993; Kurz and Kelly, 2005; Mastrofski, 1986, p. 57). These outlays, coupled with dwindling resources, have forced administrators in many agencies to forgo the national credential. In response to this dilemma, at least 17 States have established their own pared-down, less expensive versions of accreditation. Florida is one of those States.

In 1993, the State legislature turned to the Florida Sheriffs' Association and the Florida Police Chiefs' Association for guidance. The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA) was formed under the auspices of these two associations and modeled after CALEA. Like the national process, agencies seeking CFA status must engage in a self-study, satisfy a variety of Florida-specific standards, host an on-site visit from trained assessors, and pass external muster. By the end of 2009, 91 out of the 266 Florida municipal police departments in continuous operation since 1996 had gained the CFA imprimatur.

The benefits of accreditation

CALEA, CFA, and many other State oversight bodies maintain public internet pages that discuss various aspects of accreditation. These web locations typically have a section that features the benefits administrators, community members, and employees can expect to derive from successful completion of this voluntary self-study process. As Table I shows, several common refrains surface when it comes to heralding the virtues of accreditation.

Probably the most obvious benefit of accreditation is that it requires agencies to commit operational practices to a series of concrete, written directives. The ostensible purpose behind this endeavor is to ward off unarticulated improvization, whereby patrol officers at the lowest rung of an agency make uninformed decisions without appropriate administrative guidance. The more pressing reasons for institutionalizing policy guidelines is to structure decision making and to forestall a judicial finding of deliberate indifference in the event of civil litigation. In other words, the lack of a formal policy does not insulate an agency from being held accountable for the actions of its members. Remaining silent on key issues will only expose the organization to even greater civil liability and a correspondingly larger settlement. An allied derivative of accreditation and periodic re-accreditation is that agencies remain abreast of contemporary developments and embrace industry standards.

Although accreditation guidelines address what topics should receive consideration in the written directives, it is important to recognize they do not dictate the exact procedures these statements should embody. For example, a standard might articulate the need to distinguish full-time from part-time personnel, but it would not impose a specific number of hours governing this classification. Along the same lines, accrediting bodies do not prohibit, nor do they endorse, reliance upon warning shots in a use-of-force policy. However, the expectation is that administrators will visit this topic and the subsequent written directive they develop will relay the ensuing expectations to the membership and the public.

In addition to setting operational procedures, the web sites post several common themes. There is the expectation that a more transparent law enforcement agency will exude greater public confidence, promote community policing, and increase cooperation with local leaders and other governmental units. Finally, employee morale should rise in response to the routinization of personnel decisions, fair and equitable practices, and overall professional treatment.

The picture that Table I yields is that the benefits emanating from participation in the accreditation process are consistent and similar from one State to the next. In some instances, these expositions utilize very similar, if not the exact same, language. Hence, it is not unreasonable to expect that accredited agencies would reap some common outcomes.

The CALEA web site houses statements from police administrators that explain how accreditation has boosted agency performance or service delivery. While one might view these declarations as highly selective, self-serving, and merely testimonial in nature, these remarks do provide valuable glimpses into the occupational mind-set of police administrators who have ventured into the accreditation process. A number of these comments target clearance rates, arrests, and other crime control practices. For instance, the Kingsport (TN) police chief points to accreditation as being responsible for improving the Part I clearance rates in his jurisdiction from 10 percent in 1987 to 56 percent in 1998 (Keesling, 1999). In other instances, compliance with CALEA standards is credited with the solving of a “cold case” (Shearer, n.d.), the seizure of a dangerous police assassin without further incident (Johnson, n.d.), and clearances via the arrests of two suspects responsible for a string of armed robberies (Seebacher, n.d.).

The Florida accreditation manual devotes a chapter to how agency members, both patrol and plain-clothes, should conduct criminal investigations. While some of these standards address administrative aspects, others are more operationally oriented. The goal is to have “more efficient and effective criminal investigations” (CFA, 2008, Chapter 18). The standards include a wide array of topics and involve such things as setting up and maintaining case files, use of informants, crime scene preservation, evidence collection, interview and interrogation protocols, follow-up procedures, preparation and execution of search warrants, reliance upon polygraph and voice stress analyses, and surveillance practices. In short, this litany of “best practices,” when taken as a whole, is designed to help agencies conclude investigations successfully.

The message these expositions deliver is two-fold. First, implementation of accreditation standards places agencies in a more strategic position to solve cases expeditiously and enhances their crime-control performance. Second, these achievements can be demonstrated through standard, objective accounting methods. Interestingly, the existing literature does not contain any independent, third-party multivariate empirical assessments that test these claims. As a result, the present study aims to remedy that gap by analyzing city clearance rates to determine whether accredited agencies out-perform their non-accredited counterparts in Florida.

The clearance literature

There are two ways in which to clear a criminal case according to guidelines the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) distributes to all participating law enforcement agencies on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The most common avenue is to arrest a suspect for the incident and then forward the case to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution (FDLE, 2008a, p. 27). The second route occurs when the investigating agency has developed sufficient probable cause to identify a suspect, but unusual circumstances stymie efforts to take that suspect into actual physical custody. Examples of typical interferences would be when the suspect has died, when extradition from another jurisdiction is blocked, if the victim or a central witness elects not to cooperate, whenever a juvenile case receives non-judicial handling, or when the State Attorney declines to pursue the matter (FDLE, 2008a, pp. 28-9).

Previous studies have recognized the utility of examining clearance activity. For one thing, case clearances provide a standardized inter-agency assessment tool (Borg and Parker, 2001, pp. 445-6; Jang et al., 2008, p. 532; Paré et al., 2007, p. 243). They also reflect police resource allocation, performance, and efficiency (Addington, 2006; Davies, 2007; Litwin, 2004, p. 331; Litwin and Xu, 2007, p. 94). Thus, clearance rates are an appealing comparative outcome measure.

Researchers who analyze police clearance practices are aware of two empirical regularities. First, US homicide clearance rates have plummeted over the past 50 years, dropping from 94 percent in 1960 to the current level of 62 percent (Ousey and Lee, 2010; Regoeczi et al., 2008, pp. 142-3; Riedel and Boulahanis, 2007, pp. 151-2). The exact reasons behind this decline are still under investigation. Second, considerable variation in clearance rates exists from agency to agency, from offense to offense, and from case to case. These observations have spawned two distinct streams of inquiry. The first approach concentrates on unearthing case characteristics likely to produce an arrest or identify the actual perpetrator. The second path entails a comparative organizational analysis to determine why some agencies are more successful than others in solving cases. These studies routinely examine criminal lethality because of the wealth of information contained in homicide documentation.

Analyzing case characteristics has proven to be a fruitful venture, enabling researchers to gain insight into how homicide cases are solved (Addington, 2006; Alderden and Lavery, 2007; Lee, 2005; Litwin, 2004; Litwin and Xu, 2007; Puckett and Lundman, 2003; Regoeczi et al., 2008; Roberts and Lyons, 2009; Taylor et al., 2009). However, three aspects preclude this vein of studies from being relevant to the current project. First, these articles dissect only homicide incidents and the present study considers homicide plus six other index offenses. It may be that the findings to date are homicide-specific and do not pertain to other crimes. Second, while the documentation surrounding homicide investigations is rich, other offenses do not receive similar attention. Third, the current study involves a multi-city comparison and routine record-keeping is far from systematic. Except for homicide, no secondary sources capture itemized case information from one locale to the next, on a regular basis.

The second framework, organizational characteristics, is more pertinent to the present study. Wellford and Cronin (1999) analyzed 798 homicide cases and concluded that sound police investigative practices and ample resource allocation (e.g. crime scene preservation, immediately canvassing the scene for witnesses, detailed follow-up procedures to check leads, and deployment of detectives) were crucial determinants of whether a case would be solved. Other researchers have seized upon this orientation with varying degrees of success. Puckett and Lundman (2003), for example, found that while detective experience and workload were not related to case outcome, citizen cooperation was a key variable. A much more intensive analysis of agency practices in 55 jurisdictions pinpointed the importance of in-service training for detectives, greater reliance upon more scientific analysis of evidence, appropriate administrative case management, and public cooperation as important ingredients of homicide clearances (Keel et al., 2009). Meanwhile, Roberts (2008) was unable to connect educational requirements for new officers, the ratio of investigators to violent crime, and involvement in community-policing initiatives with clearance rates for robbery, rape, or aggravated assault.

The present study

The study group

The selection of Florida as the study site for the current project makes sense for at least three reasons. First, Florida has a robust law enforcement presence. The State is home to 2.2 percent of municipal police agencies, 4.9 percent of sworn city police officers, and 5.3 percent of full-time local police employees in the United States (Reaves, 2007, p. 10). Second, both the Florida Sheriffs' Association and the Florida Police Chiefs' Association played pivotal roles in establishing the body tasked with instituting a voluntary accreditation plan. This hands-on involvement was intended to overcome some of the reluctance that CALEA encountered, but could not navigate. While only 10 percent of Florida police organizations had won CALEA endorsement by the end of 2006 (Doerner and Doerner, 2009), 31 percent had gained CFA recognition. Finally, State-level accreditation was framed as a more feasible alternative for smaller and mid-sized agencies. In addition to containing four of the largest 50 municipal agencies in the nation, Florida also has a modest concentration of smaller departments. According to the 2007 Criminal Justice Agencies Profile (CJAP), 21 percent of all municipal agencies in the “Sunshine State” employed fewer than ten full-time sworn officers, 28 percent fell into the 10–24 member range, and another 21 percent occupied the 25–49 grouping (FDLE, 2008b). Given these considerations, Florida poses an opportune venue for the present study.

Another consideration that has surfaced in the clearance literature is the necessity of examining data longitudinally. One way to sidestep the issues that accompany limited sample sizes and annual fluctuations is to average clearance rates over a multi-year period (Borg and Parker, 2001; Ousey and Lee, 2010) or pool cases over an extended number of years into a single file (Alderden and Lavery, 2007; Allison et al., 2005; Jarvis and Regoeczi, 2009; Keel et al., 2009; Lee, 2005; Litwin, 2004; Ousey and Lee, 2010; Puckett and Lundman, 2003; Regoeczi et al., 2008; Riedel and Boulahanis, 2007; Roberts and Lyons, 2009). Another strategy is to partition the data into distinct time periods and analyze them separately (Litwin and Xu, 2007). While all these approaches have curative powers and can be appropriate alternatives, they underscore the need to be more sensitive to the issue of change over time. Given these considerations, the analytical technique taken in the present study is to conduct a panel data analysis to isolate what impact, if any, that accreditation exerts upon clearance rates.

The study group is restricted to Florida municipal police departments that were in continuous operation throughout the 1997–2006 period and that also participated in both the CJAP and UCR programs. A handful of departments, containing the equivalent of mostly one or two full-time sworn officers, were chronic non-participants in the CJAP survey and were eliminated from inclusion in the sample. In addition, agencies that came into existence or were disbanded during this time frame were not included in the analysis. Under ideal conditions, the final study group would have the potential to amass a total of 2,570 data points for each variable utilized in the analysis (257 agencies over a ten-year period). However, nine agencies either came into existence, were disbanded, or had missing data (discussed later) during this time frame. Thus, the panel is slightly unbalanced.

Independent variables

Starting in 1996, FDLE launched a series titled Criminal Justice Agency Profile, an annual survey of all local, city, county, and State law enforcement organizations. This data collection effort is patterned after the national Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) project sponsored by the US Department of Justice. Unlike LEMAS, CJAP contacts all agencies with fewer than 100 sworn members and is conducted on an annual, not periodic, basis. Information is gathered regarding minimum entrance requirements for incoming personnel, pre-service and in-service training requirements, employee salaries and benefits, various organizational aspects, and personnel characteristics. The current study relies upon this CJAP inventory to determine whether accreditation improves police resources sufficiently enough to exert a discernible effect on clearance rates.

The first group of variables extracted from CJAP was intended to tap patrol investigative readiness. Both CALEA and CFA maintain that accredited organizations house a more responsive, better-equipped, more educated, and diverse corps of officers. As a result, the items included in the present study are whether the agency had established a canine unit[1], the minimum education level required for entry-level personnel, the minimum education level required for promotion to sergeant, how many weeks of preparation recruits receive during the post-academy Field Training Officer Program[2], and agency size in terms of the number of sworn personnel.

A second set of CJAP variables dealt with police-community interaction. The basic premise behind the community-oriented policing (COP) philosophy, an orientation that CALEA standards readily embrace (Cordner and Williams, 1995), is that the police cannot solve the crime problem unilaterally. Instead, law enforcement officials and the community must come together to form a joint partnership. Under this perspective, engaging in discourse on a routine basis, winning public trust, achieving mutual respect, and addressing quality-of-life issues are essential to effective crime control. Given these considerations, two questions reflecting police interaction with the community were selected for analysis. The first item was whether an agency affirmed that it participated in community-oriented policing. The second indicator, another dichotomous variable, was whether the agency deployed a bicycle unit. One purpose behind assigning officers to bicycle patrol is to increase public accessibility (Menton, 2008).

To control for fiscal capacity, law enforcement expenditure per capita was included. Previous studies of police organizations have invoked this cost-of-service indicator as a way to reflect the level of protection city residents receive (Briggs et al., 2008; Wilson et al., 2006; Zhao and Lovrich, 1997). These data were compiled by the Florida Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations (2009), situated in the State Department of Financial Services, which routinely extracts budgetary figures from annual municipal reports[3].

When studying clearance rates, some researchers have suggested it is necessary to control for the volume of known offenses as a way of adjusting for agency caseload (Borg and Parker, 2001; Cloninger and Sartorius, 1979; Davies, 2007; Keel et al., 2009; Litwin, 2004; Litwin and Xu, 2007; Paré et al., 2007; Xu, 2008). While results from these studies have not been uniform, the present study follows this lead and includes the violent and the property crime rates for control purposes.

The State legislature created the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation to facilitate the professionalization of law enforcement organizations. Accreditation status reflects satisfaction of CFA requirements. The CFA maintains a directory of all currently accredited agencies on its web site. Reliance upon multiple listings over time made it possible to identify agencies that won accreditation and those departments that remained in compliance with the periodic re-accreditation mandates required every three years afterwards.

Several variables recorded missing observations. Many of the CJAP instances were due to non-reporting in a particular year. Some of these oversights were easily reconciled because they represented a simple break in an ongoing series of consistent values. Substitutions were not allowed when values were absent in two consecutive years, when the errant data came at the start or end of an interval lacking an end-point or anchor value, or when a trend discontinued in the immediately following year. Missing expenditure data were handled by substituting the average of the preceding and succeeding years where possible.

Dependent variable

The focus of the present study is upon annual agency clearance rates for violent index crimes (homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery) and for property index offenses (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). As discussed earlier, a clearance reflects a case that is resolved via arrest or in some other manner. Municipalities that failed to make a report to the UCR Program are eliminated from that year's analysis. No interpolations or other missing data substitutions are performed on either dependent variable[4].

Results

Table II contains the descriptive statistics for the nominal-level variables. The proportion of CFA-accredited agencies moves from 3 percent in 1997 to 31 percent by 2006. Involvement in community policing also displays an appreciable gain over the decade. Canine units also gain popularity, while bicycle units wane somewhat[5]. The trend is for more and more agencies to demand some college study for first-line supervisors. A one-way analysis of variables (values not shown in the table) reveals that entry-level education is the only indicator without a significantly changing distribution over the study period.

Descriptive statistics for the interval-level variables appear in Table III. Agency size remains relatively constant over the ten-year period and does not produce a significant one-way analysis of variance (values not shown in the table). Post-academy training shows a tendency to lengthen over the years. Law enforcement expenditures climb by 50 percent during the interval and crime rates exhibit a significant decline. Both violent and property clearance rates remain stable steady throughout the series and do not produce a significant one-way analysis of variance. However, 7 percent (n=181) of the violent clearance rates and 5 percent (n=115) of the property clearance rates have a zero value.

The zero-order correlation matrix appears in Table IV. Because the cells are based upon large sample sizes, statistically significant relationships are not noted. Being accredited is linked with lower clearance rates. Similarly, all the police resources are weakly and negatively related to clearance rates. A scan of the matrix indicates multicollinearity is not problematic. The strong relationship between the violent and the property crime rates (r=0.73) and clearance rates (r=0.42) is of little concern because the two index categories are estimated independently later.

Distributional graphs (not shown here) further confirm the limited and censored nature of the dependent variables. Normal OLS or pooling estimations would be misspecified. Table V presents the results of a random-effects tobit analysis. When accreditation status is the sole predictor in the model, it exerts a significant negative effect on violent clearance rates (-3.13) and a non-significant effect (0.14) on property clearance rates. The introduction of the remaining variables removes the significant effect of accreditation. The crime rate is positive and statistically important for both clearance rates. Higher rates exert pressure on police productivity, lead to greater reporting by the public, and result in more solved crimes. As agencies expand their size, clearance rates decrease. For example, a one standard deviation increase in the number of sworn personnel (nearly 120 people) is associated with a 4.9 percent percentage drop in violent cleared crimes and a 2.6 percent decrease in the average city's property clearance rate. Unfortunately, since size cannot be split into specific positions, it is not possible to determine whether the impact reflects an enlarged bureaucracy or an inefficient ratio of personnel, like few detectives and an excess of field officers. Property clearance rates are also significantly affected by police expenditure per capita. Spending $322 more per person on law enforcement (a one standard deviation change) is associated with a 2.1 percent fall in property clearance rates. The result seems counterintuitive, but it is driven by a skewed distribution: 95 percent of agencies clear less than 50 percent of property crimes. Overall, the χ2 values reveal that five of the six models have at least some predictive power. In sum, it does not appear that accreditation influences clearance rates when controlling for crime rates, agency size, fiscal capacity, investigative readiness, and police-community interactions.

Discussion

The results indicate that State-level accreditation does not bolster Florida municipal police clearance rates. In other words, accredited and non-accredited departments produce similar violent index and property index clearance rates, despite claims to the contrary made by accrediting bodies. Given unique local circumstances, it is entirely possible that individual agencies, such as the example of the Kingsport (TN) Police Department cited earlier, may occasionally reap a profoundly different impact. However, such experiences are certainly not the norm in Florida.

The current study also holds some implications for the clearance literature. Generally speaking, researchers who examine variation in homicide clearance patterns focus either on case characteristics or agency resources. While Wellford and Cronin (1999) have advanced the notion that revamped police practices and more appropriate resource allocation are responsible for more efficient and productive investigations, other studies have not found similar empirical support (Ousey and Lee, 2010; Puckett and Lundman, 2003; Roberts, 2008). One problem with the current study is that the measures might be too global and not sensitive enough to provide a critical evaluation. For example, the community orientated policing indicator used here does not reflect how widespread or deeply embedded this philosophy has become in an agency.

Independent audits show that accreditation has grown into a sizeable enterprise. CALEA assets totaled nearly $6 million at the end of 2008 (CALEA, 2009b, p. 36). Collections (accreditation fees, agency charges, and conference registrations) had doubled in comparison to 1999 figures, surpassing the $4.5 million mark (CALEA, 2000, p. 12; CALEA, 2009b, p. 37). Similarly, employee expenditures (salaries, fringe benefits, payroll taxes, and retirement contributions) rose from slightly less than $1 million in 1999 to just under $2 million in 2008 (CALEA, 2000, pp. 13, 18; CALEA, 2009b, pp. 37, 42). While financial information is not readily available for State groups, there is nothing to suggest they are not similarly profitable.

Given this terrain, an intriguing question is how has the accreditation movement managed to prosper without attracting a corresponding body of evidence-based research to buttress the benefits it claims to produce? Four marketing strategies may have bolstered the accreditation process while discouraging negative publicity. First, CALEA and some State accreditation bodies have diversified their product lines by offering additional programs tailored to public safety communications centers and training academies. Second, along with targeting federal, State, and special jurisdiction agencies, CALEA is spreading into new international markets in Canada, Latin America, and Mexico. The third approach is to make the accreditation process less daunting. CALEA sponsors “Police Accreditation Coalitions” (PACs), State networks composed of representatives from already accredited law enforcement agencies (CALEA, 2010). These support groups maintain web sites, offer training, lend advice to entities navigating the accreditation process, hold conferences, and help members become assessors. Finally, CALEA has instituted a scaled-down, intermediate version of accreditation in the hope of spurring agencies to pursue full accreditation status.

Not to be left out of the picture are the scores of free-lance consultants who offer their services to agencies coveting State or national recognition. Many of these players gained experience as former departmental accreditation managers or past assessors. It has been suggested elsewhere that some ambitious police executives might even seize upon accreditation as an opportune way of enhancing their credentials as they weave their way upward in law enforcement circles (Doerner and Doerner, 2009). All in all, the accreditation movement has become a lucrative endeavor for many parties.

Conclusion

A final consideration is that despite the millions of dollars that shroud this enterprise and the eclectic mix of players who stand to profit from it, the accreditation industry remains virtually autonomous, unchecked, and unregulated. There is very little governmental oversight over its activities. Ironically, the very same State legislatures that felt a compulsion to adopt minimum standards for entry-level personnel during the 1960s still have not enacted a corresponding set of minimum expectations for today's law enforcement agencies. Perhaps the time has arrived to bypass this quixotic reliance upon voluntary self-improvement efforts and to start demanding greater accountability from the institutions entrusted with balancing the delicacies of public safety and constitutional protections. In light of everything else discussed in this paper, the management of private accreditation as a default mechanism for meaningful reform in the public law enforcement sector deserves more intensive and critical scrutiny than what a faith-based approach has offered thus far.

ImageTable IAccreditation benefits advertised by national and state law enforcement accreditation bodies
Table IAccreditation benefits advertised by national and state law enforcement accreditation bodies

ImageTable IIDescriptive statistics, nominal-level variables
Table IIDescriptive statistics, nominal-level variables

ImageTable IIIDescriptive statistics, interval-level variables
Table IIIDescriptive statistics, interval-level variables

ImageTable IVZero-order correlation matrix
Table IVZero-order correlation matrix

ImageTable VRandom-effects tobit panel data analysis with bootstrapped standard errors
Table VRandom-effects tobit panel data analysis with bootstrapped standard errors

Notes

  1. The absence of an established canine unit in an agency does not always mean that the agency lacks access to such a resource. Many agencies maintain mutual aid agreements with the county sheriff to provide services.

  2. It appears that this item generated some confusion for some respondents. A handful of agencies indicated they had an FTO Program that extended for 52 weeks. In Florida, though, a new police employee is considered to be an at-will employee for the first year. In other words, the employer can dismiss the employee at any point during this period and is not obligated to provide a reason for the termination.

  3. An examination of the univariate distribution for this variable uncovered an extreme outlier throughout the entire series. In 2006, Indian Creek Village spent $31,446 per capita for law enforcement services. Indian Creek Village is a small island located in the Miami area. It contains 14 houses occupied by 38 residents, has one of the highest incomes of any area in the United States, and is home to a variety of celebrities. Ten full-time officers, 4 part-time officers, and 4 civilians staff the Indian Creek Village Police Department.

  4. It is possible, especially in smaller jurisdictions, for a clearance rate to exceed 100 percent. Borg and Parker (2001, p. 447) attempted to deal with this situation by utilizing a three-year-moving average to smooth out yearly fluctuations. This strategy was not amenable to the present study because reliance upon a multi-year measure would risk mixing years prior to and after accreditation in the same calculation. Davies (2007, fn. 5) retained values that exceeded 100 percent, while Jang et al. (2008, fn. 2) eliminated these cases from the analysis. Of the 2,530 violent clearance rates contained in the present study, 35 agencies exceeded a value of 100 percent, although 240 were equal to 100 for at least one year. For property clearance rates, only 2 jurisdictions reported property clearance rates greater than 100 percent while 26 were equal to 100 for at least one year. All these observations were kept in the analysis.

  5. After the initial analysis, a reluctant decision was reached to eliminate bicycle patrol from further consideration. Starting in 2005, the CJAP survey stopped asking agencies about this variable. While bicycle patrol had a significant -.12 correlation with the violent clearance rate and a significant -.15 correlation with property clearance rate, these coefficients were based on a truncated data set. The effect of list-wise deletion would be to eliminate 511 cases and shorten the study period by two years.

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Further Reading

Olsen, M.K., Schafer, J.L. (2001), "A two-part random-effects model for semicontinuous longitudinal data", Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 96 No.254, pp.730-45.

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Corresponding author

William M. Doerner can be contacted at: wmdoerner@fsu.edu