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Lawsuits Involving the Police: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Accounts

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 29 Issue: 4 Dated: 2006 Pages: 625-642
Carol A. Archbold; Daniel Lytle; Corneshia Weatherall; Ann Romero; Catherine Baumann
Date Published
18 pages
This study used newspaper accounts from the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and the New York Times to analyze the characteristics of lawsuits filed against police agencies.
Findings revealed that both racial and gender discrimination were the basis for a significant number of costly lawsuits against police agencies in all three cities. Interestingly, police employees frequently filed both types of lawsuits against their police agency employers. Results also indicated that police officers involved in lawsuits filed by citizens rarely received disciplinary responses from their agencies. There were, however, indications that some police agencies were attempting to reduce litigation by improving department policies, procedures, and police officer training. The findings suggest that police officers should face more stringent disciplinary action for being involved in lawsuits brought by citizens and that police agencies should continue to adopt and improve innovative strategies to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against them. Research involving police agencies has typically relied on surveys, interviews, and official court documents. This study took a different approach by conducting a content analysis of 634 newspaper articles from the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Los Angeles Times for the period 1993 through 2003. All articles describe specific incidents of lawsuits involving the police and were gathered through searches on ProQuest and Lexis/Nexis using the key phrases: “police and lawsuit(s)” and “settlement(s) and police.” The articles were coded according to specific categories of interest, such as reasons for filing lawsuit, outcome of lawsuit, and whether compensation was sought. Basic descriptive statistics describe the results. Future studies using newspaper articles could use different search phrases as well as newspapers from different sized communities. Tables, notes, references


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