ATLANTA—The National Science Foundation has awarded Georgia State University criminologist Marie Ouellet an Early Career Development Program grant, its most prestigious award for early-career faculty. The $400,000 grant will support a five-year research and training project titled the “Dynamics of Police Networks.”
“Police departments are often described as hierarchies with working interactions bounded by rank, assignment and partnerships. At the same time, we know that officers develop informal relationships that span hierarchical lines,” Ouellet said. “In this study, I will investigate a neglected yet potential key determinant of police behaviors: the formal and informal social relationships among officers to evaluate how these relationships – the network structure – and officers’ positions within these networks shape the adoption and spread of abuses.”
Ouellet will collect and analyze longitudinal network data from approximately 5,000 sworn officers across five mid-size and large police departments across the southeastern, southwestern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.
The findings will be used to inform policy initiatives designed to reduce police misconduct and educational initiatives that train mid- and senior-level policy personnel on using network procedures to enhance retention, assess officers’ risk of misconduct and adopt preventative measures to reduce problematic behaviors within departments.
“The research and educational components of this project are unique,” she said. “Our department is planning on working with police agencies to offer leadership training and show how these relationships can impact retention and promotion, and how they can prevent bad behavior such as police misconduct. Ultimately, my aim with this work is to reduce structural inequalities that result from police abuses and inform early intervention systems that can reduce misconduct.”
“Marie’s policy analytics approach in discovering the network structure of thousands of police relationships will uncover new, evidence-based findings that advance good policy,” said Sally Wallace, dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. “We celebrate her recognition by the National Science Foundation and even more, the promise her work brings to advancing social justice.”