Criminological Explanations for Police Deviance

  • James F. Albrecht
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Criminology book series (BRIEFSCRIMINOL)


Now that a clear typology for categories of police deviance has been identified, criminological evaluation of the sociological explanations for these different forms of misbehavior can be undertaken. Based on the noted patterns and trends in police deviance since the 1960s, a number of common theoretical explanations can be proposed. These theoretical analyses have indicated that many acts of police corruption can be explained through Merton’s strain theory, Sutherland’s differential association theory, or Becker’s rational choice theory; numerous incidents of police criminality can be explained through Becker’s rational choice theory or Sutherland’s differential association theory; many events involving police use of excessive force can be explained through trait theory resulting from individual biological, genetic, or psychological factors or through Widom’s social learning theory; numerous acts of police abuse of authority can be explained through Sykes and Matza’s neutralization theory or Widom’s social learning theory; and incidents involving police misconduct cannot be generally explained through criminological theory due to the plethora of behaviors that can violate agency policy and procedure. Further theoretical examination will be attempted for other significant acts of police deviance including the “blue wall of silence” and courtroom perjury.


Merton’s strain theory Sutherland’s differential association theory Becker’s rational choice theory Widom’s social learning theory Sykes and Matza’s neutralization theory Trait theory 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • James F. Albrecht
    • 1
  1. 1.Pace UniversityNew YorkUSA

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