A $300,000 grant to study citizen complaints about law enforcement agencies was recently awarded to two Sam Houston State University Criminal Justice professors.

The grant, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, will fund a two-year effort profiling public perceptions of police accountability in the citizen complaint process.

Drs. Kenneth Adams and Michael Smith of the College of Criminal Justice will spearhead the project involving research from six police departments across the country.

Though virtually all law enforcement agencies have a formal complaint process allowing input from disgruntled citizens, Adams said, little research has been conducted to establish guidelines for measuring the effectiveness of such programs.

Because of the current lack of information, policy makers have few resources to draw upon when evaluating their own agency's performance.

The SHSU study, he said, should provide valuable insights that will enhance officer training programs and improve complaint system procedures. The research will investigate the complaint process from the point of view of its most direct consumers, citizens who have complained and citizens who have not complained but probably could have done so.

In particular, Adams noted, the research has a number of objectives including:

More generally, he said, the research should develop a relatively complete description of the public's expectations of police and document how police and public perceptions differ in this regard.

While the citizen complaint procedure allows a measure of public accountability for law enforcement agencies, it also provides those agencies with a valuable tool for accessing their performance, Adams said.

"The significance of the (public complaint) system lies in the strategic contributions it can make to police-community relations and to the development of sound, responsive law enforcement practices," he said.

"This (grant award) is an important endorsement of the research program in the College of Criminal Justice," said Dr. Timothy J. Flanagan, dean of the College of Criminal Justice. "The national scope of the study will bring Sam Houston State University into contact with progressive law enforcement agencies all across the country."

Law enforcement agencies that have already agreed to participate in the research project include departments from San Antonio, Texas; Prince William County, Va.; and Minneapolis, Minn.


Media Contact: Phillip Rollfing

Nov. 6, 1996