Maguire, E.R. (2009). “Police Organizational Structure and Child Sexual Abuse Case Attrition.” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 32(1): 157-179.


This paper explores the effects of formal police organizational structure on child sexual abuse case attrition.

Data from two surveys were merged for this analysis: a 1988 survey of child abuse enforcement in U.S. police departments (Martin and Besharov, 1991), and the 1987 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) database produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S. Department of Justice, 1987). Based on the structure-performance link which is rooted in structural contingency theory, this study examines the effects of both global and specific structural features on two case disposition ratios. Because structure is more easily malleable than other factors which may affect performance, such as environment and context, it is important to know whether certain structural arrangements produce more desirable outcomes than others.

The results indicate that the global structural variables included in this analysis play a small role in child sexual abuse case attrition. None of the variables included in the model influence the rate at which cases are designated as “founded.” The size and height of police agencies and the rate at which they designate cases as founded both influence their arrest rates for child sexual abuse cases.

Research limitations/implications 
The small sample size made it difficult to estimate the models. Future research should test the findings reported here using larger samples.

This is the first study to our knowledge to compare the effects of global and specific structures on police outputs. 

Year: 2009
Language: English
Type: Journal article
Topic: Policing, Organization theory, Criminal investigation, Child abuse
Methodologies: Cross-sectional model