Applying social learning theory to police misconduct

Allison T. Chappell, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Although numerous studies have attempted to understand the causes of various forms of police misconduct, there is still no clear theoretical explanation of police misbehavior. Akers’ social learning theory posits that peer associations, attitudes, reinforcement, and modeling are predictors of delinquency and crime in general. With this article, we seek to determine if the theory can account for police deviance. Data from a random sample of Philadelphia police officers are used to examine how officer attitudes and perceptions of peer behavior are related to citizen complaints of police misconduct. Findings suggest that social learning theory provides a useful explanation of police misconduct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

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