Applying Tittle's control balance theory to police deviance

Matthew J. Hickman, Alex R. Piquero, Brian A. Lawton, Jack R. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


The work of scholars who study police deviance has yet to result in the development of a substantive theory with which to frame their collective efforts. Recently, Tittle advanced a general theory of deviance that may help to fill this gap. The central premise of Tittle's control balance theory is that the amount of control to which one is subject relative to the amount of control one can exercise (the control ratio) affects both the probability of deviance as well as the specific form of deviance. Examines the utility of control balance as a new theoretical orientation in police deviance research. Presents a framework for conceptualizing control balance within the special context of police deviance and, using data collected specifically for the purpose of operationalizing the control ratio, provides an empirical test. The data are drawn from a survey administered to 499 Philadelphia police officers. Scenario methodology was used to investigate the effects of officer control ratios on the probability of reporting a fellow officer who covers up an incident in which another officer teas discovered driving while intoxicated (off duty), and second physically abuses a suspect in custody. Consistent with predictions derived from Tittle's theory, results indicated that officers ivith control deficits are more likely to report fellow officers who engage in the behaviors portrayed in the scenarios. Future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-519
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioural sciences
  • Control
  • Police
  • Role conflict
  • USA

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