Discretion and gender disproportionality in police disciplinary systems

Matthew J. Hickman, Alex R. Piquero, Jack R. Greene

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Police supervisor decision making with regard to disciplinary action has received scant empirical study in general, and has yet to be examined across gender. In this paper, we use official departmental disciplinary data from the Philadelphia Police Department for the period 1991-1998 to study the extent to which gender parity exists in the formal disciplinary system. Three questions are investigated: (1) Is there an observable gender disproportionality in the police discipline punishment rates? (2) Is any observed gender disproportionality attributable to gender discrimination in the police disciplinary process or some earlier decision stage? (3) If any observed disproportionality is not attributable to the police disciplinary process, does the aggregate finding mask variation within offense categories? Three findings emanate from our effort. First, the results suggest that there is a minimal observed gender disproportionality. Second, with roughly 100 per cent of the observed gender disproportionality attributable to differential involvement in charging, it appears that the observed disparity can not be attached to the police disciplinary process. Third, the aggregate analysis masks offense-specific variation in the percentage disproportionality unexplained by differential involvement in charging. Implications for police disciplinary practices and directions for future research are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Discipline
  • Police
  • Sex discrimination

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