Studying the reach of deterrence: Can deterrence theory help explain police misconduct?

Greg Pogarsky, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports the first perceptual deterrence study of a sample of police officers. The study investigated the influence of traditional deterrence considerations, extralegal sanctions, and impulsivity on the intention to commit several hypothesized acts of police misconduct. The results were largely consistent with perceptual deterrence findings from samples of college students, experienced offenders, and corporate managers. In particular, this study found that both legal and extralegal sanction threats potentially deter police misconduct. Further, it found that impulsivity diminished the deterrent influence of both sanction forms. The study also found that some of the effects of the explanatory variables depended on whether officers had prior punishment experience. The article discusses the implications of its findings for combating police misconduct and for deterrence research generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

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