Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues in The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University in Bloomington conducted fieldwork in metropolitan police departments across the United States. They found that small police departments with a high degree of community involvement were able to effectively provide public safety in their communities. This finding in support of so-called “community policing” dealt a blow to the popular belief that consolidation and centralization of services was the only way to effectively provide citizens with public goods. However, subsequent empirical literature suggests that the widespread implementation of community policing has been generally ineffective and in many ways unsustainable. This paper argues that these failures are the result of 1.) institutional incompatibilities within the nested, polycentric network of organizations that provides public safety and 2.) perverse incentives generated by federal policy and the increasing militarization of the police.
FInd the working paper and SSRN.com.