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Investigating the Impacts of a Global Pandemic and George Floyd’s Death on Crime and Other Features of Police Work

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journal contribution
posted on 10.03.2022, 12:00 authored by Michael D. White, Carlena Orosco, Brice Terpstra

The current study involves a two-level examination of the impact of COVID-19 and George Floyd’s death on police work in the Tempe (AZ) Police Department. We employ interrupted time series analysis to test weekly trends (January 2017–January 2021) in crime and officer activity measures. We also examine body-worn camera footage (n = 474) to compare dynamics of police-citizen encounters over time. The impact on crime was mixed and varied by crime type. When declines occurred, they were short-term. The pandemic altered every aspect of police activity, and George Floyd’s death led to separate impacts on a few of those measures. Overall, the pandemic had a larger impact than did George Floyd’s death. Routine activities theory proved to be a useful framework for understanding the findings. Body-worn camera footage highlighted the consistency in how officers handled citizen encounters. The findings underscore the importance of localized context for these events and their effects.

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