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date: 20 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines police organizations through the lens of classic literature from the sociology of organizations and focuses on some of the ways in which they are becoming more alike over time. It also asks an important normative question: Are these changes in police organizations desirable? As police departments have continued to grow in terms of size and scope—often despite static workload demands—they have equally embraced technology, specialization, and militarization throughout their evolution. The impacts of these dominant features of American police organizations is not well understood, and they may lead police departments to resemble Max Weber’s metaphorical “iron cage” of bureaucracy, particularly if they become increasingly mechanical in how they respond to both the public and their own employees.

Keywords: police, police organization, Max Weber, organizational structure, militarization

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