An Opportunity Model of Police Homicide Victimization

Robert J. Kaminski, National Institute of Justice

Macro-level research on homicides of police has focused on the influence of structural features of areas that generate criminal motivation. The implicit assumption has been that criminogenic conditions (e.g., high levels of poverty, economic inequality, broken families, population mobility) increase crime, which in turn increases police risk of homicide victimization. With few exceptions, macro-social theories to explain spatial or temporal distributions of police homicides mirror traditional theories of offender motivation developed to explain crime and victimization generally. Traditional theories of offender motivation, however, ignore routine activities and lifestyles of persons that facilitate or impede opportunities for crime and victimization. Similarly, models developed to explain homicides of police largely ignore how organizational differences across police departments, or variation in "routine work activities," influence opportunities for the victimization of field officers. This study advances research on violence against the police by incorporating both structural covariates and routine work activity factors in a model of police homicide victimization. Based on criminal opportunity theory, it is hypothesized that differences in levels of exposure and physical and social guardianship across 190 municipal law enforcement agencies in four time periods influence opportunities for homicides of police net of structural conditions (proximity) of the jurisdictions in which they are located. Given the generally inconsistent results obtained in previous research, particular attention is paid to issues of collinearity among regressors, clustering, and the rare-event count nature of the dependent variable.

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Updated 05/20/2006