Structural arrangements in large municipal police organizations: Revisiting Wilson's theory of local political culture

Kimberly D. Hassell, Jihong Zhao, Edward R. Maguire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


For the past 35 years, Wilson's theory of local political culture has influenced many students of policing and has greatly contributed to the erudition of American police practices. Wilson, based on empirical study, found that variation in the structural arrangements of police organizations could be explained by examining the local political culture of the municipalities in which they are located. Police departments in cities with a professional form of government, for example, focused more on law enforcement activities and had a more bureaucratic structure than agencies residing in cities with a traditional form of government which focused more on order maintenance activities and, correspondingly, had a less bureaucratic structure. The purpose of this paper is to test the utility of Wilson's theory in today's police organizations. Data collected from a sample of large, municipal police departments were included in the analysis. The findings suggest that the relationship between local political culture and police organizational structure that Wilson identified many years ago has indeed attenuated. The sample of large municipal police agencies, finds no relationship between local political culture, as measured by Wilson, and four dimensions of organizational structure: formatization, vertical differentiation, functional differentiation, and centralization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-250
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Organizational culture
  • Organizational structure
  • Police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Structural arrangements in large municipal police organizations: Revisiting Wilson's theory of local political culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this