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The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework and policing: An exploration of collective action, collective choice, and problem solving

Churchill, Nancy (2015) The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework and policing: An exploration of collective action, collective choice, and problem solving. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The current debate in police research is rich and multifaceted, focusing on such topics as fragmented contemporary police approaches to crime and disorder reduction. One crucial component of this debate is an epistemic one related to the preferred paradigm for police research. Another has to do with the level of theoretical inquiry and methodological pluralism needed to advance both the theory and practice of policing. Questions raised by both researchers and practitioners indicate concern with the rigour and relevance of police research as well as a growing consensus that a better alignment between research and practice is needed. A primary concern of this thesis is how to achieve that rigour, relevance, and alignment.

This study employs the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework and offers a research approach that closely aligns with practice. The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework has a rich history as a tool for theoretical inquiry in the social sciences, including political economics and public administration, but not as yet with policing. Epistemically the IAD framework goes beyond the scientific paradigm, recognising that knowledge is not derived from observation alone. It reflects that individuals are fallible learners and that trust, reciprocity, norms, and heuristics are important theoretical considerations (E. Ostrom, 2005).

Ontologically the IAD framework provides a hierarchical approach, with theory testing undertaken within the institutional framework through models designed to test specific questions. In this study, models tested the adequacy of rational choice and behavioural rational choice to explain collective action and collective choice. The study also inquired as to whether problem solving as reported in the policing literature could be explained as collective action and collective choice.

This research used the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to model multiple, sequential collective action situations that had the potential to achieve call for service reductions in two Western Australia Police subdistricts. One model was endogenous (collective action situations with only police participants). The second model was exogenous (collective action situations involving police and nonpolice participants). The models were designed to allow police and nonpolice participants to act dynamically and to engage in collective choice. The outcomes included significant reductions in calls for service and severity of calls in the two study subdistricts when compared to the entire district.

The study provided results at three levels: framework, theory, and model. From the research paradigm perspective, the IAD framework was used successfully to explore the collective choice behaviour of the police and the public, particularly with regards to reducing repeat calls for service. From a theoretical perspective, neither rational choice nor bounded rational choice explained the study results while the emerging behavioural theory of human action was more explicative. In addition, the study determined that collective action and collective choice were successful in reducing calls for service without the use of a proscribed problem solving model such as SARA (Eck et al., 1987).
The study has several strengths. First, the observed reductions in calls for service and call severity were outcomes from a methodologically rigorous and highly replicable design that aligned practice with research. The study’s theoretical inquiry into police and nonpolice behaviours provides a strong foundation for future research that uses theories extending beyond classical rational choice. By adopting an institutional perspective, the study reconciles some of the current fragmentation and confusion concerning contemporary police approaches. Finally and most important, the study provides a gateway to future police research using the IAD framework, the behavioural theory of human action, collective action, and collective choice.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Murdoch Business School
Supervisor: Gardner, Scott and Girardi, Antonia
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