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Author

J. A. Hay

Date of Award

2-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Professor J. Fox

Abstract

While there are numerous studies of the police, few have addressed the changes in policing that have occurred since the turn of century. Prior studies address issues such as police effectiveness, social control, the military model of police organization, police socialization, and the relationship between crime rates and the size of police forces. Although these studies have provided insight into different aspects of policing, they have not established a comprehensive understanding of the police as an institution. In other words, we have little understanding of what has caused the police to change. Further, we know little about the substance and consequences of change. My goal is to conduct an exploratory study of changes in policing by examining the main trends in the Hamilton, Ontario, Police Department between 1900 and 1973. Trends in economics, organization and work are considered. The study provides significant findings, which can be understood in relation to the existing literature, and can provide new questions to serve as the basis for future research. I explain trends in policing in relation to larger social and historical factors including population growth, the changing distribution of crime, and the role of the automobile. Change was pluralistic; different factors contributed to major changes in policing. Often, change was the result of external circumstances--the larger social context provided both the motivation for change and the possible range of alternatives that could be implemented. In Hamilton, the twentieth century was a period of considerable population growth. At the same time, the city was being transformed by the automobile, a revolution that redefined urban space, patterns of social interaction and the mobility of citizens. Over the course of the century, there was a substantial shift in the distribution of criminal offences. It is within this context that significant changes to policing occurred. The police responded to the changing times by changing themselves. The growth of the Department paralleled that of the city. The police adopted cars and motorcycles for patrols to cope with traffic problems and to provide a quick response to citizens in need. The Department was completely reorganized and became more professional. At the same time, the costs of policing were rising. Police chiefs continually struggled to find ways to cope with rising wages and declining work weeks. Citizens would be hired, technology employed, patrol strategies changed to cope with declining productivity. The findings of my research suggest that changes to the Hamilton Police can be understood in terms of diffusion theory. The larger social milieu provided not only the motivation for change: it limited the range of possible solutions at any given point in time. I argue that changes to the Police Department were a direct result of their ability to adopt innovations. Ultimately, to understand the police we must view them as social and historical products.

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