Softer Policing or the Institutionalization of Protest? Decomposing Changes in Observed Protest Policing over Time

Thomas Elliott, Jennifer Earl, Thomas V. Maher, Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Protest policing is central to research on social movement repression and of great practical importance. Here, we examine competing explanations for observed changes in the likelihood that police will attend any given protest event and make arrests, use violence, or both in New York State from 1960 to 1995. While many researchers point to changes within law enforcement as the primary cause for “softer policing” over this period, we show, using a modified Kitagawa-Oaxaca-Blinder (KOB) decomposition, that the institutionalization of the protest sector was more responsible for changes over time in observed protest policing. This implies that too much credit has been given in the literature to law enforcement for softening responses to protest and that too little investigation has been undertaken of the softening of protest itself. Furthermore, our expansion of KOB decomposition has broad potential utility for researchers interested in understanding the confluence of social forces driving behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1365
Number of pages55
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Volume127
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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