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Police Response to Intimate Partner Violence and Victim Willingness to Report: Representative Bureaucracy through an Intersectional Lens Open Access

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Previous research applying representative bureaucracy as a theoretical framework has emphasized the link between passive and active representation to identify how or when non-dominant groups, Blacks or women, actively engage in actions or behaviors that benefit the Black or women citizens they represent. The purpose of this dissertation is to expand representative bureaucracy theory beyond these common interpretations of the concept and, specifically, beyond reductionist approaches that aggregate citizens into simple social categories. To do so, this dissertation applies intersectionality as an analytic tool to explore whether women’s representation within local law enforcement agencies influences police response to an exemplary “women’s issue”, intimate partner violence (IPV), and victim willingness to report it. Explicit attention is given to Black and Latinx women victims whose experiences are often overlooked in the literature. Exploiting a panel dataset constructed using national surveys and reports of local law enforcement agencies, this dissertation finds that women’s representation within the police correlates with lower reporting rates for IPV among women as a group but only for incidents involving sexual violence. The presence of more women police is also associated with lower arrest rates for IPV but only for incidents involving white women victims or Black women who experience the most severe forms of IPV. These counterintuitive findings make evident the need for future research to apply an intersectional lens in order to understand the implications of and victim preferences regarding IPV reporting and arrests. More broadly, this dissertation suggests that the anticipated benefits of a more representative bureaucracy may not occur as expected and, more importantly, may be influenced by the race and gender of the people the bureaucracy serves. Future research applying representative bureaucracy as the theoretical framework should take a more critical approach in order to better account for the unique experiences and challenges faced by multiply marginalized groups.

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