Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Michael J. Fortner


This thesis explores the interplay between the Chicago community and bureaucratic police officers, and the role that each party plays in the implementation of contemporary police reform. In the first section, I review Skogan’s extensive research on the history of community-based policing in Chicago, with a specific analysis on the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) to better understand reasons why—even sound reform policy--collapses. I identify two prospective diagnoses for the failure of CAPS as it relates to the willingness of Chicago residents and the greater bureaucratic police community to each buy into structural transformation. First, public opinion on community policing and police officers reveals that community buy-in will exist as long as individuals can benefit from participating in reform. However, the limited capacity to police officer’s problem-solving abilities disengages community members from participating in community policing. Second, a discourse analysis on the bureaucratic police community reveals the presence of a systematic culture within the Chicago Police Department that resists structural change essential to effective community-police partnerships in crime-prevention. Nonetheless, I judge that ultimately, police officers will buy into reform as long as department leaders do not express hesitancy towards the fundamental premises of the reform at hand.

The heart of this thesis will apply the two diagnoses posited as a framework to understand reasons for the current stagnation of the consent decree. The first chapter analyzes public opinion to measure community buy-in, assessing perception of police-civilian relationships and whether community-members can benefit from the provisions of the consent decree. Comparing current public opinion to that seen throughout CAPS, I argue that communities are willing to repair the mend between police and community, and believe that police are essential to mitigating gun violence and strengthening collective efficacy. Thus, there exists a sense of willingness from the community to buy-in.

In the second chapter, I conduct a discourse analysis on the bureaucratic police community to measure department buy-in to police reform, reviewing current police officers’ perceptions of CPD culture, and the recent leadership turnover of key department figures overseeing the consent decree. I find compelling evidence that suggests a department culture that is resistant to structural change, and remains unwilling to commit to community-based policing measures. I also identify a significant disconnect between department leadership on whether the department should prioritize reform implementation or mitigating recent spikes in crime across the city. I conclude that the culture of the CPD, and strong aversion to nontraditional roles of police officers, is incompatible with the responsibilities necessary for sustainable community-based police reform.

Ultimately, the fate of the consent decree relies on the willingness of the bureaucratic police community to shift rhetoric surrounding the reform and mobilize the public to participate in police-community partnerships. While needing community buy-in remains essential for short term reform, the sustainability of the consent decree is predicated on the CPD’s reversal of authority structures inherent to traditional policing of the Chicago Police Department.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.