Threats to Blue Networks: The Effect of Partner Injuries on Police Misconduct

Linda Zhao*, Andrew V. Papachristos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Police culture creates an “us versus them” dynamic, which, at its worst, treats threats to the “thin blue line” as worthy of group response. Prior research documents such a group threat process as a possible mechanism for police misconduct, but few studies have analyzed the precise network relationships that serve as the conduit for a misconduct response. Using data on misconduct, officer injuries, and officer networks within the Chicago Police Department (CPD) between 2004 and 2015, this study examines the extent to which injuries officers receive from civilians might elicit a misconduct response from officers’ peers, and especially their direct network associates. Findings demonstrate that network ties to injured officers predict higher levels of subsequent misconduct, especially for officers with stronger ties to the injured officer. Furthermore, the effects of peer injury on subsequent misconduct are contingent on the race of the suspect involved: officers whose peers are injured are linked to more use of excessive force, as well as other types of misconduct, when the suspects involved are Black. These findings support our central hypothesis of a networked group threat response that links peer injuries to police misconduct.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-195
Number of pages37
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • excessive force
  • group threat
  • networks
  • police misconduct
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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