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George L. Kelling

American criminologist George L. Kelling worked closely with James Q. Wilson as the Director of Research for the Police Foundation from 1971 to 1980.[1] Kelling fondly remembers Wilson as one of his most influential supporters throughout his career as a leading criminologist on policing.[2]  As a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University, Kelling’s popularity among academics and policy practitioners originated from his work as the Director of the Police Foundation Evaluation Staff. His experimental research on the Kansas City and Newark Police Departments in the 1970s and 1980s sparked conversations about proper policing procedures among policymakers and police administrators. Specifically, Kelling’s findings indicated that current police patrol methods failed to address two major political challenges of the era: reducing crime rates and decreasing widespread fears of crime. As debates over police reform ensued, James Wilson capitalized on newfound opportunities to propagate controversial theories of criminality, race, and social disorder in the national political arena. Ultimately, Kelling’s research insights coupled with the increased attention on police foot patrols and the threat of community disturbances in the late 1960s and early 1970s paved the way for the emergence of the most transformative theory on policing in the post Civil Rights era—broken windows theory.


[1] Kelling discusses in detail how he first met Wilson. Kelling stated, “Jim and I had known each other for about a decade, over the years developing a friendly professional relationship. We met when he was a board member of the Police Foundation.” For more information, see: Kelling, George L. "Recollections of James Q. Wilson." Subject to Debate: A Newsletter of the Police Executive Research Forum 26 (March 2012): 1-8.

[2] Kelling, George L. Recollections of James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows. MS. 2012. Accessed December 5, 2016. http://contemporarythinkers.org/jq-wilson/files/2013/05/Kelling-on-Wilson.pdf. 

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