The Center for Law & Human Behavior

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO

Expertise

 

 

 

 

Faculty and researchers affiliated with the Center for Law and Human Behavior have expertise in a wide array of social, behavioral, legal, and criminal justice-related research areas.   We invite you to explore the pages below to learn more about how the Center can provide research and analysis that helps inform basic science, agency decision-making, resource allocation, and policy formulation at the local, state, and national levels.   

 

Police Use of Force

When police in a democracy use force against a free citizenry, concerns over police abuse arise, criminal or civil litigation often ensues, and public legitimacy is threatened.  Since the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the use of force by police has come under new scrutiny, and a national protest movement – Black Lives Matter – has emerged.  In 2015, policing in the United States finds itself at a crossroads with citizens and government officials calling for improvements in police training, accountability, and use of force data collection.  The lack of a reliable, national database on police killings of civilians has been laid bare by high profile police shootings in Ferguson, North Charleston, South Carolina, and Arlington, Texas among others. 

Researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso are at the forefront of research on police use of force.  Dr. Michael R. Smith, director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior, led one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive studies of the use of force by police.  Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project examined the impact of Tasers on injuries to citizens and officers involved in use of force events.  Dr. Smith and other researchers on the project conducted a multi-method evaluation of police use of force and injury outcomes that included a national survey of U.S. law enforcement agencies, a multi-level analysis of thousands of use of force records from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, a longitudinal analysis of the effect on injury rates of the adoption of the Taser by two large police agencies, and a series of in-depth interviews with officers and citizens involved in use of force events.  The results from this study were published in some of leading journals in the fields of criminology, criminal justice, and public health and helped inform the nation’s understanding of how violent encounters between police and citizens unfold and the steps law enforcement agencies can take to minimize injuries to all persons, police officers and citizens alike.  

As a socio-legal scholar, Dr. Smith has also written extensively on a variety of legal and policy-related issues involving the use force and other critical issues at the crossroads of policing, law, and public policy.   He and other UTEP researchers affiliated with the Center for Law and Human Behavior have expertise in use of force data collection, statistical analysis, evaluation and research design, legal analysis, and policy development.  They work extensively with law enforcement agencies to improve data collection and public accountability, officer decision-making, and managerial oversight. 

 

Contact: 

Dr. Michael R. Smith, Director

Center for Law and Human Behavior

 


 

Border Security

A fundamental responsibility of government is the securing of its borders that protect citizens, institutions, and critical infrastructure from external threats. Each border security scenario is unique; differing geography, threat spectrums, resource levels, and cultural contexts necessitate intelligent deployment and training of personnel, utilization of technology, and adherence to tailored concepts of operations. Our border security team understands the latest manpower, technology, and infrastructure needs of border security organizations in the United States and around the world. By working directly with border security authorities, as well as private sector providers, the Center for Law and Human Behavior helps make borders around the world more secure.

Researchers at University of Texas at El Paso provide dynamic support to those agencies within the homeland security enterprise in meeting their border security and immigration (BSI) related research, education and science and technology needs. The Center provides full, dynamic support to those agencies and individuals who are charged with the implementation of immigration policy, the interdiction of transnational threats and those who maintain the integrity of the nation’s borders and immigration infrastructure. The Center also advances the understanding and analysis of national immigration and border security policies and their societal impacts. Victor M. Manjarrez, Jr., project director at UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior, is an authority on border management and homeland security matters with more than 20 years of field and headquarters experience in the United States Border Patrol. Many of his innovative border security methods and ideas are the basic cornerstones for the U.S. Border Patrol and are still being utilized today. Throughout Chief Manjarrez’ career in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), he was been tasked with some of the most arduous jobs that the U.S. Border Patrol had to offer because of his skills in developing complex, efficient, and comprehensive border security programs. 

Due to Chief Manjarrez’ subject matter expertise in developing complex and innovative homeland security practices, he was consistently recognized as one of DHS’ most dynamic and innovative operational leaders.  Most recently in government, Mr. Manjarrez served as the Chief Patrol Agent of Tucson Sector for the U.S. Border Patrol. Previously, he held positions as Chief Patrol Agent in the El Paso Sector and Acting Director of Counternarcotics Enforcement for the Department of Homeland security where he was the primary policy advisor to the Secretary for Department-wide counternarcotics issues.

Contact:

Victor M. Manjarrez, Jr.

Center for Law and Human Behavior

 


 

Traffic Stops and Racial Bias

Racial bias in traffic stops has emerged over the past fifteen years as an important policy issue confronting law enforcement agencies in the United States.  Widely publicized lawsuits claiming racial bias in traffic stops have stimulated public and political opposition to such practices.  Public opinion surveys reveal strong disapproval of racial profiling by the police, particularly among African-Americans. These public perceptions and attitudes not only raise potential constitutional issues of illegal search and seizure and Equal Protection in police traffic stop behavior  but also foster public doubt about the legitimacy of law enforcement agencies. These legal, social and political dynamics have subsequently prompted a number of state and local law enforcement agencies to engage in voluntary or involuntary data collection and analysis efforts capturing their traffic stop activity and related practices for the purpose of examining racial bias.

Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso have been leading figures in the examination of law enforcement traffic stops and evaluation of racial bias. Dr. Jeff Rojek, associate director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior, is a nationally-recognized expert on this issue and has conducted the analysis for the Missouri Attorney General’s annual Vehicle Stops Report since 2001. This annual report was created from the first state legislative act in the United States to require the reporting of traffic stops to provide transparency on the distribution of racial characteristics of drivers stopped and related actions. Dr. Rojek has spoken to various police and academic forums on the analysis and interpretation of traffic stop data for examining racial bias, and has published research on this issue in the leading policing and criminological academic journals.   Dr. Michael Smith, director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior, is also a nationally-recognized expert on racial profiling and led or contributed to large-scale traffic stop data analysis efforts in Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, Florida, Richmond, Virginia, and with state highway patrol agencies in Washington and Arizona.  He served as a statistical and methodological consultant to the Special Litigation Section of the United States Department of Justice and pioneered methodologies to help inform courts, communities and law enforcement agencies about disparities in police traffic stop practices.    

Dr. Rojek and Dr. Smith have extensive experience in the study of law enforcement activity. Both of them have received multiple federal grants from the United States Department of Justice to examine the practices of law enforcement agencies and have also worked with numerous state and local law enforcement agencies on issues related to racial bias, use of force, officer misconduct, arrest practices, intelligence-led policing and responses to communities problems.  They have expertise in research design, data collection, and statistical analysis to assist the law enforcement community and other criminal justice agencies in the issues they confront, as well as provide independent review.

Contacts:

Dr. Jeff Rojek, Associate Director

Center for Law and Human Behavior

Dr. Michael R. Smith, Director

Center for Law and Human Behavior


 

Offenders with Mental Illness

The prevalence of mental illness in corrections populations is 2 to 3 times that of the general population. Offenders with mental illness typically fare poorly in the criminal justice system and agencies struggle with meeting the complex needs of this group. A number of interventions have emerged in recent years to meet the needs of these offenders, such as mental health courts and specialized probation caseloads.

Researchers in the Center for Law and Human Behavior have extensive expertise studying the needs of offenders with mental illness and examining the criminal justice system’s response to these offenders. Dr. Jennifer Eno Louden has led or collaborated on numerous large-scale studies of this group. For example, she has coded focus groups of probation officers and offenders to gauge their perceptions of probation and mandated treatment. She collaborated on a matched controlled trial of specialty probation caseloads funded by the MacArthur Network on Mandated treatment. This multisite study examined the comparative outcomes of offenders with mental illness supervised by specialty mental health caseloads versus probation as usual. She also collaborated on a comparison of the risk factors for re-offense among parolees with and without mental illness. In addition, she has conducted experimental research to examine how probation officers make decisions for this group of offenders.

Dr. Eno Louden also has expertise in mental health assessment in correctional populations. She has directly examined the accuracy of mental health screening tools among adult and juvenile offenders. In particular, she has expertise in the assessment of mental illness among Latino offenders. She has experience in research design, data collection in community settings, and analysis. She welcomes opportunities to collaborate with corrections agencies on issues related to offenders with mental illness.

Contact:

Dr. Jennifer Eno Louden, Associate Professor

Department of Psychology


 

Judicial Decision-Making in the United States

While courts may seek to perpetuate the myth that they merely implement the law rather than make policy, judicial decision-making has empirically demonstrated itself to be synonymous with policy-making, though channeled through legal interpretation and precedent, in addition to being influenced by a variety of extra-legal factors. For example, Bush v. Gore (2000) highlighted the political ideologies of U.S. Supreme Court members in determining the presidential election. Recent cases such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) continue to reveal the role of ideology in the American judiciary. Still, extra-legal influences—and even strategic behavior—are systematically observed across state courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court.

Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso are at the forefront of political science and legal scholarship addressing the institutional, political, and legal factors that determine judicial behavior across a variety of state and federal courts in the United States. Dr. Curry and Dr. Reid have written extensively addressing the influence of judicial methods of selection, statutory language, war and war-related casualties, judge backgrounds, gender, and ideology on judicial decision-making. Ongoing research examines judicial communication strategies in order to influence and respond to constituencies and policy makers, the effect of attorney experience on judicial outcomes, and the role of government litigators in shaping judicial outcomes.

Dr. Curry and Dr. Reid have expertise in data automation, data collection and management, research design, advanced statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, legal analysis, and formal theory.

Contact:

Dr. Todd Curry

Center for Law and Human Behavior 

Dr. Rebecca Reid

Center for Law and Human Behavior

 


 

International Law and Transnational Courts

With the recent expansion of international law and the creation of regional and international judicial bodies, scholarship increasingly seeks to evaluate the impact of international law and supra-national courts on state behavior and domestic legal systems. The establishment of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court appear to emphasize global trends in judicialization and widespread international norms of accountability, individual rights, and justice. Similarly, the creation of regional human rights courts such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights, appear to further entrench these norms transnationally. However, these institutions are plagued with accounts of ineffectiveness (and bias), limiting the perceived roles of these courts both in terms of their ability to influence state behavior and determine domestic legal policies. As such, these courts face severe criticisms in their apparent inability to curb state rights violations, tendency to produce strategic decisions so as to avoid conflict with powerful states, and perceived irrelevance through the ease with which states can completely ignore court judgments.

Dr. Rebecca Reid at the University of Texas at El Paso examines the roles of these supra-national courts on domestic legal policy. She finds, for example, that Latin American countries typically do comply with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in that this regional court successfully induces domestic legal reform that incorporates international human rights laws. This research thus reevaluates contemporary understandings of the influence of international law and supra-national courts on domestic legal systems. Dr. Reid furthermore has expertise in data collection and management, research design, advanced statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, legal analysis, and formal theory.

Contact:

Dr. Rebecca Reid

Center for Law and Human Behavior

 


 

The Rule of Law and Comparative Courts

Beyond maintaining social order and conflict resolution, courts around the world play important roles in the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law. They influence economic development and aid in processes of democratization and consolidation. Indeed, judicial reforms initiated by the United States and international organizations—and often required with foreign aid—imply the importance of courts in regime stability, the rule of law, democratization, transitional justice, economic development, and rights protections. Despite this implication, however, extremely limited knowledge exists on how foreign courts function, make decisions, and systematically influence these goals or outcomes. Furthermore, virtually no scholarship empirically identifies how legal norms diffuse or spread transnationally.

Dr. Rebecca Reid at the University of Texas at El Paso is at the forefront of comparative judicial scholarship, analyzing the role of foreign courts in broader political processes and judicial decision-making. Focusing primarily on common law and civil law systems, she addresses judicial identity and institutional influences on decision-making as well as empirically traces the movement of legal norms across these legal systems. In Canada, for example, Dr. Reid examines the role of gender in judicial decision-making and compares it to observed trends in the United States. She also examines the roles of international organizations and civil society on court protections of rights in common law states such as the United States, Canada, India, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa. Other work focuses on the establishment of judicial independence across political regimes and how judicial insulation produces divergent effects across different types of rights protections and across regimes. She currently examines domestic legal reform and high court behavior in Latin America, particularly Mexico, which includes several data collection projects. Dr. Reid has expertise in data collection and management, research design, advanced statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, legal analysis, and formal theory.

Contact:

Dr. Rebecca Reid

Center for Law and Human Behavior

 


 

Regional/Transnational Organizations and Domestic Rule of Law and Regulations

The post-World War II era has witnessed a dramatic increase of regional integration organizations (RIOs) with implications on commerce, migration, security, development, and domestic policies. RIOs not only bind member countries together economically, they also strongly influence the strength of democratization, political stability, and the homogenization of domestic laws and regulations. RIOs justify requiring members to adhere to basic principles and specific regulations in order to improve efficiency and safety as well as maintain transnational economic competition. Cases that exemplify strong influence on domestic institutions, laws, and regulations, include the European Union, while weak, yet significant, cases include the North American Free Trade Agreement. We are at the start of understanding and effectively explaining the patterns of success and failures, at the micro and macro levels, of RIOs in enforcing supranational standards, regulations, and the rule of law.

Dr. Genna has pioneered the study of comparative regional integration by analyzing RIO development and their impact on member countries. His analyses include all existing RIOs, which are represented in each continent, with extensive expertise on the European Union, North American Free Trade Agreement, Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Economic Community of West African States. His publications examine across various levels of analysis (RIO, member countries, and individuals’ attitudes and opinions) in order to explain why countries would pool sovereignty over laws and regulations, allow supranational jurisdiction over their domestic affairs, and become answerable to supranational courts and commissions. He also explains why enforcement of regulations and membership requirements are uneven among countries within a RIO.

Contact:

Gaspare M. Genna

Center for Law and Human Behavior