College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

James Willis

James Willis

James Willis

Associate Professor

Police organizations, police reform, police decision making, police technology, punishment in an historical context

Professor Willis is a qualitative researcher whose interests include police organizational reform, police discretion, police technology, and penal history.  With colleagues, his current projects include an examination of the effects of different technologies on police organizations, an assessment of the quality of police decision-making at the street-level, and an exploration of the uses of license-plate readers.  Along with his co-authors, in 2008 he was awarded the Law and Society Association’s article prize for research that used different theoretical perspectives to explain Compstat’s implementation in three police departments.  In 2011, he was the recipient of a George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award.

Current Research

2014 – present. Co-principal investigator (Christopher Koper and Cynthia Lum, P.I.s) Evaluating the Crime Control and Cost-Benefit Effectiveness of License Plate Recognition (LPR) Technology in Patrol and Investigations. National Institute of Justice.

2011-2014.  Co-principal investigator (Chris Koper, P.I., and Cynthia Lum, co-P.I.).  Realizing the Potential of Technology for Policing: A Multi-Site Study of the Social, Organizational, and Behavioral Aspects of Implementing Policing Technologies. National Institute of Justice.

2010-2014.  Co-Principal Investigator (Stephen Mastrofski, P.I.).  Measuring the Craft of Law Enforcement:  What Is Good Policing?  Center for Justice Leadership and Management, George Mason University.

Selected Publications

Lum, Cynthia, Christopher Koper, and James J. Willis. (2016). “Understanding the Limits of Technology’s Impacts on Policing.” Police Quarterly  

Willis, James J. (2016). "The Romance of Police Pracademics" (Invited commentary). Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice.

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski (2016). “Understanding the Culture of Craft: Lessons from Two Police Agencies.” Journal of Crime and Justice.

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski (2016) “Improving Policing By Integrating Craft and Science: What Can Patrol Officers Teach Us about Good Police Work?” Policing and Society.

Mastrofski, Stephen D., Tal Jonathan, Shomron Moyal, and James J. Willis (2016) "Predicting Procedural Justice in Police-Citizen Encounters." 43 Criminal Justice and Behavior: 119-39.

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski (2014) "Pulling Together: Integrating Craft and Science" 8 Policing:  A Journal of Policy and Practice: 321-9.

Koper, Christopher, Cynthia Lum, and James J. Willis (2014) “Optimizing the Use of Technology in Policing: Results and Implications from a Multi-Site Study of the Social, Organizational, and Behavioral Aspects of Implementing Police Technologies."  8 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice: 212-21.

Willis, James J. (2014). "A Recent History of the Police." The Oxford Handbook on Police and Policing (Michael Reisig and Robert Kane, Eds.). Pp. 3-33. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Willis, James. J. (2013) Improving Police: What’s Craft Got to Do with It?  Ideas in American Policing.  Police Foundation: Washington, DC:

Willis, James J. (2012) “Bridging the Normative Gap in Criminal Justice Curricula: Teaching Theories of Justice.” 23 Journal of Criminal Justice Education: 81-102.

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski. (2012) “Compstat and the New Penology: A Paradigm Shift in Policing?” 52 British Journal of Criminology: 73-92.

Willis, James J. (2011) “First-Line Supervision and Strategic Decision Making Under Compstat and Community Policing.” Criminal Justice Policy Review: 1-22. doi: 10.1177/0887403411427355.

Willis, James J. (2011) “Enhancing Police Legitimacy by Integrating Compstat and Community Policing.” 34 Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management: 654-673.

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski. (2011) “Innovations in Policing: Meanings, Structures, and Processes.” 7 Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences: 309-334.

Willis, James J., S.D. Mastrofski, and T.R. Kochel. (2010) “The Co-implementation of Compstat and Community Policing.” 38 Journal of Criminal Justice: 969-980. 

Courses Taught

CRIM 100 Introduction to Criminal Justice

CRIM 220 Introduction to Law and Society

CRIM 402 Punishment and Corrections

CRIM 407 Advanced Topics in Law and Society

CRIM 491/192 Administration of Justice Honors Seminar

CRIM 700 Theories of Justice

CRIM 723 Law and Social Control 

Dissertations Supervised

Holly Stevens, Rules, Laws and Conceptions of Justice in Middle School: An Exploratory Study of Children's Legal Consciousness (2013)

Marthinus C. Koen, On-Set with Body-Worn Cameras in a Police Organization: Structures, Practices, and Technological Frames (2016)