James J. Willis

James J. Willis

James J. Willis



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

Since elected Chair in 2019, I have focused on increasing graduate student support, strengthening the department's infrastructure, fostering a welcoming and productive work environment, and helping to raise the department's national and international profile. My next goals include strengthening alumni relations and continuing to find ways to help and advance our CLS undergraduate students.

My scholarly interests include police organizations and organizational reform, police discretion, police technology, and penal history. My current projects include an examination of prosecutors' views on body-worn cameras, and of police officers' perceptions of the contributions that craft and science make to the decisions they make on the street (both with Marthinus Koen, PI, SUNY-Oswego).

Along with my co-authors, in 2008 I 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, I was the recipient of a George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award. 

Current Research

2021 - present. Co-principal investigator. An examination of the use of BWCs in a district attorney's office during a time of COVID and new discovery laws (Marthinus Koen, SUNY-Oswego, Principal Investigator)

2018 - 2020. Principal investigator. Body-Worn Cameras, Organizational Change, and Police Decision-Making: A Case Study. Center for Justice Leadership and Management, George Mason University.

2014 – 2018. 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.  Faculty researcher (Christopher Koper and Cynthia Lum, P.I.s).  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

Willis, James J. and Heather Toronjo (2023). Using the Police Craft to Improve Patrol Officer Decision-Making. Elements in Criminology Monograph. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://www.cambridge.org/core/elements/using-the-police-craft-to-improve-patrol-officer-decisionmaking/06E6B38FFDE42A3D4BBB355315393FEE 

Willis, James J. and Heather Toronjo (2023). “A Way Ahead: Re-Envisioning the Relationship Between Evidence-Based Policing and the Police Craft.” In The Future of Evidence-Based Policing, edited by David Weisburd, Tal Jonathan-Zamir, Badi Hasisi, and Gali Perry (pp. 64-82). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Willis, James J. and Heather Toronjo (2022). “Exploring a Craft Learning Model for Reviewing Patrol Officer Decision-Making in Encounters with the Public.” Law and Social Inquiry.

Willis, James J. (2022). "Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast": An In-Depth Examination of Police Officer Perceptions of Body-Worn Camera Implementation and Their Relationship to Policy, Supervision, and Training." Criminology and Public Policy: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1745-9133.12591

Willis, James J., Christopher S. Koper, and Cynthia Lum (2022). “An Assessment of Police Technology and the ‘Iron Cage’ of the Abstract Police in the United States.” In The Abstract Police: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Change in Police Organisations, edited by Jan Terpstra, Renze Salet, and Nick Fyfe, 151-167. The Hague: Eleven.

Willis, James J. and Heather Toronjo. (2019). “Translating Police Research into Policy: Some Implications of the National Academies Report on Proactive Policing for Policymakers and Researchers.” Police Practice and Research: An International Journal.

Koen, C. Marthinus, James J. Willis, and Stephen. D. Mastrofski (2018). "The Effects of Body-Worn Cameras on Police Organisation and Practice: A Theory-Based Analysis." Policing: An International Journal of Research and Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2018.1467907

Willis, James J., Christopher Koper, and Cynthia Lum. (2017). “The Adaptation of License Plate Readers for Investigative Purposes: Police Technology and Innovation Re-Invention.” Justice Quarterly http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2017.1329936

Willis, James J. and Stephen D. Mastrofski (2017). “Understanding the Culture of Craft: Lessons from Two Police Agencies.” Journal of Crime and Justice 40: 84-100.

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 491/492 Administration of Justice Honors Seminar

CRIM 700 Values, Ethics, and Criminal Justice Policy

CRIM 720 Law and Social Science

CRIM 740 Justice Organizations

CRIM 523/723 Law and Social Control 


Ph.D. Sociology, Yale University (2000)

B.A. with Honors (summa cum laude), Administration of Justice, The Pennsylvania State University (1991)

Dissertations Supervised

Teneshia Thurman, Exploring the Relationship Between Human Trafficking and Prostitution Through an Analysis of State Statutes and Human Trafficking Initiatives (2023)

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

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