Bridging the Gap Between Police and Prosecutors

Brenda Rowe
Brenda Rowe
At 40 years old, Brenda Inman Rowe already has been a prosecutor, defense attorney, legislative analysis coordinator, victim advocate, editor, and economist. Now she wants to add researcher and professor to her long list of careers.

Rowe is pursuing her Ph.D. degree at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice. Through her research, she hopes to bridge the gap between police and prosecutors in the criminal justice system.

The limited research on police-prosecutor relations, consisting of dated studies which do not employ samples representative of local jurisdictions of varying sizes plus relatively few recent studies which touch on police-prosecutor relations only in passing, shows a lack of tight connection and tension between police and prosecutors.

“My dissertation research describes police chiefs’ perceptions of current police-prosecutor interaction styles in Texas and explores the relationship of those interaction styles to agency and jurisdiction characteristics,” said Rowe. “This research covers various aspects of police-prosecutor interaction styles including communication methods and frequency, level and frequency of police input into prosecutors’ case decisions, frequency of prosecutorial involvement in police training, proportion of cases for which prosecutors provide feedback to police, and conditions perceived as effective in facilitating improved police-prosecutor relationships such as the use of liaisons and round-the-clock access to prosecutorial advice.”

Court scene with judge, police, prosecutor and defense attorneyIn addition to taking a fresh look at the relationships in Texas, she hopes to identify practices police chiefs view as fostering a better working relationship between the two professions, thus laying the ground work for future research on best practices for improving police-prosecutor relationships.

Dr. Larry Hoover, who is chairing the dissertation, noted “This research is particularly challenging because Brenda must concurrently garner forthright responses while protecting the politically sensitive relationship between police chiefs and prosecutors.”

Her research may lead to training programs at the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University, which provides management and leadership programs for law enforcement officers in the state and has generously provided funding and support for Rowe’s research.

“Brenda's work with prosecutors and police officers is certainly warranted,” said Dr. Michael Vaughn, Director of the doctoral program at the College of Criminal Justice. “The interaction between police and prosecutors is one of the most important relationships in the criminal justice system, and we know surprisingly little about these dynamics. Working through the Law Enforcement Management Institute is a unique way to break down any barriers and produce a high quality dissertation.”

Rowe began her career at the University of North Texas, where she graduated magna cum laude with a dual degree in political science and economics. She also received the Jack Johnson Memorial Award for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Economics Department and the Gannt Award for the Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Political Science Department. She did an internship at the Dallas County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), where she monitored courts’ sentencing practices, trained volunteers, escorted victims to trial, assisted with Victim Impact Panels and represented MADD at meetings of the Dallas non-profit community.

Logo for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.“It gave me an insight into the victim experience in the criminal justice system and strengthened my desire to work in criminal justice,” Rowe said. “It also gave me a chance to see what goes on in the courtroom.”

Before attending law school at the University of Texas School of Law, Rowe did a short stint as an economist with the Fort Worth District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where she constructed statistical models to predict flood damage, conducted life-cycle cost analyses and formulated community relations plans for environmental projects.

In law school, Rowe focused on courses in criminal law and procedures and trial advocacy skills. She took many opportunities to practice her craft at the school’s criminal defense clinic, the Travis County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and the Williamson County Attorney’s Office. She defended indigent clients under an attorney’s supervision and helped prepare prosecutor’s cases for court. She also served on the editorial board of the American Journal of Criminal Law. “It gave me insight into both sides of the criminal court,” said Rowe.

Picture of a courthouse.Following her graduation from law school, Rowe was hired as an assistant district attorney with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, where she was assigned to criminal cases. She began with an assignment to the Misdemeanor Unit, where she prosecuted various misdemeanor cases including many DWI cases, and was later assigned to the Family Violence Unit, where she prosectured challenging cases involving violence between family members. During her career in Tarrant County, she tried 23 jury trialS and negotiated more than 100 cases per month to final disposition. She also was a criminal defense attorney in a private practice in Williamson County for a short period of time.

“It was a large number of cases under tight deadlines,” said Rowe. “You were always preparing to go to trial…Tarrant County gave me a look at the day-to-day workings of the criminal courts. I got to interact with police, witnesses, and victims. I got to interact with a wide variety of people.”

After moving to Round Rock, Rowe took a job as a coordinator in the then-House Bill Analysis Office in the Texas House of Representatives. Her office was responsible for providing legislators with an analysis of proposed bills and Rowe was responsible for assigning workload and for ensuring that staff members met deadlines for committee hearingS. She oversaw production of bill analyses for half of the committees in the Texas House.

“It gave me a glimpse into the legislative process,” Rowe said.

Picture of several law books.Rowe also worked for LexisNexis, a company providing computer assisted legal research. She was a case law editor and provided summaries of civil and criminal case law from appellate division in the United States for subscribers. She also served as co-chair of the Criminal Law Committee of Practice Area Examples Project, where she helped to create criminal case law summary examples for training.

“It gave me a chance to get experience with publishing and to work with deadlines,” Rowe said.

After the birth of her first child, she served as an adjunct faculty member at Texas State University, where she taught forensic evidence. It was there she got bit by the teaching bug. She decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree from Sam Houston State University to start her academic career.

“It certainly is giving me the research skills I need to move into academia and the skills to be an effective teacher,” Rowe said. “It has broadened my education beyond the law, to more of the sociological and administrative aspects of criminal justice. It has taught me social science research and methodology.”

Brenda Rowe with her twin daughters.
Brenda Rowe with her twin daughters.
At SHSU, Rowe received two Excellence in Writing Awards from the Across the University Writing Program. Remarkably, she has managed to pursue a Ph.D. and conduct her research while caring for her three daughters, a nine year old and twin three year olds.

Rowe acknowledged the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas’ funding and support as instrumental in helping her to accomplish her dissertation research. Following graduation, Rowe will be looking for an academic job which is a good fit for her research agenda.

“I want to work in academia and to continue the research I am doing now,” said Rowe. “There really is a need for this research.”

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