By conceptualizing street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) as the ultimate policy makers, Michael Lipsky (1980) focused attention on the interaction between citizens and the state at the organizational front lines. In subsequent years, research on SLBs provided significant insight into the interactions of SLBs and citizens. In particular, scholarship has focused on the inherently autonomous nature of street-level work and the discretion these agents of the state possess. Work in this area has traditionally relied on teachers, social workers, and police officers as sources for empirical study of how formal and informal social structures influence the use of discretion by SLBs. Recent scholarship, and coverage of New York City's stop and frisk policy, has renewed interest in the role that SLBs play in constructing justice for the citizens they encounter. In this review, we consider the street-level-bureaucracy scholarship and articulate how insights from this literature inform our current understanding of investigatory police stops, such as those stemming from the stop and frisk policy in place in New York.


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