The limit of oversight in policing: Evidence from the 2001 Cincinnati riot
Oversight in policing involves investigating officers for complaints against them and punishing them if found guilty. Officers commit errors in policing and, since reducing the error rate is costly, they cut down policing to avoid complaints. This paper tests the hypothesis that oversight reduces policing by exploiting a quasi-experiment: In April 2001, a riot erupted in Cincinnati after a white officer shot dead an unarmed African-American adolescent; the sharply increased media attention, a Justice Department investigation, together with a "racial profiling" lawsuit, exogenously raised the expected penalty of an officer's errors. Compared with the period from January 1999 to March 2001, arrests during the remaining months of 2001 fell substantially. The decline was more significant for offenses where the error rate was higher. Communities with a greater percentage of African-Americans experienced greater arrest reductions. Felony crime surged during the same period.
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