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The limit of oversight in policing: Evidence from the 2001 Cincinnati riot

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  • Shi, Lan

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Shi, Lan, 2009. "The limit of oversight in policing: Evidence from the 2001 Cincinnati riot," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 99-113, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:1-2:p:99-113
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul Heaton, 2010. "Understanding the Effects of Antiprofiling Policies," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 29-64, February.
    2. Lupia, Arthur & McCubbins, Mathew D, 1994. "Learning from Oversight: Fire Alarms and Police Patrols Reconstructed," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 96-125, April.
    3. Avinash Dixit, 2002. "# Incentives and Organizations in the Public Sector: An Interpretative Review," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 696-727.
    4. Hopenhayn, Hugo & Lohmann, Susanne, 1996. "Fire-Alarm Signals and the Political Oversight of Regulatory Agencies," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 196-213, April.
    5. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-290, June.
    6. Donohue, John J, III & Levitt, Steven D, 2001. "The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 367-394, October.
    7. Bawn, Kathleen, 1997. "Choosing Strategies to Control the Bureaucracy: Statutory Constraints, Oversight, and the Committee System," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 101-126, April.
    8. Justin McCrary, 2002. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1236-1243, September.
    9. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2004. "Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces After a Terrorist Attack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 115-133, March.
    10. Canice Prendergast, 2001. "Selection and Oversight in the Public Sector, With the Los Angeles Police Department as an Example," NBER Working Papers 8664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven N. Durlauf & Daniel S. Nagin, 2010. "The Deterrent Effect of Imprisonment," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 43-94 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:jcjust:v:50:y:2017:i:c:p:42-52 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Paul Heaton, 2010. "Understanding the Effects of Antiprofiling Policies," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 29-64, February.

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