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Punitive Police? Agency Costs, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Procedure

Author

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  • Dhammika Dharmapala
  • Nuno Garoupa
  • Richard H. McAdams

Abstract

Criminal law enforcement depends on the actions of public agents such as police officers, but the resulting agency problems have been neglected in the law and economics literature (especially outside the specific context of corruption). We develop an agency model of police behavior that emphasizes intrinsic motivation and self-selection. Drawing on experimental evidence on punishment preferences, in which subjects reveal a heterogeneous preference for punishing wrongdoers, our model identifies circumstances in which “punitive” individuals (with stronger-than-average punishment preferences) will self-select into law enforcement jobs that offer the opportunity to punish (or facilitate the punishment of) wrongdoers. Such “punitive” agents will accept a lower salary, but create agency costs associated with their excessive zeal (relative to the public’s preferences) in searching, seizing, and punishing suspects. In our framework, the public chooses (under reasonable assumptions) to hire punitive police agents, while providing suspects with strong criminal procedure protections, thereby empowering other agents (such as the judiciary) with average punishment preferences to limit the agency costs of excessive zeal. We thus argue that intrinsic motivation and self-selection provide a possible explanation for the bifurcated structure of criminal law enforcement in which courts constrain police with pro-defendant rules of criminal procedure. We also explore various other implications of this framework.

Suggested Citation

  • Dhammika Dharmapala & Nuno Garoupa & Richard H. McAdams, 2015. "Punitive Police? Agency Costs, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Procedure," CESifo Working Paper Series 5310, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5310
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ajilore, Olugbenga, 2017. "Is There a 1033 Effect? Police Militarization and Aggressive Policing," MPRA Paper 82543, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. repec:kap:atlecj:v:45:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11293-017-9538-6 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    law enforcement; intrinsic motivation; punishment; criminal procedure;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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