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Policing the Police: The Impact of "Pattern-or-Practice" Investigations on Crime

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  • Tanaya Devi
  • Roland G. Fryer Jr

Abstract

This paper provides the first empirical examination of the impact of federal and state "Pattern-or-Practice" investigations on crime and policing. For investigations that were not preceded by "viral" incidents of deadly force, investigations, on average, led to a statistically significant reduction in homicides and total crime. In stark contrast, all investigations that were preceded by "viral" incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies. The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced. In Riverside CA, interactions decreased 54%. In St. Louis, self-initiated police activities declined by 46%. Other theories we test such as changes in community trust or the aggressiveness of consent decrees associated with investigations -- all contradict the data in important ways.

Suggested Citation

  • Tanaya Devi & Roland G. Fryer Jr, 2020. "Policing the Police: The Impact of "Pattern-or-Practice" Investigations on Crime," NBER Working Papers 27324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27324
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ian Ayres & Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Measuring Positive Externalities from Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis of Lojack," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(1), pages 43-77.
    2. Pyrooz, David C. & Decker, Scott H. & Wolfe, Scott E. & Shjarback, John A., 2016. "Was there a Ferguson Effect on crime rates in large U.S. cities?," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-8.
    3. Shjarback, John A. & Pyrooz, David C. & Wolfe, Scott E. & Decker, Scott H., 2017. "De-policing and crime in the wake of Ferguson: Racialized changes in the quantity and quality of policing among Missouri police departments," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 42-52.
    4. Firpo Sergio & Possebom Vitor, 2018. "Synthetic Control Method: Inference, Sensitivity Analysis and Confidence Sets," Journal of Causal Inference, De Gruyter, vol. 6(2), pages 1-26, September.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K10 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - General (Constitutional Law)

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