Essays on the economics of law enforcement institutions and policy
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This dissertation consists of three chapters on the economics of law enforcement institutions and policy. In the first chapter, I examine the importance of individual police officers to arrest outcomes in interactions with civilians. I show that the likelihood of an arrest is not only a function of incident timing, geography, offense type, and other contextual factors but also critically depends on the identity of the police officer who responds to a call for service. Examining detailed data on more than 1,850 police officers responding to over 160,000 calls for service from the Dallas Police Department, I find that officers vary widely in their arrest behavior, with a 1 standard deviation increase in an officer’s propensity to arrest resulting in a 33% increase in the likelihood that a given incident results in an arrest. In the second chapter, I investigate the impact of police hiring on crime rates in municipalities in the U.S. In this chapter, I use a novel estimation approach to which exploits variation in federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants, while also controlling for the endogenous decisions of police departments to apply for these grants. Using data from nearly 7,000 municipalities, I find that a 10% increase in police employment rates reduces violent crime rates by 13% and property crime rates by 7%. The results also provide suggestive evidence that law enforcement leaders are forward-looking. In the third chapter, I explore the impact of police on student discipline and academic outcomes. This chapter provides the first causal estimate of funding for school police on student outcomes, leveraging variation in federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. Exploiting detailed data on over 2.5 million students in Texas, I find that funding for police in public schools results in a small but significant reduction in high school graduation and college enrollment.