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RACE ON POLICING: A Stylized Model

Our findings cannot be easily explained by changes in the crime reporting behavior of victims. In that case, one might expect both the number of arrests and reported crimes to rise with same-race policing (even if true victimization fell). It is possible, however, that omitted variables affecting both crime rates and the propensity to hire police of a given race (e.g. adoption of community policing strategies) help to account for our results. Consequently, we present two stage least squares estimates using the racial composition of a city’s fire-fighters as an instrument for the racial composition of the police force. We also investigate the robustness of our results to a range of other specifications.

The outline of the paper is as follows. Section I develops the theoretical model. Section II describes the data sets and empirical strategy in greater detail. Sections III and IV present the empirical results on arrests and crime rates respectively. Section V contains a summary of the findings and considers the broader implications of our results.

Section I: A Stylized Model of Race in Policing

In this section, we model the interaction between police, criminals, and the community, allowing for police practices to affect both criminal behavior and the decision of victims to report crimes to the police. Also included implicitly in the modeling is the possibility either of false arrests or police corruption. After presenting the model, we explore the implications of the model with respect to the racial composition of police forces and the impact on arrest patterns, crime rates, and victim reporting rates.

The timing of the actions in the model are detailed in Figure 1. First, a criminal opportunity arises and the potential criminal decides whether or not to commit the crime. If the offense is committed, the victim chooses whether or not to report the crime to the police. If the crime is not reported, the criminal goes unpunished. If the crime is reported to the police, the crime is investigated, leading either to the arrest of the criminal, to a false arrest, i.e. the arrest of someone other than the true offender, or no arrest. payday advance loans

Race enters the model through its impact on the likelihood that a true arrest is made (i.e. the actual criminal) or a false arrest is made (an arrest of anyone other than the actual criminal), conditional on a crime being reported. The frequency with which a reported crime results in either a true or false arrest is assumed to depend on whether the race of the victim and the investigating officer are the same or different. When the race of the victim and the officer are the same, it is possible that there is greater community cooperation in helping to solve the crime, or more knowledge of the community and its cultural norms on the part of the officer, leading to a higher frequency of successful arrests and perhaps fewer false arrests. On the other hand, it may be the case that police have different standards for making arrests within and across racial lines due to tastes or prejudice.