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RACE ON POLICING: Conclusions

The coefficients obtained are again substantively large. Carrying out the same thought experiment as the preceding section (reallocating police from random assignment to maximizing own-race policing holding the number and composition of the police force constant), property crime is predicted to decline by 22.5 percent and violent crime is essentially unchanged (up by 0.2 percent). As noted earlier, this is likely to be an upper bound on the actual gains that could be realized from reallocating police by race more.

Table 5 presents a sensitivity analysis of the results for crime rates using the same set of alternative specifications employed in Table 3. The coefficients reported in Table 5 are differences between own-race and cross-race policing (e.g. in column 1, the value reported is white police on white crime minus non-white police on white crime). A negative coefficient implies that own-race police are more effective in reducing crime. For property crime, 18 of the 20 coefficients are negative and 8 of these are statistically significant at the .05 level. For violent crime, the results continue to be mixed, with own-race policing generally appearing beneficial with whites but not with non-whites.

The combined findings on property crime of lower arrests and lower crime with own-race police are consistent with only one of the five hypotheses posed, namely greater deterrence. The mixed results for violent crime make it difficult to clearly distinguish between alternative hypotheses.

Conclusions

This paper analyzes the role of race in policing, first developing a theoretical model, and then estimating that model using panel data for 134 large U.S. cities. The most striking finding of the paper is that the addition of officers of a given race is associated with an increase in the number of arrests of suspects of a different race, but has little impact on same-race arrests. The evidence for differential impacts on crime are less clear, although there is some evidence that same-race police lead to a greater reduction in property crime. Taken together, these findings point to the conclusion that same-race policing is potentially more “efficient” than cross-race policing, at least for property crime. In other words, a given number of officers will have a greater impact on crime while requiring fewer arrests, if deployed in an own-race setting.
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Extrapolating from the coefficients obtained, moving from random assignment of officers by race to a scenario in which own-race policing is maximized, arrests are predicted to fall by 10-20 percent and property crime is predicted to fall by roughly 20 percent with violent crime unaffected. We urge great caution in interpretation of the crime effects, however, since the evidence presented on that issue is indirect and subject to many caveats.

To the extent that our results are true, they provide some indirect empirical support for an efficiency rationale for affirmative action programs in policing. In virtually every large U.S. city, minorities are under-represented on police forces relative to the population. Increasing minority representation on the police so as to mirror the makeup of the city (or more accurately, the makeup of the arrestee population) coupled with reallocation of police patrols to maximize own-race policing, would be expected to increase the efficiency of policing, at least for property crime.