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RACE ON POLICING: Estimating the Relationship

Under the assumption that the composition of the fire department captures important omitted factors of a city’s situation, these variables should be included as controls, not used as instruments. The final row of the table adds the firefighter variables as regressors. The coefficients are similar to those from the baseline specification, suggesting that firefighter composition is not capturing important omitted factors so.

Summarizing Table 3, over four-fifths of the coefficients presented are negative. All 37 of the coefficients that are statistically significant at the .05 level carry a negative sign. The only column for which a statistically significant negative sign is never obtained is for non-white drug arrests.

Section IV: Estimating the Relationship between Own-race and Cross-race Policing and Crime Rates

As noted in the theoretical section of this paper, there are a number of possible explanations for the lower level of arrests that is observed with own-race policing: (1) victim reporting of crime may be lower when the police officers are of the same race as the victim, (2) same-race police officers may be more effective in deterring or solving crime, leading to less crimes being committed and consequently fewer arrests, (3) same-race police may make fewer false/harrassment-based arrests, (4) same-race police officers may have a higher standard of proof for making an arrest when there is room for discretion, or (5) same-race police officers may be less effective in solving crimes, perhaps due to more police corruption Of these five explanations, only the first seems directly at odds with common sense — precisely the opposite story, i.e. increased reporting of crime by victims to officers of the same race, would be expected.

By analyzing the impact of white and non-white police on white and non-white crime, it may be possible to distinguish between some of these alternative explanations. If same-race police are more effective in deterring crime, then fewer same-race arrests will be accompanied by lower crime rates than would be the case with cross-race policing. If same-race police make fewer false arrests, but are otherwise no different than cross-race police, than arrest rates will be lower, but crime will be unaffected. The other two scenarios (higher standard of proof and corruption) predict that lower arrest rates will be accompanied by rising crime since expected punishments will be lower.

Table 4 examines the relationship between racial composition of the police force and crime rates by race. Estimation is based on equation 10 of the theoretical model, employing the same panel data set, estimation methods, and control variables used earlier. The precise estimating equations are variations on