Thick Blue Lines

Kevin Lewis

December 03, 2021

Intergenerational Transmission of Organizational Misconduct: Evidence from the Chicago Police Department
Justin Frake & Derek Harmon
University of Michigan Working Paper, October 2021

This paper investigates how organizational misconduct is perpetuated through intergenerational transmission. We theorize that early exposure to misconduct imprints newcomers with the belief that misconduct is normal, which is then carried by these individuals into managerial positions and passed down to future generations of subordinates. We test this using longitudinal administrative data from the Chicago Police Department from 1980-2017. We exploit the random assignment of applicants to training cohorts to demonstrate that applicants exposed to higher levels of misconduct during their initial training not only engage in more misconduct over their careers (first generation effect), but also increase the misconduct of their subordinates after they become managers years or decades later (second generation effect). Mechanism tests suggest that this intergenerational transmission occurs through both incentive structures (i.e., annual reviews) and social influence (i.e., racial homophily). Taken together, these findings reveal how managers carry the normalization of misconduct from an organization's past into its future, expanding our understanding of how misconduct in organizations is perpetuated and offering important policy implications for addressing the problem of police misconduct.

Protective State Policies and the Employment of Fathers with Criminal Records
Allison Dwyer Emory
Social Problems, forthcoming 

A criminal record can be a serious impediment to securing stable employment, with negative implications for the economic stability of individuals and their families. State policies intended to address this issue have had mixed results, however. Using panel data from the Fragile Families study merged with longitudinal data on state-level policies, this study investigates the association between criminal record based employment discrimination policies and the employment of men both with and without criminal records. These state policies broadly regulate what kinds of records can be legally used for hiring and licensing decisions, but have received little attention in prior research. Findings indicate that men with criminal records were less likely to be working if they lived in states with more policies in place to regulate the legal use of those records. Consistent with research linking policies regulating access to records to racial discrimination, black men living in protective states reported this employment penalty even if they did not have criminal records themselves. Thus, these policies, at best, may fail to disrupt entrenched employment disparities and, at worst, may exacerbate racial discrimination. 

Increasing the Demand for Workers with a Criminal Record
Zoe Cullen, Will Dobbie & Mitchell Hoffman
Harvard Working Paper, September 2021

State and local policies increasingly restrict employers' access to criminal records, but without addressing the underlying reasons that employers may conduct criminal background checks. Employers may thus still want to ask about a job applicant's criminal record later in the hiring process or make inaccurate judgments based on an applicant's demographic characteristics. In this paper, we use a field experiment conducted in partnership with a nationwide staffing platform to test policies that more directly address the reasons that employers may conduct criminal background checks. The experiment asked hiring managers at nearly a thousand U.S. businesses to make actual hiring decisions under different randomized conditions. We find that 39% of businesses in our sample are willing to work with individuals with a criminal record at baseline, which rises to over 50% when businesses are offered crime and safety insurance, a single performance review, a background check covering just the past year, or objective information on the productivity of these individuals. Wage subsidies can achieve similar increases but at a substantially higher cost. Based on our findings, the staffing platform relaxed the criminal background check requirement and offered crime and safety insurance to interested businesses. 

Office-Based Mental Healthcare and Juvenile Arrests
Monica Deza, Thanh Lu & Johanna Catherine Maclean
NBER Working Paper, November 2021

We estimate the effect of local access to office-based mental healthcare on juvenile arrest outcomes. We leverage variation in the number of mental healthcare offices within a county over the period 1999 to 2016 in a two-way fixed-effects model. Office-based treatment is the most common modality of mental healthcare received by juveniles. We find that ten additional office-based mental healthcare providers in a county leads a decrease of 2.3% to 2.6% in the per capita costs to society of juvenile arrest. Findings are similar for arrest rates although often less precise, which suggests that accounting for social costs is empirically important. Crime imposes substantial costs on society and individuals, and interventions during early life can have more pronounced effects than those received at later stages, therefore our results imply increased juvenile access to mental healthcare may have an unintended benefit for the current and future generations. 

The role of gun supply in 1980s and 1990s youth violence
Alan Bartley & Geoffrey Fain Williams
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

Youth violence surged between 1985 and 1994. We argue that a positive supply shock in autoloading handguns played an important role. By the late 1970s, computer numeric control technology had fallen in cost and the number of installed machines increased by 690% from 1978 to 1988. Consumer durable prices fell throughout this period, including the easily machined autoloading handguns. We document a steep fall in handgun prices, leading to predictable changes in purchasing among all American demographics. Local proxies of gun access predict changes in violence over this period as well or better than measures of crack market activity. 

Why Does Education Reduce Crime?
Brian Bell, Rui Costa & Stephen Machin
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

We provide a unifying empirical framework to study why crime reductions occurred due to a sequence of state-level dropout age reforms enacted between 1980 and 2010 in the United States. Because the reforms changed the shape of crime-age profiles, they generate both a short-term incapacitation effect together with a more sustained crime reducing effect. In contrast to previous research looking at earlier US education reforms, the reform induced crime reduction does not arise primarily from education improvements. Decomposing short and long run effects, the observed longer run effect for the post 1980 education reforms is primarily attributed to dynamic incapacitation. 

The 'time-release', crime-reducing effects of education spending
Bebonchu Atems & William Blankenau
Economics Letters, December 2021

We analyze the response of violent and property crime to shocks in government education spending. The effects are significant, delayed, and persistent. This is consistent with government education spending working through the human capital channel in a time-release fashion.

Does Place-Based Crime Reduction Work?: Evidence from the West Philadelphia Promise Zone
Alexander Marsella
West Virginia University Working Paper, November 2021

This paper studies the effect of the West Philadelphia Promise Zone Initiative on weekly violent crime rates in a high-crime area of West Philadelphia, where a series of public safety and quality of life improvement grants were dispersed from 2014 to 2019. Results using a difference-in-differences analysis with tract, year, and week fixed effects along with cluster-robust and bootstrapped standard errors provides causal evidence of a reduced rate of violent crime, primarily assaults and aggravated assaults. Multiple specifications of a synthetic control model predict that crime would have trended significantly upward in the Promise Zone area had the zone not been established. Dynamic difference-in-differences and propensity score matching are also employed, finding similar results and effect sizes. By the end of 2019, the Promise Zone ultimately descends to the average level of violent crime experienced across Philadelphia. A cost-benefit analysis indicates that the crime reducing effects of the Promise Zone may offset the cost of federal grant investment in public safety in the zone. 

Systemic Racism in Police Killings: New Evidence From the Mapping Police Violence Database, 2013-2021
Reed DeAngelis
Race and Justice, forthcoming

This research note provides new evidence consistent with systemic anti-Black racism in police killings across the United States. Data come from the Mapping Police Violence Database (2013-2021). I calculate race-specific odds and probabilities that victims of police killings exhibited mental illness, were armed with a weapon, or attempted to flee the scene at the time of their killing. Multilevel, multivariable logistic regression techniques are applied to further account for the victim's age, gender, year of killing, and geographical clustering. I find that White victims are underrepresented, and Black victims overrepresented in the database. Relative to White victims, Black victims also have 60% lower odds of exhibiting signs of mental illness, 23% lower odds of being armed, and 28% higher odds of fleeing. Hispanic victims exhibit 45% lower odds of being armed relative to their White peers but are otherwise comparable. These patterns persist regardless of the victim's age, gender, year of killing, or geographical location (state, zip code, and neighborhood type). Thus, the threshold for being perceived as dangerous, and thereby falling victim to lethal police force, appears to be higher for White civilians relative to their Black or Hispanic peers. Current findings provide empirical support for political initiatives to curb lethal police force, as such efforts could help to reduce racial disparities in deaths by police nationwide. 

Effects of COVID-19 Shutdowns on Domestic Violence in US Cities
Amalia Miller, Carmit Segal & Melissa Spencer
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

We empirically investigate the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on domestic violence using incident-level data on both domestic-related calls for service and crime reports of domestic violence assaults from the 18 major US police departments for which both types of records are available. Although we confirm prior reports of an increase in domestic calls for service at the start of the pandemic, we find that the increase preceded mandatory shutdowns, and there was an incremental decline following the government imposition of restrictions. We find no evidence that domestic violence crimes increased. Rather, domestic violence assaults declined significantly during the initial shutdown period and there was no significant change in intimate partner homicides in these months. Our results fail to support claims that shutdowns increased domestic violence and suggest caution before drawing inference or basing policy on calls data alone. 

The distribution of police use of force across patrol and specialty units: A case study in BWC impact
Janne Gaub, Natalie Todak & Michael White
Journal of Experimental Criminology, December 2021, Pages 545-561 

To examine differences in use of force by police patrol and specialized units, and the impact of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on use of force in these groups.

We use administrative data from the Tempe (AZ) Police Department collected during a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of BWCs. t tests of means and ARIMA models were constructed to analyze unit-level variation in use of force.

Tempe officers in specialized units use substantially more force than patrol officers. BWCs had no impact on use of force among patrol officers but were associated with a significant decline in force among specialty unit officers who received BWCs in the second phase of the study. 

Heat of the Moment? The Effect of Temperature on Police Leniency
Yining Zhu
Columbia University Working Paper, September 2021

Police officers often exercise substantial discretion when making highly consequential decisions, which can lead to unfair and arbitrary law enforcement. In this paper, I exploit daily ambient temperature as a source of transitory, high-frequency shocks and examine how it affects an officer's decision whether to discount a driver's speeding penalty in Florida. I find that a 1-standard-deviation increase in temperature lowers the driver's probability of receiving a lenient ticket by 2%. In addition, using traffic monitoring data and crash reports, I do not find evidence of decreased police effort or increased reckless driving on hot days. I show that the reduction in leniency is disproportionally borne by white drivers, who are less likely to get a discounted penalty from white officers as the temperature increases. In addition, I find that newly hired officers become less affected by temperature as they accumulate more experience on the job. For a potential mechanism, I find a negative effect of temperature on expressed sentiment using posts from an online police forum based in Florida, which suggests that the result could be due to increased officer hostility. 

Impact of ShotSpotter Technology on Firearm Homicides and Arrests Among Large Metropolitan Counties: A Longitudinal Analysis, 1999-2016
Mitchell Doucette et al.
Journal of Urban Health, October 2021, Pages 609-621

Over the past decade, large urban counties have implemented ShotSpotter, a gun fire detection technology, across the USA. It uses acoustic listening devices to identify discharged firearms' locations. We examined the effect of ShotSpotter with a pooled, cross-sectional time-series analysis within the 68 large metropolitan counties in the USA from 1999 to 2016. We identified ShotSpotter implementation years through publicly available media. We used a Poisson distribution to model the impact of ShotSpotter on firearm homicides, murder arrests, and weapons arrests. ShotSpotter did not display protective effects for all outcomes. Counties in states with permit-to-purchase firearm laws saw a 15% reduction in firearm homicide incidence rates; counties in states with right-to-carry laws saw a 21% increase in firearm homicide incidence rates. Results suggest that implementing ShotSpotter technology has no significant impact on firearm-related homicides or arrest outcomes. Policy solutions may represent a more cost-effective measure to reduce urban firearm violence. 

More than meets the eye: Officer actions and civilian behavioral health shape appraisals of police footage
Kristyn Jones et al.
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, forthcoming

This article examines people's interpretations of a recorded police-civilian altercation when they receive a priori information about a civilian's behavioral health and information about how an officer responded. In two experiments, MTurk participants (N = 771) were randomly assigned to receive a label for the civilian (schizophrenia, substance use, or no label) and information about the officer's response (use of force, de-escalation tactics, or no further information). Participants then watched body-worn camera footage of a real police encounter, answered questions about the officer's and civilian's behavior, and made punishment decisions. Participants who learned that the officer used force, compared to de-escalation techniques, interpreted the officer's behavior more negatively and the civilian's behavior more positively. Furthermore, participants who learned that the civilian used substances agreed the most strongly that the civilian should be punished, whereas participants who learned that the civilian had schizophrenia agreed the least strongly that the civilian should be punished. Participants attributed the civilian's behavior to personal shortcomings (e.g., poor life decisions) when they learned he used substances and to genetic factors when they learned he had schizophrenia. The belief that the civilian's behavior was because of personal shortcomings was associated with increased punishment. These findings have implications for the common belief that viewing police footage will ensure objective, fair, and just outcomes. We conclude with policy recommendations to improve analysis of police footage. 

Shape-up: Efficacy of a culturally responsive barbershop-based violence reduction intervention RCT for young Black men
Howard Stevenson et al.
Psychology of Men & Masculinities, October 2021, Pages 579-591

Developing culturally responsive interventions to improve the health of Black males is a growing field. This study assessed the impact of a culturally responsive barbershop-based violence retaliation risk reduction intervention (Shape-Up) for emerging adult African American men. Using RECAST (Racial Encounter Coping Appraisal and Socialization Theory), this intervention included racial literacy protective and risk factors in its curriculum conceptualization, measurement, and delivery. Participants included 618 heterosexual cis-gender-identified African American men aged from 18 to 24 years old and used randomized control trial (RCT) methodology. Compared to a control group targeting sexual risk reduction, the retaliation reduction intervention successfully reduced violence behavior up to 3 months postintervention, through mediated mechanisms of reducing hypermasculinity beliefs and increasing Black manhood vulnerability beliefs. This study supports research on how culturally responsive theory-based interventions can increase the likelihood of positive health outcomes in communities of color. Developers of men's health interventions should consider the importance of both countering negative masculine identity stereotypes and promoting healthy gender-racialized narratives before expecting to improve Black young adult males' receptivity to psychological and behavior health change education and coping strategies. 

Underground Gun Markets and the Flow of Illegal Guns into the Bronx and Brooklyn: A Mixed Methods Analysis
Anthony Braga et al.
Journal of Urban Health, October 2021, Pages 596-608

New York City (NYC) has experienced large reductions in violent crime over the last two decades, but gun-related violence continues to pose a threat to public safety. Despite strong gun laws, high-risk individuals in NYC neighborhoods are unfortunately still able to access and misuse firearms. This research analyzes NYC's underground gun market by closely examining the flow of guns into the two boroughs where gun violence and crime gun recoveries are most prevalent: the Bronx and Brooklyn. A mixed methods approach is utilized that consists of an assessment of firearms trace data and in-depth interviews with individuals considered to be at high risk for involvement in gun violence. Findings suggest that guns recovered in the Bronx and Brooklyn were significantly more likely to originate in states with less restrictive gun laws and more likely to have changed ownership in unregulated transactions relative to guns recovered elsewhere in NYC. Interviews revealed three primary avenues for illegal guns reaching Bronx and Brooklyn neighborhoods: high-volume gun brokers, middlemen, and individuals who make episodic low-level acquisitions from straw purchasers in other states. No subjects identified theft as a meaningful source of crime guns.


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