To Enforce or Not to Enforce

Kevin Lewis

April 23, 2021

Uncovering the Mitigating Psychological Response to Monitoring Technologies: Police Body Cameras Not Only Constrain but Also Depolarize
Shefali Patil & Ethan Bernstein
Organization Science, forthcoming


Despite organizational psychologists’ long-standing caution against monitoring (citing its reduction in employee autonomy and thus effectiveness), many organizations continue to use it, often with no detriment to performance and with strong support, not protest, from employees. We argue that a critical step to resolving this anomaly is revisiting researchers’ fundamental assumptions about access to gathered data. Whereas previous research assumes that access resides nearly exclusively with supervisors and other evaluators, technological advances have enabled employee access. We hypothesize that with employee access, the psychological effects of monitoring may be far more complex than previously acknowledged. Whereas multiparty access may still decrease employee autonomy, it may also trigger an important psychological benefit: alleviating employees’ perceptions of polarization -- the increasing social and ideological divergence between themselves and their evaluators. Access gives employees unprecedented opportunities to use the “objective” footage to show others their perspective, address evaluators’ erroneous assumptions and stereotypes, and otherwise defuse ideological tensions. Lower perceived polarization, in turn, attenuates the negative effects that low autonomy would otherwise have on employee effectiveness. We find support for these hypotheses across three field studies conducted in the law enforcement context, which has been a trailblazer in using technological advances to grant broad access to multiple parties, including employees. Overall, our studies shed light on the conflicting (and ultimately more innocuous) impact of monitoring and encourage scholars to break from prior approaches to account for its increasing egalitarianism.

Effects of School Shootings on Risky Behavior, Health and Human Capital
Partha Deb & Anjelica Gangaram
NBER Working Paper, April 2021


In this paper, we examine the impact of school shootings on the human health and capital outcomes of middle and high school student survivors as adults in their twenties and early thirties. Our data on school shooting events is from a recent, comprehensive database of school shootings compiled by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. The analytic dataset contains incidents from 1994-2005 in conjunction with Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey data from 2003-2012 on respondents 23 to 32 years of age. We find substantial evidence that, relative to their unexposed peers, school shooting survivors experience declines in health and well-being, engage in more risky behaviors, and have worse education and labor market outcomes. The effects among those exposed in the more recent past, 6-12 years prior to the survey, are consistent with those of the full sample. The significance of effects dissipates among those exposed earlier, 13-18 years prior to the survey.

The Effects of Time in Prison and Time on Parole on Recidivism
Mariyana Zapryanova
Journal of Law and Economics, November 2020, Pages 699-727


In the United States, every year roughly 600,000 people are released from prison, two-thirds of them without having served their full sentence behind bars. Yet little is known about how release before full completion of sentence affects recidivism. I exploit the distinction between sentence and time served in prison to better understand how custodial and noncustodial sanctions affect recidivism. In particular, I study the effects of time in prison and time on parole on recidivism. Relying on two instrumental variables that provide independent variation in sentence and time served in prison, I do not find evidence that parole time affects recidivism. However, I find that a month in prison results in a 1.12-percentage-point decrease in the probability that an individual will reoffend while on parole, but it appears to have no effect on overall reoffending.

The case against eliminating large denomination bills
Joshua Hendrickson & Jaevin Park
Journal of Macroeconomics, forthcoming


When large denomination bills are preferred in illegal activities, what is the optimal policy response? We construct a dual currency model where illegal activity can be reduced by modifying the payment environment. In our model, legal (goods) traders are indifferent between small and large bills, but illegal (goods) traders face a lower transaction cost of using large bills in comparison to small bills because it is easier to conceal. We show that eliminating large bills can reduce illegal trade and its associated social cost. However, this pooling equilibrium is sub-optimal because the government can collect more seigniorage by allowing illegal traders to use large bills with a lower rate of return. When the transaction cost of using small bills for illegal traders is sufficiently large, a separating equilibrium, where legal traders use small bills and illegal traders use large bills, can maximize welfare by making an implicit transfer from the illegal traders to the legal traders.

Body-Worn Cameras in Policing: Benefits and Costs
Morgan Williams et al.
NBER Working Paper, March 2021


Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are an increasingly common tool for police oversight, accountability, and transparency, yet there remains uncertainty about their impacts on policing outcomes. This paper reviews what we know about the benefits of BWCs and how those benefits compare to the costs of this new technology. We make two contributions relative to existing research. First, we update prior meta-analyses of studies of the impacts of BWCs on policing outcomes to incorporate the most recent, and largest, studies carried out to date in this literature. This additional information provides additional support for the idea that cameras may affect a number of policing outcomes that are important from a social welfare perspective, particularly police use of force. Second, we carry out a benefit-cost analysis of BWCs, as financial barriers are often cited as a key impediment to adoption by police departments. Our baseline estimate for the benefit-cost ratio of BWCs is 4.95. Perhaps as much as one-quarter of the estimated benefits accrue to government budgets directly, which suggests the possibility that this technology could, from the narrow perspective of government budgets, even pay for itself.

Black Lives Matter's Effect on Police Lethal Use-of-Force
Travis Campbell
University of Massachusetts Working Paper, January 2021


Has Black Lives Matter influenced police lethal use-of-force? A difference-in-differences design finds census places with Black Lives Matter protests experience a 15% to 20% decrease in police homicides over the ensuing five years, around 300 fewer deaths. The gap in lethal use-of-force between places with and without protests widens over these subsequent years and is most prominent when protests are large or frequent. This result holds for alternative specifications, estimators, police homicide datasets, and population screens; however, it does not hold if lethal use-of-force is normalized by violent crime or arrests. Protests also influence local police agencies, which may explain the reduction. Agencies with local protests become more likely to obtain body-cameras, expand community policing, receive a larger operating budget, and reduce the number of property crime-related arrests, but forego some black officer employment and college education requirements.

Is There a Civilizing Effect on Citizens? Testing the Pre-Conditions for Body Worn Camera-Induced Behavior Change
Quin Patterson & Michael White
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


The cause(s) of reduced use of force and complaints following police body-worn camera (BWC) deployment remain unclear, though some argue that BWCs generate a civilizing effect on citizen behavior. This potential effect rests on four pre-conditions: (1) BWC presence and citizen awareness; (2) BWC activation; (3) Escalated citizen behavior or the potential for escalation; (4) Citizen mental capacity for BWC awareness. Prior research has not established the civilizing effect’s existence, or how often these pre-conditions are met; this study aims to fill that gap. Data was collected during systematic social observation (SSO) of 166 encounters between citizens and officers in the Tempe, Arizona Police Department. The results tell a simple story. Two pre-conditions (activation, citizen mental capacity) are consistently met; awareness and escalated behavior are not. Overall, 1.2% of encounters saw all pre-conditions met. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for research on BWCs.

A scalable empathic supervision intervention to mitigate recidivism from probation and parole
Jason Okonofua et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 6 April 2021


Incarceration is a pervasive issue in the United States that is enormously costly to families, communities, and society at large. The path from prison back to prison may depend on the relationship a person has with their probation or parole officer (PPO). If the relationship lacks appropriate care and trust, violations and recidivism (return to jail or prison) may be more likely to occur. Here, we test whether an “empathic supervision” intervention with PPOs - that aims to reduce collective blame against and promote empathy for the perspectives of adults on probation or parole (APPs) - can reduce rates of violations and recidivism. The intervention highlights the unreasonable expectation that all APPs will reoffend (collective blame) and the benefits of empathy-valuing APPs’ perspectives. Using both within-subject (monthly official records for 10 mo) and between-subject (treatment versus control) comparisons in a longitudinal study with PPOs in a large US city (NPPOs = 216; NAPPs=∼20,478), we find that the empathic supervision intervention reduced collective blame against APPs 10 mo postintervention and reduced between-subject violations and recidivism, a 13% reduction that would translate to less taxpayer costs if scaled. Together, these findings illustrate that very low-cost psychological interventions that target empathy in relationships can be cost effective and combat important societal outcomes in a lasting manner.

Foster Care, Permanency, and Risk of Prison Entry
Sarah Font et al.
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming

Objective: (1) Examine associations of foster care exit type (e.g., reunification with birth family, adoption, guardianship/permanent relative placement, or emancipation from care) with risk of entry into state prison; (2) Examine racial disparities in those associations.

Method: With data on over 10,000 Wisconsin youth who entered foster care in mid- to late-childhood, we present imprisonment rates in young adulthood by race, sex, and foster care exit type. Proportional hazards models with a robust set of covariates compared prison entry rates among the most common exit types - reunification, aging out, and guardianship/permanent relative placement.

Results: Nearly 13 percent of the sample experienced imprisonment in young adulthood. Compared with emancipated youth, hazard of imprisonment was 1.58-1.96 times higher among reunified youth. Differences were largely unexplained by observed individual, family, or foster care characteristics. Imprisonment rates were similar for emancipated youth and youth exiting to guardianship/permanent relative placement. Hazard of imprisonment for reunified Black youth was twice that of reunified white youth, but racial differences in prison entry were statistically non-significant among emancipated youth.

Crack and Criminal Justice in Canton, Ohio, 1987-1999: “The Drug Problem has Created a Monster”
Will Cooley
Journal of Policy History, April 2021, Pages 143-182


The rise of crack cocaine in the late 1980s propelled the war on drugs. The experience of Canton, Ohio, shows how the response to crack solidified mass incarceration. A declining industrial city of 84,000 people in northeast Ohio with deep-seated racial divides, it was overwhelmed by aggressive, enterprising crack dealers from outside the city. In response, politicians and residents united behind the strategy of incessant arrests and drastic prison sentences. The law-enforcement offensive worsened conditions while pursuing African Americans at blatantly disproportionate rates, but few people engaged in reframing the drug problem. Instead, a punitive citizenry positioned punishment as the principal remedy. The emergency foreclosed on more comprehensive assessments of the city’s tribulations, while the criminal justice system emerged as the paramount institution.

Reducing criminal record discrimination through banning the box: The importance of timing and explanation in the reveal of a drug conviction
Jessica Graber & Emily Zitek
Psychology, Crime & Law, forthcoming


There has been a recent push toward placing restrictions on when and how employers can ask about job applicants’ criminal records. In our research, we asked hypothetical employers to evaluate job applicants so we could examine whether certain ‘ban the box’ practices increase the chances that formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs. Our results showed that an applicant with a drug conviction was more likely to be hired if his record was revealed after an interview rather than on the job application and if he explained the unusualness of his offense rather than if he provided no explanation (Studies 1 and 3). Further, we found that an interviewed applicant who explained his record was similarly likely to be hired regardless of whether he volunteered information about his record or it was discovered through a background check (Study 2). Finally, when equally qualified applicants were being considered at the initial application stage, the applicant without a criminal record was preferred even if the applicant with a record explained it (Study 4). These results indicate the importance of restricting access to criminal record information until after an applicant has been interviewed and in allowing the applicant to explain the unusualness of the offense.

Policing gentrification or policing displacement? Testing the relationship between order maintenance policing and neighbourhood change in Los Angeles
Charles Collins, Forrest Stuart & Patrick Janulis
Urban Studies, forthcoming


Urban scholars increasingly contend that local police departments play a central role in facilitating neighbourhood change. Recent critics warn that ‘order maintenance’ policing and other low-level law enforcement tactics are deployed in gentrifying areas to displace ‘disorderly’ populations. Despite influential qualitative case studies, there remains scant quantitative research testing this relationship, and few studies that evaluate the link between policing, displacement and gentrification. We address this lacuna, drawing on new citation data from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and employing a measure of neighbourhood change that focuses on the displacement of low-income residents. Examining policing patterns in 978 US Census tracts in Los Angeles over four years, our analysis reveals that tracts experiencing gentrification - defined as the simultaneous increase in non-poor residents and decrease in the number of people in poverty - experience a greater number of citations compared with other tract types. Similar patterns emerge in our analysis of citations that explicitly target homelessness and extreme poverty. In post-hoc analyses, we found that Census tracts characterised by a decrease in the number of people in poverty experienced greater numbers of total police citations and of citations targeting homeless individuals, compared with other tract types. These findings carry important theoretical implications for understanding the divergent manifestations of, and potential mechanisms driving, order maintenance policing. Methodologically, we contend that police citations provide a more precise measure of order maintenance policing compared with previous studies, and that classifying neighbourhoods in terms of relative displacement of residents in poverty provides much-needed interpretive clarity.

The Impact of Ambiguity-induced Error in Offender Decision-making: Evidence from the Field
Greg Midgette, Thomas Loughran & Sarah Tahamont
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming

Methods: We leverage a quasi-experimental condition among a sample of drunk driving arrestees that are tested for alcohol use and subject to mandatory brief incarceration for a violation. The treatment condition relaxes a zero-tolerance alcohol rule, thereby introducing design-based ambiguity surrounding the certainty of punishment. We use Mahalanobis matching and propensity score weighting methods to estimate the impact of ambiguity on violations. We then interrogate this finding with complementary sensitivity analyses.

Results: When facing the ambiguity condition participants are 27-28 percentage points (84-93 percent) more likely to violate program conditions after 30 days of supervision. We demonstrate that a statistical difference in violations due to ambiguity is still detectible at 90 and 180 days of supervision. These results are robust to alternative specifications and falsification tests.

Data-Informed and Place-Based Violent Crime Prevention: The Kansas City, Missouri Risk-Based Policing Initiative
Joel Caplan et al.
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


The Kansas City, Missouri Police Department sought to reduce violent crime with an evidence-based approach to problem analysis and intervention planning. Informed by hot spot analysis and risk terrain modeling, police and their community partners implemented a place-based crime intervention program focused on key attractors and generators of the environmental backcloth. Target and comparison areas were selected for an outcome evaluation. During the 1-year program time period, violent crimes decreased significantly by over 22%. There was both a significant spatial diffusion of benefits and significantly fewer police officer-initiated actions resulting in arrests or citations. Crime prevention was achieved without an abundance of law enforcement actions against people located at the target areas. Implications for policy and practice are discussed within the contexts of police responses to urgent crime problems and data analytics.


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