Kevin Lewis

October 22, 2020

“Big Brother’s Bigger Brother”: The Visual Politics of (Counter) Surveillance in Baltimore
Benjamin Snyder
Sociological Forum, forthcoming


In 2016, without the knowledge of its citizens, Baltimore City Police deployed a military aerial surveillance technology called Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI), which can track the movements of every person in public view over the entire city. Though the trial of the “spy plane,” as the program was dubbed, quickly ended in scandal, organizers from Baltimore’s low‐income minority neighborhoods successfully rebooted the program in 2020, this time framing WAMI partly as a tool of “sousveillance” (watching “from below”) that can track the movements of police officers. The paper shows how organizers “rebranded” WAMI around two conceptions of sousveillance — “citizen‐centered” and “state‐centered” — creating an unlikely coalition of supporters from both pro‐ and anti‐policing sides of the criminal justice reform debate. But while the renewed program has vowed to be a “Big Brother” to the state, it will continue to be used for traditional surveillance, raising troubling questions about privacy. The article sheds light on the politics of watching and being watched in the era of technology‐driven criminal justice reform.

Officer Differences in Traffic Stops of Minority Drivers
Scott Abrahams
Labour Economics, forthcoming


This paper uses a finite mixture model to demonstrate that some police officers are more likely than others to stop black drivers. The conclusion is one that though widely believed has proven challenging to establish empirically. By doing so, the paper makes two contributions, one conceptual and one statistical. First, it more closely aligns with the understanding of racial profiling as signifying that black individuals experience more frequent interaction with the police. While disproportional susceptibility to vehicle searches also exemplifies profiling, being pulled over is a much more common margin for potential profiling, which this paper models a tractable way of identifying. Second, studies of secondary decisions such as searches frequently assume that there is no bias in the initial stop decision. An analysis of traffic stops across eight states questions this assumption, concluding that stopped drivers constitute a selected sample. Although bias is theoretically continuous, average behavior actually fits well into two distinct groups, with 30-40% of officers in the group that exhibits a relatively high propensity to stop black drivers. The implication is that race-based policing is more prevalent than the “rotten apples” theory might suggest.

Exposure to police-related deaths and physiological stress among urban black youth
Christopher Browning et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming


We employ unique data from the 2014-16 Adolescent Health and Development in Context (AHDC) study – a representative sample of youth ages 11 to 17 residing in the Columbus, OH area. A subsample of participants contributed nightly saliva samples for cortisol for up to six days, providing an opportunity to link recent exposures to police-related deaths within the residential county to physiological stress outcomes during the study period (N = 585). We examine the effect of exposure to a recent police-related death in the same county on the physiological stress (nightly cortisol) levels of black youth. We find evidence of elevated average levels of nightly cortisol (by 46%) for black boys exposed to a police-related death of a black victim in the 30 days prior to the subject’s cortisol collection. We find no evidence of police-related death effects on the physiological stress levels of black girls or white youth.

Crimes Against Morality: Unintended Consequences of Criminalizing Sex Work
Lisa Cameron, Jennifer Seager & Manisha Shah
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming


We examine the impact of criminalizing sex work, exploiting an event in which local officials unexpectedly criminalized sex work in one district in East Java, Indonesia, but not in neighboring districts. We collect data from female sex workers and their clients before and after the change. We find that criminalization increases sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers by 58 percent, measured by biological tests. This is driven by decreased condom access and use. We also find evidence that criminalization decreases earnings among women who left sex work due to criminalization, and decreases their ability to meet their children's school expenses while increasing the likelihood that children begin working to supplement household income. While criminalization has the potential to improve population STI outcomes if the market shrinks permanently, we show that five years post-criminalization the market has rebounded and the probability of STI transmission within the general population is likely to have increased.

“Engineering Resilience” Into Split-Second Shoot/No Shoot Decisions: The Effect of Muzzle-Position
Paul Taylor
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of engineering resilience into the split-second decision environment police officers face during potential deadly force encounters. Using a randomized controlled experiment that incorporated a police firearms training simulator and 313 active law enforcement officers, this study examined the effects of muzzle-position – where an officer points their weapon – on both officer response time to legitimate threats and the likelihood for misdiagnosis shooting errors when no threat was present. The results demonstrate that officers can significantly improve shoot/no-shoot decision-making without sacrificing a significant amount of time by taking a lower muzzle-position when they are dealing with an ambiguously armed person – a person whose hands are not visible.

Hanging Out with the Usual Suspects: Neighborhood Peer Effects and Recidivism
Stephen Billings & Kevin Schnepel
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming


Social interactions within neighborhoods, schools and detention facilities are important determinants of criminal behavior. However, little is known about the degree to which neighborhood peers affect successful community re-entry following incarceration. This paper measures the influence of social networks on recidivism by exploiting the fact that neighborhood peers may be locked up when a prisoner returns home. Using detailed arrest and incarceration data that includes residential addresses for offenders, we find consistent and robust evidence that a former inmate is less likely to reoffend if more of his peers are held captive while he reintegrates into society.

Association of Minimum Age Laws for Handgun Purchase and Possession With Homicides Perpetrated by Young Adults Aged 18 to 20 Years
Caitlin Moe et al.
JAMA Pediatrics, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: In this difference-in-differences analysis of a national cohort, young adult–perpetrated homicide rates were compared between states that did and did not implement stricter minimum age laws than the 1994 federal statute, adjusting for state-level factors. Under 1994 US federal law, the minimum age to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer is 21 years; to purchase a handgun from an unlicensed dealer, 18 years; and to possess a handgun, 18 years. The 12 states that raised the minimum ages to purchase and/or possess a handgun beyond those set by federal law before 1994 were excluded from the stricter implementation group. Data were collected from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2017, and analyzed from November 7, 2019, to June 23, 2020.

Results: During the study period, 35 960 firearm homicides were perpetrated by young adults aged 18 to 20 years. There was no statistically significant change in the rates of homicide perpetrated by this age group in the 5 states that imposed stricter age limits compared with the 32 that did not (crude incidence rate ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.86-1.40). The adjusted incidence rate ratio was 1.14 (95% CI, 0.89-1.45) in states that implemented stricter minimum age laws compared with those that did not.

Negative illness feedbacks: High‐frisk policing reduces civilian reliance on ED services
Erin Kerrison & Alyasah Sewell
Health Services Research, October 2020, Pages 787-796

Objective: This paper demonstrates that localized and chronic stop‐question‐and‐frisk (SQF) practices are associated with community members’ utilization of emergency department (ED) resources. To explain this relationship, we explore the empirical applicability of a legal epidemiological framework, or the study of legal institutional influences on the distribution of disease and injury.

Data and Study Design: Analyses are derived from merging data from the Philadelphia Vehicle and Pedestrians Investigation, the National Historical Geographic Information System, and the Southeastern Philadelphia Community Health database to zip code identifiers common to all datasets. Weighted multilevel negative binomial regressions measure the influence that local SQF practices have on ED use for this population. Analytic methods incorporate patient demographic covariates including household size, health insurance status, and having a doctor as a usual source of care.

Principal Findings: Findings reveal that both tract‐level frisking and poor health are linked to more frequent use of hospital EDs, per respondent report. Despite their health care needs, however, reporting poor/fair health status is associated with a substantial decrease in the rate of emergency department visits as neighborhood frisk concentration increases (IRR = 0.923; 95% CI: 0.891, 0.957). Moreover, more sickly people in high‐frisk neighborhoods live in tracts that have greater racial disparities in frisking — a pattern that accounts for the moderating role of neighborhood frisking in sick people's usage of the emergency room.

Discretion in Traffic Stops: The Influence of Budget Cuts on Traffic Citations
Min Su
Public Administration Review, forthcoming


In traffic enforcement, officers have a broad range of discretionary power. They decide whether to initiate a stop. They also decide whether to write a ticket or to give a warning. Various factors affect officers’ discretion, such as a driver's race, gender, and neighborhood characteristics. This study examines the influence of budget cuts to the sheriff's department on a county's traffic fines revenue. This study applies a difference‐in‐difference approach to analyze traffic citations issued by two groups of traffic enforcement officers—California's county sheriff deputies and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers. Results show that deputies raised more traffic fines after their department experienced budget cuts in the previous years. In contrast, the number of tickets issued by CHP officers who do not receive financial benefits from the county government is not affected by a county's fiscal condition changes. This study provides evidence that traffic enforcement is under the financial influence.

Guns, groups, and the Southern culture of honor: Considering the role of co-offenders in Southern firearm violence
Brendan Lantz & Marin Wenger
Psychology of Violence, forthcoming

Method: We merged incident-level data from 1,881,802 violent incidents in the National Incident-Based Reporting System for 2015–2016 with contextual data from the American Community Survey and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for 1,679 counties within 38 states. We conducted multilevel models examining the relationship between co-offending group size, the presence of a firearm, regional context, and serious injury among assault offenses.

Results: Findings reveal that firearms are more likely to be present as the number of offenders increases and more likely to be present in the Confederate South than in other regions. Further, the risk of serious injury increases as group size increases and is greater when a firearm is present. Finally, and most importantly, regional context moderates the influence of co-offending group size and the presence of a firearm on serious injury. Specifically, incidents committed by larger groups, with firearms, in the Confederate South result in particularly high rates of serious injury.

Guns and Violence: Weapon Instrumentality in New Orleans Homicide, 1920–1945
Jeffrey Adler
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Autumn 2020, Pages 185-208


Criminologists, sociologists, and public-health scholars have devoted enormous attention to the role of firearms in violence, particularly regarding American homicide rates, but historians have been less inclined to examine the impact of firearms, especially their availability, on changing patterns of violence. Instead, legal and criminal-justice historians have emphasized the ways in which institutional, cultural, political, and social changes have fueled shifts in levels of murder. An analysis of the rich homicide case files and newspaper accounts of gun violence in early twentieth-century New Orleans, however, confirms the theory of “weapon instrumentality” — that homicide rates tend to soar whenever and wherever firearms abound and to decrease when guns are in shorter supply.

Checking ID‐cards for the sale of restricted goods: Age decisions bias face decisions
David Robertson & Mike Burton
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming


Matching unfamiliar faces is highly error‐prone, and most studies highlight the implications for real‐world ID‐checking. Here we study a particular instance of ID‐checking: proof of age for buying restricted goods such as alcohol. In this case, checkers must establish that an identity document is carried by its legitimate owner (i.e., that the ID photo matches the face of the bearer) and that the ID proves the bearer to be old enough to make the purchase. Across three experiments, using two common forms of photo‐ID (i.e., driving licences, PASS+ cards) we show that observers produce very high error rates when age requirements are met, but faces mismatch. This bias away from detecting a face mismatch remained evident in experienced cashiers – though to a somewhat attenuated level. We discuss interactions between face matching and other tasks, and the practical consequences of a bias which favours those using photo‐ID with fraudulent intent.


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