Typical offenders

Kevin Lewis

September 11, 2019

Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings
David Johnson et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 6 August 2019, Pages 15877-15882

Despite extensive attention to racial disparities in police shootings, two problems have hindered progress on this issue. First, databases of fatal officer-involved shootings (FOIS) lack details about officers, making it difficult to test whether racial disparities vary by officer characteristics. Second, there are conflicting views on which benchmark should be used to determine racial disparities when the outcome is the rate at which members from racial groups are fatally shot. We address these issues by creating a database of FOIS that includes detailed officer information. We test racial disparities using an approach that sidesteps the benchmark debate by directly predicting the race of civilians fatally shot rather than comparing the rate at which racial groups are shot to some benchmark. We report three main findings: 1) As the proportion of Black or Hispanic officers in a FOIS increases, a person shot is more likely to be Black or Hispanic than White, a disparity explained by county demographics; 2) race-specific county-level violent crime strongly predicts the race of the civilian shot; and 3) although we find no overall evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities in fatal shootings, when focusing on different subtypes of shootings (e.g., unarmed shootings or “suicide by cop”), data are too uncertain to draw firm conclusions. We highlight the need to enforce federal policies that record both officer and civilian information in FOIS.

Why do gun murders have a higher clearance rate than gunshot assaults?
Philip Cook et al.
Criminology & Public Policy, August 2019, Pages 525-551

The prevailing view is that follow‐up investigations are of limited value as crimes are primarily cleared by patrol officers making on‐scene arrests and through the presence of eyewitnesses and forensic evidence at the initial crime scene. We use a quasi‐experimental design to compare investigative resources invested in clearing gun homicide cases relative to nonfatal gun assaults in Boston. We find the large gap in clearances (43% for gun murders vs. 19% for nonfatal gun assaults) is primarily a result of sustained investigative effort in homicide cases made after the first 2 days.

The relationship between concealed carry permits and state-level crime rates
Mark Gius
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

The purpose of the present study is to determine the relationship between concealed carry permits and state-level crime rates. Using pooled data for the period 2003–2014 and a least squares model with state dummy variables and a time trend, results of the present study suggest that the lagged value of per capita concealed carry permits had a statistically-significant and negative effect on the following crime rates: violent crime, rape, aggravated assault, and auto theft. For all other crimes examined, the number of active concealed carry permits had no statistically significant effects. These results somewhat corroborate the findings of Lott (2000).

Network exposure and excessive use of force: Investigating the social transmission of police misconduct
Marie Ouellet et al.
Criminology & Public Policy, August 2019, Pages 675-704

In this study, we investigate how a police officer's exposure to peers accused of misconduct shapes his or her involvement in excessive use of force. By drawing from 8,642 Chicago police officers named in multiple complaints, we reconstruct police misconduct ego‐networks using complaint records. Our results show that officer involvement in excessive use of force complaints is predicted by having a greater proportion of co‐accused with a history of such behaviors.

The force of fear: Police stereotype threat, self-legitimacy, and support for excessive force
Rick Trinkner, Erin Kerrison & Phillip Atiba Goff
Law and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Researchers have linked police officers’ concerns with appearing racist — a kind of stereotype threat — to racial disparities in the use of force. This study presents the first empirical test of the hypothesized psychological mechanism linking stereotype threat to police support for violence. We hypothesized that stereotype threat undermines officers’ self-legitimacy, or the confidence they have in their inherent authority, encouraging overreliance on coercive policing to maintain control. Officers (n = 784) from the patrol division of a large urban police force completed a survey in order to test this hypothesis. Respondents completed measures of stereotype threat, self-legitimacy, resistance to use of force policy, approval of unreasonable force, and endorsement of procedurally fair policing. Structural equation models showed that elevated stereotype threat was associated with lower self-legitimacy (β = −.15), which in turn was associated with more resistance to restrictions on force (β = −.17), greater approval of unreasonable force (β = −.31), and lower endorsement of fair policing (β = .57). These results reveal that concerns about appearing racist are actually associated with increased support for coercive policing — potentially further eroding public trust.

A national study of sustained use of force complaints in law enforcement agencies
Cori Pryor et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Methods: Using national-level data from Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics 2007, Uniform Crime Reports 2007, American Community Survey 2009 and bivariate and multivariate techniques, we investigate whether sustained uses of force vary across 1) community and regional characteristics in the U.S. and across departmental 2) policies, 3) training tendencies, and 4) hiring practices.

Results: Controlling for region, crime rate, and area median income, results demonstrate that sustained complaints increase when departments serve large, nonwhite populations. Regarding departmental policies, results are alarming: Departments with independent civilian complaint review boards, agencies which engage in community policing, and departments that implement personality tests when hiring sustain significantly higher numbers of use of force complaints. However, departments that screen for volunteer and community service histories in officer candidates have over one third fewer sustained complaints than departments that do not use this hiring screen.

Must the show go on? The (in)ability of counterevidence to change attitudes toward crime control theater policies
Dylan Campbell & Anna-Kaisa Newheiser
Law and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Objectives: Crime control theater refers to intuitively appealing laws that appear to address crime while lacking any evidence that they actually do so (e.g., sex offender registration and residence restriction laws, which do not reduce recidivism). Despite their ineffectiveness, public support for such laws tends to be high.

Method: Participants (recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk; Study 1: N = 298, mean age = 35.60, 47.7% self-identified as women and 75.8% as White; Study 2: N = 147, mean age = 35.03, 40.1% self-identified as women and 85.0% as White; Study 3: N = 552, mean age = 35.86, 42.9% self-identified as women and 76.4% as White) read about sex offender registration and residence restriction policies and rated their support for these laws, confidence in their opinions about them, and perceptions of their efficacy before and after reading counterevidence highlighting these laws’ failure to reduce sex crimes.

Results: Although exposure to counterevidence somewhat lowered support (average within-subjects d = −0.69), general attitudes remained positive even at the postcounterevidence phase (average d = 0.46 against the scale midpoint). This pattern held when manipulating the criminal population being targeted (sex offenders vs. white-collar offenders; Study 1), when tailoring counterevidence to people’s self-stated justifications for supporting these laws (Studies 2–3), and despite favorable ratings of the counterevidence’s strength and credibility.

Heterogeneity in the effect of federal spending on local crime: Evidence from causal forests
Ian Hoffman & Evan Mast
Regional Science and Urban Economics, forthcoming

Federal place-based policy could improve efficiency if it targets areas with large amenity or agglomeration externalities. We begin by showing that positive shocks to federal spending in a county and their associated economic stimulus substantially decrease crime, an important amenity. We then employ two machine learning algorithms — causal trees and causal forests — to conduct a data-driven search for heterogeneity in this effect. The effect is larger in below-median income counties, and the difference is economically and statistically significant. This heterogeneity likely improves the efficiency of the many place-based policies that target such areas.

Are Jail Sanctions More Punitive Than Community-Based Punishments? An Examination Into the Perceived Severity of Alternative Sanctions in Community Supervision
Eric Wodahl, Brett Garland & Kimberly Schweitzer
Criminal Justice Policy Review, forthcoming

The use of sanctions in community supervision has received considerable attention in recent years. Fueled in large part by the attention given to the swift, certain, and fair (SCF) sanctioning model, many agencies have adopted sanctioning programs, which often rely heavily on the use of short-term jail incarceration. In addition to jail, there exist a number of alternative, community-based punishments that can be utilized to respond to instances of noncompliance, including enhanced drug testing and community service hours. Little is known, however, about how individuals perceive community-based sanctions compared with jail. This study addresses this issue by examining perceptions of sanctions among individuals under community supervision. Survey findings indicate that community-based punishments are not viewed as being substantially less punitive than jail incarceration. In addition, perceptions of sanction severity are influenced by a variety of individual, experiential, and supervision-level factors. The policy implications of the study findings are discussed.

Does the Disclosure of Gun Ownership Affect Crime? Evidence from New York
Daniel Tannenbaum
University of Nebraska Working Paper, May 2019

While the social costs of gun violence are high, opponents of gun restrictions argue that gun ownership deters crime and creates a positive externality by increasing unobserved risk to criminals. This paper investigates the evidence for these two channels, exploiting the sudden disclosure of all handgun permit holders’ names and addresses in two New York counties. Permit holders have more crime incidents at their homes relative to non-permit holders in the baseline, which is not driven by selection into neighborhoods. I find little evidence in favor of direct deterrence, and little evidence of peer deterrence. Instead, I find that victimization is associated with a higher likelihood of future gun ownership.

Police worldviews, unconscious bias, and their potential to contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in New York Police Department (NYPD) stops for reason of “furtive movement”
Weston Morrow & John Shjarback
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, July 2019, Pages 269-298

In Floyd et al. v The City of New York (2013), the federal district court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was engaging in unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices that targeted predominately Black and Latino New Yorkers. Among the major decisions made in Floyd (2013), the judge identified “Furtive Movement” as being a weak indicator for establishing the reasonable suspicion needed to justify a Terry stop. Moreover, the judge recognized that “Furtive Movement” is a vague and subjective term, which may be affected by unconscious bias and lead to racial and ethnic disparities in stop outcomes. Building on the judge’s concern about unconscious bias, the current study attempts to (1) provide a theoretical framework for understanding how police officers’ worldview may contribute to or interact with unconscious biases and to (2) examine whether NYPD officers are more likely to stop Black and Hispanic New Yorkers than their White counterparts for the reason of “Furtive Movement.” The latter inquiry is explored using NYPD stop-and-frisk data from 2011, 2013, and 2016. The social scientific implications of this research provide support for (1) the judge’s apprehension toward police stops on the basis of furtive gestures and (2) the effectiveness of court-ordered intervention


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