Police Force Size and Civilian Race
Emily K. Weisburst
Morgan C. Williams Jr.
- American Economic Review: Insights (Forthcoming)
We report novel empirical estimates of the race-specific effects of larger police forces in the
United States. Each additional police officer abates approximately 0.1 homicides. In per capita
terms, effects are twice as large for Black versus white victims. Larger police forces also make
fewer arrests for serious crimes, with larger reductions for crimes with Black suspects, implying
that police force growth does not increase racial disparities among the most serious charges. At
the same time, larger police forces make more arrests for low-level “quality of life” offenses, with
effects that imply a disproportionate impact for Black Americans.
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