Using Hit Rates to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita
Nicola G. Persico
University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics
University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
January 12, 2005
PIER Working Paper No. 05-004
This paper considers the use of outcomes-based tests for detecting racial bias in the context of police searches of motor vehicles. It shows that the test proposed in Knowles, Persico and Todd (2001) can also be applied in a more general environment where police officers are heterogenous in their tastes for discrimination and in their costs of search and motorists are heterogeneous in their benefits and costs from criminal behavior. We characterize the police and motorist decision problems in a game theoretic framework and establish properties of the equilibrium. We also extend of the model to the case where drivers' characteristics are mutable in the sense that drivers can adapt some of their characteristics to reduce the probability of being monitored. After developing the theory that justifies the application of outcomes-based tests, we apply the tests to data on police searches of motor vehicles gathered by the Wichita Police department. The empirical findings are consistent with the notion that police in Wichita choose their search strategies to maximize successful searches, and not out of racial bias.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: Racial Profiling, Crime, Police, Wichita
JEL Classification: J70, K42working papers series
Date posted: January 21, 2005
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