Does a Helping Hand Put Others at Risk?: Affirmative Action, Police Departments, and Crime

39 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2000 Last revised: 29 Jan 2021

See all articles by John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Crime Prevention Research Center

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2000


Will increasing the number of minority and women police officers make law enforcement more effective by drawing on abilities that have gone untapped and creating better contact with communities and victims? Or will standards have to be lowered too far before large numbers of minorities and women can be hired? Using cross-sectional time-series data for U.S. cities, I find that more black and minority police officers increase crime rates, but this apparently arises because lower hiring standards involved in recruiting more minority officers reduces the quality of both new minority and new nonminority officers. The most adverse effects of these hiring policies have occurred in the most heavily black populated areas. There is no consistent evidence that crime rates rise when more women are hired, and this raises questions about whether norming tests or altering their content to create equal pass rates is preferable. The paper examines how the changing composition of police departments affects such measures as the murder of and assaults against police officers.

JEL Classification: J72, K14, H42

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R., Does a Helping Hand Put Others at Risk?: Affirmative Action, Police Departments, and Crime (2000). “Does a Helping hand Put Others At Risk?: Affirmative Action, Police Departments, and Crime,” Economic Inquiry, , Vol. 38, no. 2 (April 2000): 239-277, Available at SSRN: or

John R. Lott (Contact Author)

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

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1100 W Kent Ave
Missoula, MT 59801
United States

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