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

John R. Lott Jr.

Crime Prevention Research Center


Economic Inquiry, April 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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

JEL Classification: J72, K14, H42

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Date posted: July 11, 2000  

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R., Does a Helping Hand Put Others At Risk?: Affirmative Action, Police Departments, and Crime (2000). Economic Inquiry, April 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=231100 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.231100

Contact Information

John R. Lott Jr. (Contact Author)
Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )
United States
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