Bringing War Home: Violent Crime, Police Killings and the Overmilitarization of the US Police
43 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 12, 2016
The withdrawal from the Afghan and Iraqi war led to the arrival of huge quantities of military equipment to the US. Many of this equipment, now unused by the military, have been redistributed to police departments via a program called 1033. In this paper I study the causal effect on criminal activity and police behavior of the militarization of the police through this program. I do so by taking into account that military equipment are stored in various disposition centers. Police departments do not pay for the cost of item but have to cover all transportation costs. I then use the distance to a disposition center and the timing of the US withdrawal from the wars in an instrumental variable setting. Estimates show that military equipment reduces violent crime and is responsible for 60% of the rapid drop observed since 2007. More than one third of the effect is caused by the displacement of violent crime to neighboring areas. Because police departments do not take into account this externality when making militarization decision they overmilitarize. Finally, I show that police militarization increases police killings and that all of the recent increase is due to program 1033. Because of militarization, the police has killed 2200 people.
Keywords: Police, militarization, crime, violence
JEL Classification: K42, H7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation