Public Safety, Private Harm: The Impact of Police Militarization on Mortality and Suicide
37 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2017 Last revised: 8 Mar 2019
Date Written: October 26, 2018
We quantify the impact of transferring productivity-enhancing military surplus equipment to law enforcement on suicide and mortality in the United States. Our strategy relies on federal budget allocations to military within a state to instrument for the value of equipment transferred to law enforcement within the state. We find evidence that the average state-level annual transfer of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies (about $2 million) reduces suicide rates by 0.28 standard deviations. The majority of the reduction in suicide rates stems from a reduction in firearm suicide rates, suggesting more effective police forces reduce the need for households to secure their own property with firearms. For robustness, we show our results do not change in consideration of alternative instruments, are robust to concerns about timing of transfers and simultaneity, and that our strategy does not spuriously explain mortality from causes of death unrelated to public safety.
Keywords: Public Safety, Law Enforcement, Mortality
JEL Classification: H56, H52, H72, H76
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation