The Effect of Collective Bargaining Rights on Law Enforcement: Evidence from Florida

43 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 27 Jan 2018

Dhammika Dharmapala

University of Chicago Law School

Richard H. McAdams

University of Chicago Law School

John Rappaport

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: December 31, 2017

Abstract

Growing controversy surrounds the impact of labor unions on law enforcement behavior. Critics allege that unions impede organizational reform and insulate officers from discipline for misconduct. The only evidence of these effects, however, is anecdotal. We exploit a quasi-experiment in Florida to estimate the effects of collective bargaining rights on law enforcement misconduct and other outcomes of public concern. In 2003, the Florida Supreme Court’s Williams decision extended to county deputy sheriffs collective bargaining rights that municipal police officers had possessed for decades. We construct a comprehensive panel dataset of Florida law enforcement agencies starting in 1997, and employ a difference-in-difference approach that compares sheriffs’ offices and police departments before and after Williams. Our primary result is that collective bargaining rights lead to about a 27% increase in complaints of officer misconduct for the typical sheriff’s office. This result is robust to the inclusion of a variety of controls. The time pattern of the estimated effect, along with an analysis using agency-specific trends, suggests that it is not attributable to preexisting trends. The estimated effect of Williams is not robustly significant for other potential outcomes of interest, however, including the racial and gender composition of agencies and training and educational requirements.

Keywords: Collective bargaining rights; police unions; police misconduct; law enforcement

JEL Classification: K42; J50; J45

Suggested Citation

Dharmapala, Dhammika and McAdams, Richard H. and Rappaport, John, The Effect of Collective Bargaining Rights on Law Enforcement: Evidence from Florida (December 31, 2017). University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 831; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 655. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3095217 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3095217

Dhammika Dharmapala (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Richard H. McAdams

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-2520 (Phone)

John Rappaport

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-7194 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/rappaport

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