Collective Bargaining and Police Misconduct
50 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 26 Oct 2018
Date Written: October 2018
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. Yet collective bargaining tends to increase wages, which could improve police behavior. We provide quasi-experimental empirical evidence on the effects of collective bargaining on violent incidents of misconduct. The incidents are recorded in a Florida state administrative database of “moral character” violations reported by local agencies. Our empirical strategy focuses on the conferral of collective bargaining rights on sheriffs’ deputies by a 2003 Florida Supreme Court decision (Williams). These rights produced a substantial increase in unionization of sheriffs’ deputies. We first show that the introduction of collective bargaining agreements at sheriffs’ offices after Williams was associated with a substantial increase in violent incidents. We then analyze the impact of collective bargaining rights, using police departments, which were unaffected by Williams, as a control group for sheriffs’ offices. Our results imply that collective bargaining rights led to about a 45% increase in violent incidents. We also find some evidence suggesting that collective bargaining rights led to decreased racial and ethnic diversity among new officer hires.
Keywords: Collective bargaining rights; police unions; police misconduct; law enforcement
JEL Classification: K42; J50; J45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation