Collective Bargaining Rights and Police Misconduct: Evidence from Florida

50 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 27 Aug 2019

See all articles by Dhammika Dharmapala

Dhammika Dharmapala

University of Chicago Law School

Richard H. McAdams

University of Chicago Law School

John Rappaport

University of Chicago - Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2019

Abstract

Growing controversy surrounds the impact of labor unions on law enforcement behavior. Critics argue that unions impede organizational reform and insulate officers from discipline for misconduct. Yet collective bargaining tends to increase wages, which could improve officer behavior. We provide quasi-experimental empirical evidence on the effects of collective bargaining rights on violent incidents of misconduct. Our empirical strategy exploits a 2003 Florida Supreme Court decision (Williams), which conferred collective bargaining rights on sheriffs’ deputies, resulting in a substantial increase in unionization among these officers. Using a Florida state administrative database of “moral character” violations reported by local agencies between 1996 and 2015, we implement a difference-in-difference approach in which police departments (which were unaffected by Williams) serve as a control group for sheriffs’ offices (SOs). Our estimates imply that collective bargaining rights led to a substantial increase in violent incidents of misconduct among SOs, relative to police departments. The effect of collective bargaining rights is concentrated among SOs that subsequently adopted collective bargaining agreements, and the timing of the adoption of these agreements is associated with increases in violent misconduct. There is also some evidence consistent with a “bargaining in the shadow” effect among SOs that did not unionize.

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, Collective Bargaining Rights and Police Misconduct: Evidence from Florida (August 2019). 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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