Police Institutions and Police Abuse: Evidence from the US
148 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2018 Last revised: 11 Jan 2019
Date Written: April 23, 2018
What can explain variation in police abuse across America’s largest enforcement agencies? This question is salient given the media attention and the investigations conducted by the US Department of Justice finding problems of accountability and transparency in America’s policing apparatus. Situating itself on the intersection between public-sector union, special interest group, American politics, and criminology literature, this thesis argues that police union mechanisms, specifically police protections, can explain variation in police abuse. The study employs an originally constructed index of police protections comprised of police union contract and Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR) provisions. First, I find a positive and significant relationship between police abuse and police protections. Second, while local-level ideology has no influence on the ability of unions to create police protections, state-level ideology vis-à-vis state labour laws hinder the ability of unions to create police protections. Finally, to address alternative explanations for continued abuse, I present a paired, qualitative case study of Chicago, IL, and Dallas, TX. I demonstrate the importance of labour histories and minority law enforcement unions for creating better policing outcomes.
Keywords: criminology, American politics, public-sector union, special interest group, policing, criminal justice
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