Hot Temperatures, Aggression, and Death at the Hands of the Police: Evidence from the U.S.
36 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2019 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 3, 2020
We study the effect of temperature on police-involved civilian deaths in the U.S. from 2000 to 2016. We show that violent crimes and the number of officers assaulted or killed both increase with warmer days (>17C), indicating a greater personal danger on such days. Consistent with higher threat levels, we found suggestive evidence that fatal shootings similarly increased during
warmer days. However, accounting for a surge in officer-civilian interaction, we found no additional effect of high temperatures on fatal shootings, indicating a lack of behavioral or physiological response from the officers. Finally, our results for other causes of death show that during "extremely warm" days (>32C), the number of casualties associated with Taser use and physical restraint were significantly higher independently of increased interaction between officers and civilians. The results suggest a need to reevaluate the use of Tasers and techniques of physical restraint to prevent unintended deaths.
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