Police Violence Reduces Civilian Cooperation and Engagement with Law Enforcement

26 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021

See all articles by Desmond Ang

Desmond Ang

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Panka Bencsik

University of Chicago

Jesse Bruhn

Department of Economics, Boston University

Ellora Derenoncourt

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; University of California, Berkeley - The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy

Date Written: September 8, 2021

Abstract

How do high-profile acts of police brutality affect public trust and cooperation with law enforcement? To investigate this question, we develop a new measure of civilian crime reporting that isolates changes in community engagement with police from underlying changes in crime: the ratio of police-related 911 calls to gunshots detected by ShotSpotter technology. Examining detailed data from eight major American cities, we show a sharp drop in both the call-to-shot ratio and 911 call volume immediately after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Notably, reporting rates decreased significantly in both non-white and white neighborhoods across the country. These effects persist for several months, and we find little evidence that they were reversed by the conviction of Floyd’s murderer. Together, the results illustrate how acts of police violence may destroy a key input into effective law enforcement and public safety: civilian engagement and reporting.

Keywords: police, crime reporting, use of force, race

Suggested Citation

Ang, Desmond and Bencsik, Panka and Bruhn, Jesse and Derenoncourt, Ellora, Police Violence Reduces Civilian Cooperation and Engagement with Law Enforcement (September 8, 2021). HKS Working Paper No. RWP21-022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3920493 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3920493

Desmond Ang (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Panka Bencsik

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jesse Bruhn

Department of Economics, Boston University ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA
United States

Ellora Derenoncourt

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

579 Evans Hall
Berkeley, CA 94709
United States

University of California, Berkeley - The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy ( email )

2607 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320
United States

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