American Government and Politics

Police Legitimacy and Citizen Coproduction: How does publicized police brutality impact calling the police?



Calling the police has been called the most important decision in the criminal justice system. One view of citizen-police cooperation contends that citizens report crimes to the police because they perceive the police to be legitimate. How do shocks to institutional legitimacy shape demands for police services? Analyzing 25 well-publicized cases of police brutality across 22 US cities using difference-in-differences analyses and random permutation tests, I find little evidence that police brutality incidents reduce 911 calls. Analyses of google search trends in impacted cities indicate substantial interest in local brutality events, media reports and public opinion data indicate these events reduced police trust, and many incidents resulted in sustained protests and concrete changes policing policies. However, demand for policing services –- measured by calls reporting assault, burglary, theft, and gunshots – remained remarkably steady. Absent alternatives, citizens continue to call on police intervention to manage crime despite damaged police legitimacy.


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