Civil Service Reforms: Evidence from U.S. Police Departments (Job Market Paper) [Online Appendix]
Abstract: Merit systems reducing politicians' control over police officers' hiring and firing have been in effect in the United States beginning in the early 1900s. But did they succeed in improving police performance? To answer this question, I exploit population-based mandates for police department merit systems in a regression discontinuity design. Merit systems improved performance: in the first ten years after the reform, the property crime rate was lower and the violent crime clearance rate was higher in departments operating under a merit system than in departments operating under a spoils system. I explore three possible channels: resources, police officers' characteristics and police officers' incentive structure. Changes in resources or police officers' characteristics do not drive the effect: employment and expenditures were not affected and there is limited evidence of selection changing pre-1940. I provide indirect evidence that changes in the incentive structure faced by police officers are instead important: merit systems had no effect on performance when the ban on patronage dismissals, the component of the reform that most directly affects incentives, was not part of the treatment.
Research in Progress
State capacity and democratic policing: evidence from England and Wales
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