Panel Paper: How Far are You Willing to Go Against the Police? Evaluating the Effects of Citizen Affidavits in Chicago

Friday, November 4, 2016 : 2:10 PM
Albright (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Bocar A Ba, University of Chicago

This study uses a new dataset of complaints of police misconduct in Chicago from 2011 to 2014 to quantify the cost of citizen feedback to the police. This research is essential for understanding the difficulties individuals face when trying to file a complaint against an officer, and it is a core component in evaluating the underlying factors contributing to a perceived decline in reported police misconduct. Our identification strategy exploits (1) complaints without a signed affidavit, which are considered null in Chicago, and (2) a quasi-experimental design induced by the change of location where the affidavit is submitted. We find that costs of filing a complaint, like opportunity cost of time, deter citizens from completing their complaint. On average, each additional 3 miles an incident occurs from the reporting center relates to a decrease in the likelihood of a signed affidavit by 6.1%. The number of uncompleted complaints leads to an underestimation of police misconduct and reduces departmental accountability over police habits. This paper also documents that citizen feedback, willingness to complete a complaint and complaint outcome vary by race. Finally, this paper considers alternative policies for reporting misconduct that would improve  citizen  feedback.

Full Paper: