Panel Paper: Social Accountability and Institutional Change: The Case of Citizen Oversight of Police

Friday, November 9, 2018
Coolidge - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mir Usman Ali, Indiana University

This study examines the ability of social accountability (SA) to spur institutional change at the local level, using citizen oversight agencies (COAs) for police as a test case. COAs are agencies that are intended to provide external oversight for police agencies. Using data collected through an original survey of COAs, hypotheses regarding the impact of SA mechanisms on institutional outcomes are tested. We find that agencies with a broad scope of authority, ability to recommend discipline and/or policy change, broadly representative governance structure, and strong citizen support can substantially reduce racial disparity in arrest rates for disorderly conduct. Also, while COAs are associated with a reduction in the number of white suspects killed by police due to the use of deadly force, the number of black suspects killed by police does not decline. This affirms the contention in gradual institutional change frameworks that bureaucratic discretion can also affect the degree to which institutional change can be accomplished.