Department seminar: Sharon Gilad, "Representative Bureaucracy and Policing Styles"

Wed, 25/04/2018 - 14:15 to 15:45

Room 4326, Social Science

Sharon Gilad, Hebrew University  

"Representative Bureaucracy and Policing Styles"


To what extent does the entry of African American police officers to the traditionally White-Caucasian American police challenge institutionalized police practice? Traditional police culture, in the US, is epitomized by “aggressiveness” – a low threshold for action on a suspicion that a crime has been committed, which is associated with disrespect for citizens’ procedural rights - alongside selective enforcement of mundane legal requirements. Minorities, and African American citizens, specifically, are the prime victims of aggressive police practice, and increased representation for minorities within the police has been advocated as one remedy for police bias. Yet, previous research paradoxically indicates that enhanced representation for minorities within the police increases police bias towards minorities, due to minority officers’ compelling need to display their loyalty to their “blue” identity. Based on circa 2.2 million police vehicle stops from four different US locations, we show that African American police officers (compared with Caucasians) are disinclined to employ aggressive policing practices (searching drivers and their cars) towards drivers of all ethnicities, whilst being non-selective in their enforcement of traffic violations. These results, which survive a battery of robustness checks, indicate that African American police officers espouse a distinct non-aggressive and non-selective policing style, which we associate with their empathy and lower cynicism vis-à-vis citizens, on the one hand, and their compelling need to display their performance amidst high risks and animosity within the police, on the other.