AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: The accountability of police to the public is imperative for a functioning democracy. The opinions of police executives—pivotal actors for implementing oversight policies—are an understudied, critical component of successful reform efforts. We use a pre-registered survey experiment administered to all U.S. municipal police chiefs and county sheriffs to assess whether police executives’ attitudes towards civilian oversight regimes are responsive to 1) state-level public opinion (drawing on an original n=16,840 survey) and 2) prior adoption of civilian review boards in large agencies. Results from over 1,300 police executives reveal that law enforcement leaders are responsive to peer adoption but much less to public opinion, despite overwhelming public support. Elected sheriffs are less likely to support any civilian oversight. Our findings hold implications for reformers: We find that existing civilian oversight regimes are largely popular, and that it is possible to move police executive opinion towards support for civilian oversight.
Josh McCrain is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Utah. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Emory University and an M.A. and B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was previously a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. His research interests include public policy, political economy, media and politics, and computational social science within American politics. His current projects focus on policing accountability, the political economy of local media, health policy, and money in politics. Prior to entering academia, Josh worked in lobbying and advocacy for non-profit organizations in Washington D.C.
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