Do Officer-Involved Shootings Reduce Citizen Contact with Government?


Police use of force bears on central matters of political science, including equality of citizen treatment by government. In light of recent high-profile officer-involved shootings (OIS) that resulted in civilian deaths, we assess whether, conditional on a shooting, a civilian’s race predicts fatality during police-civilian interactions. We combine Los Angeles data on OIS with a novel research design to estimate the causal effects of fatal shootings on citizen-initiated contact with government. Specifically, we examine whether fatal OIS affect citizen contact with the municipal government via use of the emergency 911 and nonemergency 311 call systems in Los Angeles. We find no average effect of OIS on patterns of 911 and 311 call behavior across a wide range of empirical specifications. Our results suggest, contrary to existing evidence, that OIS, in and of themselves, do not substantively change civic behavior, at least not citizen-initiated contact with local government.

Journal of Politics 81(3)
Elisha Cohen
Data Science Faculty Fellow

I am a Data Science Faculty Fellow at NYU’s Center for Data Science. I work at the intersection of political methodology, applied statistics and data science.