A Pooled Time-Series Assessment of the Determinants of Police Strength in Large U.S. Cities

Jason Carmichael, The Ohio State University
Ronald Helms, Western Washington University
Stephanie Kent, The Ohio State University

This paper considers the role of coercion in urban areas. We focus on law enforcement as the primary agency of social control used to conteract threats to the maintenance of order. Threat hypotheses are tested by examining the effects of economic inequality, unemployment and minority presence. A fixed-effects design is used to determine how these theoretical variables affect numbers of sworn police officers in U.S. cities in 1980 and 1990. After controlling for the effects of crime and disorder, the tax base, population size and segregation, economic inequality, unemployment and minority presence explain changes in police strength over time and across cities. These findings suggest that threats to stability due to increases in inequality and unemployment, as well as shifts in internal racial divisions translate into greater numbers of police. Such results support previous findings on the determinants of police strength, and indicate that threat theories play an integral role in our understanding of the use of coercion across U.S. cities.

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Updated 05/20/2006