New study findings: militarizing local police does not reduce crime

December 07, 2020

New research shows that the militarization of local law enforcement through weapons, armored vehicles, combat attire, office equipment and other items provided by the Department of Defense does not reduce crime. Additionally, researchers found incomplete records and discrepancies in the federal government's tracking of surplus military equipment, or SME, issued to local law enforcement agencies.

"Scholars rely on accurate data to track and analyze the true effect of police militarization on crime. Policymakers also need accurate data to base their decisions upon. However to-date, we do not have reliable data on SME transfers to local police and sheriffs through the federal government," said LSU Department of Political Science Assistant Professor Anna Gunderson, who is the lead author on a paper published today in Nature Human Behaviour.

In 2014 following the police brutality protests in Ferguson, President Obama prohibited local law enforcement agencies from procuring some of the most military-like equipment, such as tracked armored vehicles and grenade launchers, from the Department of Defense. In 2017, President Trump reversed this order citing research that claimed police militarization reduces crime. Three years ago, Gunderson and coauthors at Emory University began interrogating newly released data on SME provisions through the 1033 program, which is one of the most significant federal programs that contributes to the militarization of local police and sheriffs.

"When we looked at the data and ran the replications, nothing looked like the results being cited by the Trump Administration. We spent a year trying to diagnose the problem," Gunderson said.

She and her coauthors found significant discrepancies in the data about which law enforcement agencies have and use SME. The researchers compared a 2014 data release from National Public Radio, or NPR, and newer data from 2018 and found inconsistencies between them. For example, the NPR data recorded counties as receiving equipment like weapons, with no corresponding record in the 2018 data; and the 2018 data show some counties as receiving equipment while those counties are missing in the NPR data.

The researchers conclude that drawing firm conclusions and promoting claims about the efficacy of police militarization--especially for crime rates--based on research relying on the SME data released by the Department of Defense is unreliable. When they conducted a new analysis using updated data, the authors found no evidence that SME transfers reduce crime.

"This is a cautionary tale about the importance of oversight. The most important thing for policy makers and the public to know is that you can't justify giving surplus military equipment to police departments on the grounds it will lead to a reduction in crime. There is no evidence for that. You can't claim this program is important because it reduces crime," said co-author Tom Clark, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Political Science at Emory. "If you are going to engage in policy making experiments, it is important to include resources and requirements for reporting so that policy analysts can study whether the policy is working."
-end-
Additional Link:

Counterevidence of Crime-Reduction Effects from Federal Grants of Military Equipment to Local Police, Nature Human Behaviour:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-00995-5

Contact

Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations
510-816-8161
asatake@lsu.edu

Elaine Justice
Emory University
404-276-8263
elaine.justice@emory.edu

More news and information can be found on LSU's media center,
http://www.lsu.edu/mediacenter.

Louisiana State University

Related Data Articles from Brightsurf:

Keep the data coming
A continuous data supply ensures data-intensive simulations can run at maximum speed.

Astronomers are bulging with data
For the first time, over 250 million stars in our galaxy's bulge have been surveyed in near-ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared light, opening the door for astronomers to reexamine key questions about the Milky Way's formation and history.

Novel method for measuring spatial dependencies turns less data into more data
Researcher makes 'little data' act big through, the application of mathematical techniques normally used for time-series, to spatial processes.

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.

Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.

Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.

Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.

Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.

Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.

Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.

Read More: Data News and Data Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.