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Policing Leadership and Accountability: Harnessing Big Data and Causal Inference for Evaluating Police Reform Practices

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Salt Lake
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $972,083)

Policing Leadership and Accountability: Harnessing Big Data and Causal Inference for Evaluating Police Reform Practices


This proposal outlines a comprehensive research plan to examine the impact of police executives on accountability mechanisms and outcomes within law enforcement. While there has been extensive research on the practices of frontline officers, the role of police executives in shaping and implementing these efforts has been largely overlooked. This proposal seeks to address this gap by conducting a systematic examination that starts at the highest level of command. The critical question the project will answer is: Do police chiefs and sheriffs impact accountability practices? And secondarily, are these policing elites themselves accountable?

The interdisciplinary team has assembled a comprehensive dataset on U.S. police executives (2013-2018), capturing detailed information on every police chief and sheriff every six months during this period. To expand upon this work, the team seeks funding for collecting additional data beyond 2018 and exploring key agency factors and accountability mechanisms such as Civilian Review Boards (CRBs), AI accountability tools, public attitudes, protest data, and local policy proposals. Furthermore, the team will create the first-ever comprehensive database of CRBs.

The study will then delve into how the composition of police executives influences accountability preferences and outcomes, including a thorough examination of the decision-making preferences of underrepresented executives and the effect of leadership changes on reforms. Analyses will be conducted on the adoption and effects of current accountability proposals, such as CRBs, body-worn cameras (BWCs), and AI systems used in identifying police misconduct, highlighting the vital role of police executives in driving these reforms.

Modern causal research designs will be employed for the evaluations, and the results will be published in leading academic journals. Public datasets, statistical packages, and summary reports will also be released. Additionally, this project will launch the Police Accountability and Policy Evaluation Research (PAPER) Lab to train a new generation of researchers in this field.

The team consists of experts from various disciplines, including criminology, political science, public policy, technology, public administration, and policing practice. They have strong connections to police executives, technology vendors, media outlets, and policymaking circles, positioning the project to provide vital, actionable insights for policy and practice concerning police executives and accountability. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 28, 2023