Learning the Ropes: General Experience, Task Specific Experience, and the Output of Police Officers

WP 2015-3.0

Authors: Gregory DeAngelo & Emily G. Owens

 

We estimate the role that an indiviudal law enforcement officer's experience has on the probability of punishment, using a unique data set of tickets issued by the Idaho State Police linked to human resource records. Quasi-exogenous shocks to an officer's task-specific experience, generated by law changes, cause a temporary reduction in the frequency with which a subset of troopers "use" those laws, creating disparities in the likelihood that individual citizens are cited for law violations. An officer's experience with a particular version of a law and his general experience as a trooper appear to be substitutes; the reduction in ticketing in response to a law change is largest for newer troopers, and law changes later in a trooper's career have a smaller effect on his use of that law.

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