Implementation as Intervention: Can Changing Management Practices Strengthen Policing in Chicago?
University of Chicago Crime Lab
Monday, January 6, 2020
Taylor-Hibbard Seminar Room (Rm103)
12:00 pm-1:30 pm
How and why do management practices vary, and can changing them increase output? These questions have been easier for economists to answer for private-sector firms than for the public sector. In this paper, we examine what happens to output following the staggered introduction of new management practices across parts of one large, particularly important public agency: the Chicago Police Department (CPD). These management changes, called Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs), did not increase available officers but made better use of data and technology to target resources more effectively. We measure the SDSCs’ impact using a synthetic controls design, creating for each treated police district a comparison district resembling it. Because treated districts are outliers in the district-level crime rate distribution, we encounter challenges applying existing methods: they either fail to produce a similar comparison district or do so in a way that may compromise the reliability of the estimates. We propose several modifications to existing methods to address these shortcomings, and modify existing inference procedures to handle cases where there are few comparison units. We find that the SDSC in the 7th police district serving the Englewood neighborhood, historically one of the most violent in Chicago, decreased shootings by 26 percent. This seems to be accompanied by a shift in police focus towards higher social cost crimes (gun arrests) and higher risk people (arrests of those with open warrants), and an increase in community policing as measured by more recorded “positive community interactions.” We do not see statistically significant changes in other districts. The results suggest it is possible to raise public-sector output without large changes in inputs under the right conditions; understanding what those conditions are is an important priority for additional research.