Calls for defunding the police have been heard across the country this month, but there is a body of research that calls defunding into question. In his recent research brief on the subject, JLF’s Jon Guze explains why defunding the police may not be such a good idea. Guze writes:

If we want to improve conditions in those communities and ensure there are fewer instances of police misconduct and less incarceration, we need to hire more police officers.  And we need to pay them more…

Suggesting that we ought to respond to anti-police protests by spending more on the police may sound paradoxical, but it’s not. Putting more active-duty police officers in the field will mean fewer crimes. Fewer crimes will mean fewer arrests and convictions. And fewer arrests and convictions will mean lower levels of incarceration. Similarly, higher pay scales will attract a larger and better-qualified pool of applicants to police programs. A larger and better-qualified pool of applicants will reduce the incentive for police programs to keep or rehire bad actors and improve the overall level of professionalism. And police officers who maintain higher professional standards will be less likely to misbehave.

Among other things, Guze cites a 2006 study put forward in the Journal of Law and Economics by Jonathan Klick and Alex Tabarrok on the subject. Guze writes:

“Using a variety of specifications,” they said, “We show that an increase in police presence … leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in the level of crime.” Tabarrok returned to the subject in 2013 in a piece called, “More Police, Fewer Prisons, Less Crime,” and again in 2016 in response to an Obama administration report called, “Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System.”

This holds especially true in areas worn by protests and rioting. Guze explains:

In “Policing the Police: The Impact of ‘Pattern-or-Practice’ Investigations on Crime,” Harvard economists Tanaya Devi and Roland G. Fryer Jr. compare crime levels in 27 cities before and after investigations of police misconduct. In 22 of these cities, the complaints that led to the investigations did not receive much national media attention. However, in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Riverside, CA, and Ferguson, MO, the investigations were triggered by what the authors call “viral” incidents…

Devi and Fryer found… “all investigations that were preceded by “viral” incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies. The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced.”

Read the full brief here. Read Guze’s brief on how correctional institutions can deal with the threat of COVID-19 here.