Representative bureaucracy and impartial policing

Sharon Gilad*, Momi Dahan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Representative bureaucracy theory expects minority bureaucrats to advance the interests of minority citizens. Yet, little attention has been given to the variation in the acceptability, incentives and risks of representation across bureaucratic domains. Analysis of over two million police vehicle stops from four different US departments reveals that African American police officers do not treat African Americans preferentially, yet they mitigate existing racial disparities in policing. Compared with White officers, African Americans seem less disposed to use their discretion. They are disinclined to search drivers, yet inclined to cite them, displaying comparatively low disparities across social groups. These findings extend to pure traffic violations, and are robust to entropy balancing reweighting. We provisionally attribute African American police officers' impartial policing style to their compelling need to display their performance, and avoid blame, amidst intra-organizational pressures and risks ensuing from the political salience of the police's clash with minority communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)137-155
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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