My research focuses on political power, representation, and policy implementation: which political coalitions control policy, and how. I use a mix of methods, including quantitative empirical techniques, formal modeling, and ethnographic observation. My methodological interests include causal inference, the use and misuse of data for policy-making, and the feedback effects of measurement.
I have a particular interest in the political control of policing and criminal justice bureaucracies, local politics in the United States, and racial and ethnic politics.
Democratic Institutions and Equal Access to the Law: Race, Representation, and Local Control in Police Governance
My dissertation and book project investigates the origins of inequalities in the application of state power. When do democratic institutions produce egalitarian outcomes, and when do they reinforce existing inequalities? I examine these issues in the context of policing in the United States. Other scholars have traced the tremendous inequalities in the application of legal force in the United States. People of color are both more likely than whites to be arrested for similar behaviors, and less likely to receive aid from the criminal justice system in dealing with violence. What explains this legal inequality?
While most scholars focus on either national or state criminal law or the biases of individual officers, I argue that inequalities in the application of policing power are the result of differences in local political representation. I find that descriptive representation for racial minorities cuts racial disparities in over-policing by more than half -- but only when racial minorities hold a majority of seats. I draw on multiple sources of data, including two years of fieldwork in East Bay cities and multiple quantitative data sets, to trace the consequences of political exclusion, and the institutional arrangements that produce it.
Race, Party, and Representation in Criminal Justice Policy. Journal of Politics. 2019.
Layers of Bias: a Unified Approach for Understanding Problems with Risk Assessment. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 2019. with Kristian Lum, Cynthia Conti-Cook, and Julie Ciccolini
White Riot: Race, Institutions, and the 2016 US Election. Politics, Groups, and Identities. 2018.
Descriptive Representation and Political Power: Explaining Racial Inequalities in Policing (REVISE & RESUBMIT, JREP)
Quantitative Management: Rethinking Bureaucratic Accountability in Policing (REVISE & RESUBMIT, AJPS)
Everyday Risk: How the Distribution of Police Contact Produces Racial Disproportion in Police Shootings (UNDER REVIEW)
Estimating Undocumented Homicides with Two Lists and List Dependence, with Kristian Lum and Patrick Ball