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Police bureaucracies, their incentives, and the war on drugs

Abstract

After 1984 local law enforcement agences in the U.S. substantially increased arrests for drug offenses relative to arrests for property and violent crimes. This paper explores why this reallocation of police resources occurred, focusing on alternative “public interest” and bureaucratic self interest explanations. The Comprehensive Crime Act of 1984 is shown to have altered the incentives of police agencies by allowing them to keep the proceeds of assets forfeited as a result of drug enforcement activities. Empirical evidence is presented which shows that police agencies can increase their discretionary budgets through the asset forfeiture process.

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Benson, B.L., Rasmussen, D.W. & Sollars, D.L. Police bureaucracies, their incentives, and the war on drugs. Public Choice 83, 21–45 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01047681

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Keywords

  • Empirical Evidence
  • Public Finance
  • Public Interest
  • Violent Crime
  • Enforcement Activity