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Enhancing Police Accountability and Performance

April 12, 2022

One of Quattrone Fellow Taeho Kim’s recent projects studied the effects of body cameras on law enforcement outcomes.

Taeho Kim, Research Fellow at the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, recently joined the faculty of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations & Human Resources.

Taeho is an applied microeconomist with research interests in criminal justice, workplace practices, and labor markets. In his most recent project, he investigated the effects of body cameras on law enforcement outcomes such as the use of force, policing capabilities, and public perceptions toward the police. He plans on further studying the important question of how to improve accountability and performance in police agencies.

Taeho earned his BA in economics and mathematics from Dartmouth College and an MA and PhD in economics from the University of Chicago.

My research interests lie at the intersection of labor economics, economics of crime, and personnel economics. One of my current research agenda focuses on understanding agency problems that exist within criminal justice institutions. Through my research, I strive to understand incentives that affect enforcement decisions of police officers and how potential institutional reforms shape their behavior and performance.

The current state of policing has reinforced the critical need to study these areas. Compared to white citizens, racial minorities are disproportionally more likely to come into contact with the police and to be victims of police use of force. Such police encounters have the potential to leave lasting negative impacts on the individuals, and, as recent research shows, on their communities. Furthermore, a recent string of controversial use-of-force incidents, in which the victims have often been minorities, have eroded public trust in the police and have highlighted a deficiency in accountability mechanisms of the police. Unfortunately, we only have limited empirical evidence to inform societal efforts to reform the police.

Body-Worn Cameras

My recent projects aim to fill this knowledge gap. In one paper, I study how body-worn cameras (BWCs) affect the use of force by police, as well as law enforcement outcomes in general. In the first part of this project, I gather newly-collected sources of data on the use of force across the nation, along with precise adoption dates of BWCs, to demonstrate that BWC adoption led to a substantial drop in the use of force, subject injury, and police-involved homicides. Importantly, this drop did not come at the expense of policing activities or crime rates. Furthermore, the use of force declined both against whites and minorities. In the second part of the project, I explore how police reform driven by BWC adoption may have the capacity to change public attitudes toward police.

Police Promotion Incentives

I am continuing my pursuit to gain understanding of police incentives and their decision-making with my other research work. For example, can we improve police performance and behavior through promotion incentives? If so, what types of officers can we affect and attract through promotion incentives? We are only beginning to understand police incentive structures and how they can be further shaped by police institutions. In another stream of my research, I focus on inequalities in the labor market. In one recent project, I study the gender pay gap and the extent to which salary negotiation skills affect labor market outcomes.

Broadly, my research is part of scholars’ ongoing efforts to understand today’s social challenges in promoting a fair criminal justice system and an inclusive, better-functioning labor market. 

Learn more about the Quattrone Center’s pathbreaking research.