Predicting Race-Specific Drug Arrests: The Underexplored Role of Police Agencies
Davaran, Ardavan Darab
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This study builds on research that explains why differences in drug arrest rates exist across space and by race, and sheds light on how these differences are produced. By identifying police organizational arrangements and practices associated with race-specific drug arrest rates, this research highlights the influence law enforcement agencies have on producing drug arrests, and identifies potential mechanisms that help to explain how disproportionate drug arrest rates across space and by race are produced. Using data gathered from the Law Enforcement Management and Administration Statistics: 2000 Sample Survey of Law Enforcement Agencies, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Arrests by Age, Sex, and Race 1999, 2000, and 2001, and the 2000 decennial Census for city-level demographic information, findings demonstrate that police organizational arrangements and practices influence drug arrest rates. Key findings from this study indicate that (1) the presence of specialized drug unit personnel and the practice of police agencies supplementing their budgets with drug asset forfeitures are significantly associated with higher drug arrest rates. The positive associations are twice as strong on the black population as the white population; (2) indicators of bureaucratic conditions of structural control, structural complexity and officer diversity are associated with drug arrest rates; and, (3) the practice of police agencies supplementing their budget with drug asset forfeitures is not significantly associated with black or white drug trafficking arrest rates, but is significantly and positively associated with black and white drug possession arrest rates. This indicates that drug asset forfeiture programs may not be achieving their originally intended goals of reducing drug crime by attacking the economic viability of the drug trade (i.e., drug trafficking), and provides preliminary evidence that drug asset forfeiture programs incentivize police agencies to target low level drug users, and minority drug users more specifically.