How do states address police misconduct? Police violence and abuse occurs throughout the democratic world, presenting a challenge for states committed to exercising coercive force with discretion. One of the ways states address this problem is with police misconduct oversight institutions, which facilitate civilian reporting and state investigation of misconduct. But there is vast variation in the ways democracies design these institutions, and there is no systematic cross-national comparative research which can help us understand how different types of oversight institutions influence citizens’ behavior and attitudes to the state. As a consequence, decisionmakers lack the empirical basis necessary for developing informed policy. This project will develop a theoretical framework which contains a wider array of facets of institutional design than have been considered in previous research. It then asks how these institutional facets impact on citizen perceptions of police legitimacy and willingness to file complaints. The project studies these relationships within all OECD democracies using a multi-method approach. It first collects new, systematic data in order to conduct the first cross-national, statistical analysis. It complements this analysis with a series of survey experiments in order to overcome challenges to causal inference. Five case studies anchor this effort by helping to validate and contextualize the empirics. This project contributes by developing a new conceptual framework, innovating new and nuanced theoretical arguments, and studying them with rigorous, comparative methods. This research agenda is important because understanding how these oversight institutions are designed and whether they work can provide us with important leverage on understanding the foundations of democratic governance and state respect for the civil rights of its citizens.
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