An audit experiment to investigate the “War on Cops”

Despite the widespread incidence of police violence in the US, there is very little research on the tangible consequences of it for the police themselves. The aim of this study is to examine whether police in the US are stigmatized by lethal police violence committed by other police officers, and therefore discriminated against in the job market. To do so, we conduct an experimental audit study, both before and after heightened unrest from police violence. For service-related job openings, we compare the likelihood of getting an affirmative response from a prospective employer to a job application from a fictitious former police officer (the treatment condition) to the response to one of two control conditions: a former firefighter or a former code enforcement officer. We do not find evidence that former police officers are discriminated against in the labor market. This finding holds in periods characterized by relatively little social unrest due police violence as well as periods of heightened protest activity. At least with respect to the labor market for certain service-related professions, former police officers do not appear tainted by any stigma associated with their prior profession.