Guarding the Guardians: an Analysis of Investigations Against Police Officers in an Internal Affairs Division

Sandro Cabral (Fed. U. of Bahia)
Sérgio G. Lazzarini (Insper Institute of Education and Research)

Abstract: Internal affairs divisions are organizations crafted to monitor the behavior of police officers. However, like many other public bureaucracies, the police is plagued with the “who guards the guardians” dilemma, which is a typical organizational design problem that occurs when the agents to be monitored are appointed as monitors. Consequently, there are reasons to believe that investigations will be inherently biased towards of certain police officers and certain types of deviations. In this paper we examine reasons why some complaints against police officers are sustained or not and if these complaints foster or not consequential sanctions. We employ a distinct dataset containing detailed information on investigation processes against police officers performed by the internal affairs division of a police organization in Brazil. We find that while certain organizational procedures adopted by the internal affairs division increase the speed in which the investigation is concluded, certain officer-specific characteristics (such as the status and tenure of the officer) and the nature of the accusation significantly affect the final verdict, thus suggesting potential bias in the overall process.

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