De-policing and crime in the wake of Ferguson: Racialized changes in the quantity and quality of policing among Missouri police departments

John A. Shjarback, David C. Pyrooz, Scott E. Wolfe, Scott H. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Purpose This study explored whether police departments have engaged in “de-policing”—withdrawal from active police work—in response to unprecedented levels of negative attention, as well as the correlates of changes in police behavior. Methods Using data from 118 of the 121 police departments serving jurisdictions over 5000 residents in Missouri, we examined changes in both the quantity (rates of vehicle/traffic stops, searches, and arrests) and quality (“hit rates” from searches) of policing from 2014 to 2015 and whether de-policing corresponded with year-over-year changes in crime rates. Results The findings revealed a− 0.11 standardized change in stops (around 67,000 fewer stops in 2015 than 2014) and a 0.17 standardized change in hit rates (nearly 2 percentage points). Multivariate models indicated that departments serving larger African-American populations conducted fewer stops (β = −0.44), searches (β=−0.37), and arrests (β=−0.27) in 2015 compared to 2014, although race was unrelated to changes in hit rates. Changes in police behavior had no appreciable effect on total, violent, or property crime rates. Conclusions The negative attention and increased scrutiny of law enforcement appears to have had an impact on traffic stops and hit rates in Missouri. Given the racialized findings, training and community-outreach programs should aim to increase mutual trust among the police and African-American communities. Also, increasing organizational justice within departments might be one way to improve officer morale and increase motivation in the current policing climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-52
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
StatePublished - May 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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