Which Police Departments Want Reform? Barriers to Evidence-Based Policymaking

Samantha Goerger, Jonathan Mummolo, Sean J. Westwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Political elites increasingly express interest in evidence-based policymaking, but transparent research collaborations necessary to generate relevant evidence pose political risks, including the discovery of sub-par performance and misconduct. If aversion to collaboration is non-random, collaborations may produce evidence that fails to generalize. We assess selection into research collaborations in the critical policy arena of policing by sending requests to discuss research partnerships to roughly 3,000 law enforcement agencies in 48 states. A host of agency and jurisdiction attributes fail to predict affirmative responses to generic requests, alleviating concerns over generalizability. However, across two experiments, mentions of agency performance in our correspondence depressed affirmative responses - even among top-performing agencies - by roughly eight percentage points. Many agencies that initially indicate interest in transparent, evidence-based policymaking recoil once performance evaluations are made salient. We discuss several possible mechanisms for these dynamics, which can inhibit valuable policy experimentation in many communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-412
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 14 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • field experiments
  • Policing
  • policy evaluation
  • selection bias


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