Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Economics, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Gregory DeAngelo

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Melissa Rogers

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mark Hoekstra

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Rainita Narender


911 Call-taker, Decision-Making Under Uncertainty, Jacknife Instrument, Norms and Enforcement, Use of Force and Arrest

Subject Categories

Criminology | Economics | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


The United States Criminal Justice System has undergone massive legislative reform in the past decade. These reforms have prompted a demand to analyze the benefits and potential unintended consequences of proposed policies and legislation. The following dissertation measures policy implications across three types of actors in the criminal justice system: 911 call-takes, prosecutors, and law enforcement. As most citizen-officer interactions arise from 911 calls for service, the first chapter of this dissertation is a study on the “priming” effect 911-call-takers have on officer decision to arrest and use force on calls for service in Dallas, Texas (2013-2018). In this work, I leverage random assignment of incoming calls to 911- call-takers to explore the effect of call-takers’ high propensity to mention Hispanic/Latino, Black or White race on call outcomes. I find that marginal assignment of a call-taker with a high propensity to mention Black, Latino and White races results in a decrease in Black and Latino arrests and decrease in Black force use incidents compared to calls where no race is mentioned. The novel contribution of this research is to fill a gap in the empirical literature of 911-call-taker idiosyncrasies in transcribing information on officer decision-making. The second chapter of this work explores the role of a recent California legislative reform, Proposition 57, on the role of prosecution. The value of a criminal case, often determined by identifying the level of punishment that is appropriate given the severity of the offense, can be determined by potential consequences for a defendant, harm being redressed, and public, office, or prosecutors’ interests. Actors within the legal process must handle cases according to the value of the case while facing time and resource constraints. Legislation that changes the determinants of a case’s value will likewise affect the behavior of the agents. Given a case that is deemed to have a higher value, a rational agent prioritizes select cases and dispenses more readily with other lower value cases. Three testable predictions result from this model: (i) prosecutors seek the higher value for threshold cases; (ii) prosecutors resolve lesser cases quickly, through not filing, diversion, or plea; (iii) prosecutors adopt alternative consequences to offset any decrease in cases’ value. We test this hypotheses within the context of California’s recent legislation, Proposition 57, using difference-in-differences analysis. Our results support these predictions, legislation introduction contributes to case valuation. The third chapter examines the effect of a low priority local initiative on contracted and non-contracted police and prosecutors. Moreover, the extant empirical literature has primarily focused on how norms affect the design of legal rules, paying less attention to their role in the enforcement or prosecution of laws. This work investigates whether social norms affect law enforcement and prosecution practices when laws and norms are not necessarily aligned. This empirical analysis focuses on the impact of the adoption of a low priority initiative (LPI) on police and prosecutor behavior in Los Angeles County. LPIs are not legally binding and while such initiatives signal underlying norms, they may conflict with police and prosecutor preferences. Results suggest that following the introduction of an LPI there is a rise in the number of misdemeanor arrests, but not in the rate that misdemeanor marijuana offenses are dismissed. We then relax our parallel trends assumption in our main analysis using synthetic difference-in-differences and show that results remain consistent. We conclude that law enforcement preferences have a stronger influence over law enforcement behavior than community norms, while prosecutor behavior is unchanged with regards to the local norms.