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Cops for hire? The political economy of police employment in the German states

  • Markus Tepe (a1) and Pieter Vanhuysse (a2)

In times of an alleged waning of political business cycles and partisan policy-making, vote-seeking policy-makers can be expected to shift the use of political manipulation mechanisms towards other policy domains in which the macro-institutional environment allows them greater leverage. Public employment generally, and police employment specifically, are a promising domain for such tactics. Timing the hiring of police officers during election periods may increase votes, as these are “street-visible” jobs dealing with politically salient issues. Law-and-order competence signalling makes police hiring especially attractive for conservative parties. Testing these electioneering and partisanship hypotheses in the German states between 1992 and 2010, we find that socio-economic variables such as population density strongly determine police employment. But incumbents also hire more police officers before elections, while conservative party power increases police numbers. Subjectively “immediate” forms of crime (issue salience) and perceived causes of crime such as immigration are also positively associated with police numbers.

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