Beatriz Magaloni - Warriors and Vigilantes as Police Officers: Evidence from a field experiment with body-cameras in Rio de Janeiro

Mon, Sep 28 2020, 11:30am - 12:30pm
Beatriz Magaloni

Police brutality remains a persistent social justice problem in many democratic societies. One of the most prominent interventions seeking to deter police abuse is body-worn cameras. Our study is the first field experiment on this issue conducted in a high-violence, developing world setting: Brazil.

This paper highlights the daunting challenges to control the police in places where there is a “war” orientation toward crime and where both supervisors and frontline officers know that what they regularly do in their jobs cannot be scrutinized without seriously incriminating them. Although resistance to turning on body-cameras remained an unresolved problem throughout the study, the very presence of the body-cameras themselves nonetheless induced large changes in police behavior by deterring officers from engaging in armed conflicts and in proactive encounters, including stop-and-searches.

However, body-cameras also discouraged police from performing any policing activity, including responding to calls from the community.


Beatriz Magaloni is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University. She is also director of the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab. Most of her current work focuses on state repression, police, human rights, and violence. In 2010 she founded the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab (POVGOV) within FSI's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

Her first book, Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2006), won the Best Book Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association and the 2007 Leon Epstein Award for the Best Book published in the previous two years in the area of political parties and organizations. Her second book, The Political Logic of PovertyRelief (co-authored with Alberto Diaz Cayeros and Federico Estévez), also published by Cambridge University Press, studies the politics of poverty relief. Why clientelism is such a prevalent form of electoral exchange, how it distorts policies aimed at aiding the poor, and when it can be superseded by more democratic and accountable forms of electoral exchange are some of the central questions that the book addresses.

Her work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, World Development, Comparative Political Studies, Annual Review of Political Science, Latin American Research Review, Journal of Theoretical Politics and other journals.

Prior to joining Stanford in 2001, Professor Magaloni was a visiting professor at UCLA and a professor of Political Science at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. She also holds a law degree from ITAM.