The American Review of Public Administration, Ahead of Print.
In this paper, we ask whether principles—relevant institutions, including administrative reform, legal and judicial support, and information and communication technology (ICT)—and principals—ordinary people that are capable, knowledgeable, and willing—can help enhance accountability of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) by mitigating unwarranted discretionary behaviors. We examined the New York City Police Department by constructing and analyzing a unique dataset drawn from multiple sources and by using the SLB literature to inform our empirical model specification. Fixed effects regression analysis revealed the potential of principles and principals in motivating or reducing police officers’ use of force resulting in substantiated civilian complaints. Specifically, proactive policing strategies, exonerated civilian complaint dispositions, court summons following arrests, and ICT are the principles, and a low-poverty population served by police are the principals we found to influence discretionary police behavior.