Duke Economics Welcomes Bocar Ba

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Bocar Ba

Duke Economics is pleased to welcome postdoctoral associate Bocar Ba to the department for the 2018-2019 school year. Ba grew up in France, and then moved to Canada, where he did his undergraduate degree. He then did his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, where he graduated with his Ph.D. in public policy.  

Ba’s research is focused on economics of crime and labor economics, and has always been interested in learning more about how the two intersect. “I realized that no one was focusing on the unintended consequences of policing, like what is the impact of like arresting someone was actually an innocent? What kind of incentives do police officers have? What is your objective function of a police officer? And what are the consequences of these actions?” 

While living in Chicago, Ba observed a lot of tension regarding the police and different populations. He decided to look at the data of complaints against police officers, and wondered how easily it was for people to make complaints against them. Essentially, Ba was looking into whether complaining about the police makes a difference, and if there are factors that stop people from filing complaints in Chicago. “The first thing I did was read the police union contract which is something I don't think people do. I read that and after I essentially used the Freedom of Information Act to get a lot of administrative data from the police department. I tried to answer my questions without having to be guided by all the politics.” Ba was able to break down who is most likely to file complaints about the police, and what prohibiting factors against filing complaints are.  

Ba has published his findings online, and believes that things like number of officer complaints, awards, and number of times an officer has used force should be easily accessible to the public.  

Ba is looking forward to teaching at Duke this year. One of the reasons Ba became interested in public policy and economics was in an economics class during his undergraduate studies, where he disagreed with a paper he read in class that focused on the economics of crime. He understands the value of respecting something while disagreeing with it.

As for the future, Ba is looking forward to carrying out more research regarding police accountability. “I think there's a narrative that is missing and that's why I'm passionate about it.”