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Black, Hispanic, and female police use force less frequently than white officers

A Chicago Police Department study officer suggests that black and Hispanic police officers tend to detain, detain, and use force against civilians less frequently than white officers, and female officers of all races use less force than their own. male colleagues.

Information about the demographics and behavior of thousands of Chicago police officers revealed how officers of different races and genders acted while conducting similar patrols. Although the results do not shed light on why these differences exist, they suggest that diversification of U.S. police departments (which historically have been almost all white and male) may improve police treatment of minority communities, the researchers report on 12 February.

“When I received the paper, I literally at one point said,‘ Fuck, ’says Phillip Goff, a Yale University behavioral scientist who wrote a comment on the study published in the same issue of Science.“ I was previously a skeptic about population reform and now I'm a convert … Demographic reform in policing really has the potential to drastically change behavior. "

Diversifying law enforcement is one of the oldest and most frequently proposed police reforms, Bocar Ba, an economist at the University of California, Irvine, said at a Feb. 8 press conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. performed online. Requests for changes in law enforcement have been especially strong in the past year, in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed black civilians (SN: 7/9/20). But so far, scientific research has not provided clear answers about how demographic information from police officers can influence their law enforcement activities.

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Ba said the problem was the lack of available data. Investigators need sufficiently detailed information about officers ’patrol tasks to compare officers of different races and genders working in similar circumstances. “Until now, it was extremely difficult to do this kind of apple-to-apple comparison, because the police agencies did not publish the necessary data,” Ba said.

For three years, Ba and his colleagues covered several state and city agencies with open records applications and appeals to collect data on Chicago police department agents. Those data included officers ’careers, gender, and daily patrol tasks, as well as time-stamped and time-stamped records of when those officers detained, detained, or used force on civilians. In total, investigators examined 2.9 million officer shifts and 1.6 million execution activities performed by nearly 7,000 officers between 2012 and 2015. The team analyzed the behavior of officers from different backgrounds while patrolling the same neighborhood. time of day, day of the week, month and year.

This study is “one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated exams” on how the demographics of officers affect police to date, says Robin Engel, a criminal justice researcher at the University of Cincinnati who did not participate in the work. "We now have rigorous and robust evidence that suggests there are differences in behavior between racial and gender groups in our police departments, and that's important for a lot of things. It's important for recruitment and it's also important for our training. of officers ".

Black officers made 15.16 fewer stops, 1.93 fewer arrests, and used force 0.1 times less than their white counterparts, on average, over 100 shifts. This corresponded to a 29 percent reduction in stoppages, a 21 percent reduction in arrests, and a 32 percent reduction in force use among black agents, compared to average execution rates among their white peers.

Those differences arose primarily because black officers were less likely to stop and use force against black civilians. Black officers also relied less on discretionary enforcement activities, such as detaining people for “suspicious behavior,” and focused less on petty crimes, such as drug offenses. Black and white police arrest rates for violent crime were more comparable.

Like their black colleagues, Hispanic officers made fewer stops, made fewer arrests, and used force less frequently than white officers, though the difference was not so clear. Hispanic officers made 2.84 fewer stops, 0.44 fewer arrests, and 0.04 fewer force uses per 100 shifts, on average. That represented a reduction of 6 percent, 5 percent, and 12 percent, respectively, compared to the average rates of arrest, detention, and use of force by white officers.

Female officers of all races made 7 percent fewer arrests than their average male counterparts and used force 28 percent less frequently. Like black officers, Hispanic officers and women made fewer arrests and used less force than white officers and men primarily because they were less likely to arrest and use force against black civilians.

Engel warns that this study alone cannot explain why agents of different races and genders control differently. It may be due to personal biases of officers or different responses to police training, she says, or perhaps civilians respond differently to officers of different races or genders. Future research will need to delve deeper into official-civilian interactions to elucidate the reasons for these demographic differences, and research on police behavior in other cities will be needed to determine whether these findings remain outside of Chicago.

The trends uncovered in this case study provide compelling evidence that diversification of police departments “is an important part of any comprehensive effort in police reform,” says David Sklansky, a Stanford University law professor who is not involved in the work. The data suggest that hiring more non-white officers and women can reduce violence, especially against minority civilians.

"Not only do black and Hispanic officers make fewer stops; it's that they make fewer stops of black suspects in situations that don't involve serious crime," Sklansky says. "This is clearly an improvement … in part because (reducing those stops) reduces the number of situations that can lead to violence."

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