Black Americans More Likely Subjected to Use of Force by Police, Confirms Study

Friday, July 08, 2016
Philando Castile, shot by police after being pulled over for broken taillight, July 2016 (photo: Lavish Reynolds via Facebook)


By Timothy Williams, New York Times


The vast majority of interactions between police officers and civilians end routinely, with no one injured, no one aggrieved and no one making the headlines. But when force is used, a new study has found, the race of the person being stopped by officers is significant.


The study of thousands of use-of-force episodes from police departments across the nation has concluded what many people have long thought, but which could not be proved because of a lack of data: African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.


The report, to be released Friday by the Center for Policing Equity, took three years to assemble and largely refutes explanations from some police officials that blacks are more likely to be subjected to police force because they are more frequently involved in criminal activity.


Black activists who have demanded greater police accountability said Thursday that the study was critical to the conversation, but far from surprising.


“The evidence is becoming overwhelming and incontrovertible that it is a systemic problem, rather than an isolated one,” said Aislinn Sol, organizer of the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter.


The organization compiled more than 19,000 use-of-force incidents by police officers representing 11 large and midsize cities and one large urban county from 2010 to 2015. The report found that although officers employ force in less than 2 percent of all police-civilian interactions, the use of police force is disproportionately high for African-Americans — more than three times greater than for whites.


“The dominant narrative has been that this happens to African-Americans because they are arrested in disproportionate numbers,” said Phillip Atiba Goff, a founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity. “But the data really makes it difficult to say that crime is the primary driver of this.”


The study found that the overall mean use-of-force rate for all black residents was 273 per 100,000, which is 3.6 times higher than the rate for white residents (76 per 100,000) and 2.5 times higher than the overall rate of 108 per 100,000 for all residents. For those who were arrested, the mean rate of use of force against blacks was 46 for every 1,000 arrests, compared with 36 per 1,000 for whites.


To Learn More:

Black Men: 6% of Population; 40% of Unarmed People Shot to Death by Police This Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

How Many People are Killed by Police? Crowdsourcing Identifies the Officer-Involved Killings Government Doesn’t Count (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Federal Law Requiring Annual Report on Excessive Force by Police has been Ignored for 20 Years (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

How Many People are Killed by Police in U.S.? Who Knows? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Dogs only Bite Blacks and Hispanics (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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