Documenting Racial Disparities in Police Use of Force

While the wounds were still raw from the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police officers, the nation watched in horror as guns were then turned on law enforcement officers in Dallas. When the smoke cleared, five officers were dead, six injured, and the rest of us left to make sense of an emotionally and spiritually exhausting week that taxed America’s capacity for hope.

Perhaps fortuitously, in the shadow of these tragedies, the Center for Policing Equity assembled a group of the nation’s top law enforcement executives, researchers, civil rights advocates, and community groups to discuss accountability, transparency, data collection, and how we might work together to prevent the very tragedies that just transpired.

The meeting, our biennial Science of Justice convening, was held at the U. S. Department of Justice, and this year coincided with us releasing two major reports from the National Justice Database (NJD), completed in collaboration with the Urban Institute and supported in part by the Open Society Foundations.

The first report, The Science of Justice: City Report, provides data analysis and recommendations based on the stop, force, policy, and climate survey data furnished by multiple departments around the country, summarizes indicators and potential causes of racial disparities, and compares a sample city’s department to others participating in the NJD. The second report, a comparative study entitled The Science of Justice: Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force, examines use of force across 12 departments participating in the NJD, benchmarking on arrest rates in order to provide a conservative test of racial bias in police use of force.

The first report combines analyses from multiple departments to provide an example of the most comprehensive single city report possible. It examines racial disparities in stops and use of force, and the independent contributions of officer-level biases, department climate and policies, neighborhood demographics, and crime rates to those disparities.

The second, comparative report found that racial disparities in police use of force persist even when accounting for differences in arrest rates, which is a conservative benchmark. Analyzing thousands of use of force incidents, the study reflected that, for the departments studied, the commonly held theory that crime is the primary driver of racial disparities is not supported. In addition, the study found that Taser usage represented a large percentage of departments’ reported use of force.

These reports mark significant progress towards understanding and promoting equitable policing. Racial disparities are pervasive throughout social institutions in the United States and have vexed law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve since the inception of organized policing in this country. Our convening and the National Justice Database aim to provide a deeper understanding of how law enforcement agencies can become a leading force in advancing the democratic principles of justice and fairness, and a thoughtful platform for open dialogue on how we can do so collectively.

The Center for Policing Equity’s National Justice Database is the nation’s first database tracking national statistics on police behavior, including stops and use of force, and will standardize data collection across many of the country’s police departments. Led by myself and my three colleagues—Amanda Geller, Jack Glaser, and Steven Raphael—more than 40 national police departments and law enforcement agencies have signed on to participate so far. These law enforcement agencies include more than half of all major cities, and service more than 25 percent of the nation’s population in an effort to formalize this nation's long-term strategy to change the face of policing in this country.

Right now, public attention is focused—quite reasonably—on the families, officers, and agencies involved in these  tragedies. Entire communities are grieving and angry and trying to make sense of what feels like a never-ending cycle of loss of black lives at the hands of law enforcement. But as we struggle to make sense of this all, we must also take a long, hard look at this nation’s systemic root problem with race and attend to the many complex and unanswered questions about its intersections with law enforcement. 

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You know that the police kill more white people than black people don't you? What is wrong with you? Those are the facts.

Cynthia...are you math literate? Consider the disproportions as it relates to the actual numbers..then consider the circumstances and situations that present..In addition, think, think and think again and then maybe you will get IT. We will continue to teach the sincerely ignorant.

That may be true, but we (African American) care and feel the pain for the families who loses their love ones to senseless and avoidable death.

In a country called Uganda its worse Uganda Police Force has fully participated in acts of injustices,Brutality when arresting opposition leaders,Police men in civilian wear have on several occasions seen on Television Beating innocent people on street demonstrations something must be done in response to the brutality of Uganda Police

The rest of the world see's what is going on in the (Un) United States of America...l think this quote from 150 years ago is very poignant: ‘America will never be destroyed from the outside, if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves...’ (Abraham Lincoln)

In our prior article we exposed that a murdered Black had a 90% chance of being killed by another Black (8x the rate of Whites being killed by another White). And a murdered Black had a 10% chance of being killed by police (usually Black police, and anyway it is at a high 2.5x the rate of Whites). We integrated recent popular academic research (some of which I peer-reviewed), and lastly we noted that for every 10 Blacks killed by police, 1 police was killed by a Black. Google "whose lives matter".

It's baffling that you use the word "exposed" as if you figured it all out. There has been very little research done in the past 2 years let-alone decade to give numbers and percentages that are nowhere near accurate. Thus, the article above explaining the different parties joining forces to create that actual database for all. For example; Is there data that shows the brutality of police using firehoses and dogs to disburse a crowed of minorities, boycotting or protesting inequality back when my grandmother was my age, (I’m 28 and she’s 69).

In an ideal world, police officers use lethal force only when they reasonably believe that the suspect's actions pose a grave danger to them -- without regard to the race of the suspects.

More blacks than whites are killed by police per capita, but we have to consider the possibility that black suspects are systematically more likely to present a threat to an officer. In fact this is true. According to FBI statistics over the 33 year period from 1980 to 2013, 41% percent of fatal assaults against police officers were committed by black offenders, and 52% by white: a ration of roughly 4:5. You can confirm this directly in the FBI database, easily findable on Google. It is also cited in this Washington Post article:

By comparison, African Americans account for 24% of those killed by police, while whites account for 49%, a ratio of 1:2.


The bottom line is that, in proposition to how often they pose a lethal threat to officers (as measured by felonious killings of police), blacks are shot by police far less often than whites. It appears that police are more reluctant to shoot black suspects.

The Washington Post recently reviewed stats and given the fact that Europeanites are 62% of the US pop and Africanites are 13%, being African-American means, in 2016, you are 3 times more likely to be shot by an "officer of the law" than a so-called "white" American. So in response to Cynthia's post on 7-13: you aren't doing your math right. I'm so tired of the "Pale in America" cultural aesthetic.

Police need psychological training

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