White police officers are more likely to use force than their non-white counterparts, and especially in minority neighborhoods, according to a new study.
“White officers use force 60% more than black officers, and use gun force twice as often,” Mark Hoekstra, an economics professor at Texas A&M University, and CarlyWill Sloan, a doctoral candidate there, wrote in a paper published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “While white and black officers use gun force at similar rates in white and racially-mixed neighborhoods, white officers are five times as likely to use gun force in predominantly black neighborhoods.”
Hoekstra and Sloan used data from over 2 million 911 calls in two U.S. cities, “exploiting as-good-as-random variation in the race of officers dispatched,” to devise their estimates. They found that “regardless of the racial composition of the neighborhood, white officers are more likely to use force than black officers,” which suggests the variations “were not due to differences in racial composition of neighborhoods or non-random sorting of officers, but instead reflects racial differences in the underlying propensity to use force.”
The findings “provide rigorous evidence in support of the common civilian perception that race is an important determinant of police use of force,” Hoekstra and Sloan wrote. “In addition, this study demonstrates that race matters even in a time and context during which police departments generally, and white officers in particular, know they are under close scrutiny by the media and the public.”
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