Study Finds Race Plays A Role In Police Use Of Force

Published: Monday, January 30, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017 - 5:05am
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A new study on policing shows race plays a role in use of force and finds White officers were found to use greater force on Black suspects than White suspects.

ASU Criminology Professor William Terrill examined use of force behavior at eight police departments over the course of two years. Looking at non-lethal use of force against suspects resisting arrest, Terrill found White officers used more enhanced tactics along the force continuum when dealing with a Black suspect.

“And so maybe instead of using an arm bar, there’s an arm bar with a takedown,” Terrill said.

Terrill says the findings seem to enforce what scholars call an inherent bias among White police officers, which can be hard for departments to admit.

"They’re saying 'race doesn’t matter, race doesn’t matter, our officers treat everyone equally and fairly.' I get that that’s the intention, but the data, at least in our case, that didn’t play out. Race is a factor,” Terrill said.

The study found that Black officers used the same amount of force with White and Black suspects. Another finding: Black and White suspects are equally likely to resist no matter the race of the officer, suggesting that more diverse police forces may not be the cure-all for enhancing police legitimacy within a community.

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