Nav: Home

More black police won't result in fewer police-involved homicides of black citizens

February 20, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Hiring more black police officers is not a viable strategy for reducing police-involved homicides of black citizens in most cities, according to new Indiana University research that is the first in-depth study of this increasingly urgent public policy question.

IU researchers tested a potential solution that emerged following the police shooting of an unarmed black citizen in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as similar homicides in more than a dozen other cities. The shootings triggered nationwide "Black Lives Matter" protests and heated political debates.

The study finds that, for many cities, it would take a massive increase in the percentage of black police officers to reduce the number of police-involved shootings of black citizens. Adding just a few black officers, the researchers say, won't help and might make matters worse.

"More black officers are seen as a way to directly reduce unnecessary violence between police and citizens," said study co-author Sean Nicholson-Crotty. "We found that, for the vast majority of cities, simply increasing the percentage of black officers is not an effective solution.

"There may be other good reasons to have a police force that is more representative," he said, "but there is little evidence that more black cops will result in fewer homicides of black citizens."

The full analysis by IU researchers is presented in the article, "Will More Black Cops Matter? Officer Race and Police-Involved Homicides of Black Citizens." It will appear in the March/April issue of Public Administration Review as part of a symposium on policing and race.

Until recently, no data existed that allowed a study of police homicides, according to the authors. Local law enforcement agencies have not been compelled to report deaths in custody by race, and there was no federal source for the information. To produce the first peer-reviewed study of its type, Nicholson-Crotty and co-researchers Jill Nicholson-Crotty and Sergio Fernandez, all from IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, used new data from two sources:
  • Mapping Police Violence, an advocacy group that developed a database of police homicides in 2014 in the 100 largest American cities.

  • A Washington Post collection of data on police-involved homicides in 2015.

Previous studies have examined the effect of hiring more black officers on policing outcomes such as arrests, citizen complaints and traffic stops. Findings were mixed. The studies found that greater representation reduces discrimination in some cases, has no effect in others and leads to more discrimination against black citizens in yet other situations. Furthermore, the IU researchers argue, the studies do not tell us much about the likely impact on police-involved homicides.

"Because of these inconsistent conclusions, we want to find out if there's a critical mass, a point at which the impact of more black officers on police-involved homicides changes from positive or neutral to negative," Jill Nicholson-Crotty said.

The authors found that, until the number of black officers reached between 35 percent and 40 percent of the police force, adding black officers had no effect on the number of police-involved shootings of black citizens or was associated with a higher number of such shootings. After the number of black officers surpassed between 35 percent and 40 percent, they found, adding black officers had no effect and, in some cases, may have been associated with a lower number of police-involved shootings of black citizens.

"At that point [35 to 40 percent] and higher, individual officers may become less likely to discriminate against black citizens and more inclined to assume a minority advocacy role," Fernandez said.

The sticking point is that in Ferguson and most other places, even doubling or tripling the number of black officers won't result in a percentage as high as 35 percent to 40 percent. The authors also caution that: "In most cities, a critical mass of black officers on the police force can be achieved only by over-representing blacks and making bureaucracy even less representative of the community it serves."

They say more investigation is needed to find solutions and fully understand how questions of race affect protection of peace and administration of justice.
Reporters may request a copy of the paper from SPEA communications director Jim Hanchett at 812-856-5490 or The paper may also be downloaded from the journal's website.

Indiana University

Related Race Articles:

How race is associated with differences among patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Researchers in this observational study looked at how race was associated with difference in symptoms, access to care, genetic testing and clinical outcomes among 2,467 patients (8.3% black and 91.7% white) with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, which can make it harder to pump blood.
Breastfeeding disparities among us children by race/ethnicity
Overall rates of breastfeeding increased from 2009 to 2015 but they varied by race/ethnicity in this observational study that used national survey data for nearly 168,000 infants in the United States.
Is giant cell arteritis associated with race?
Giant cell arteritis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that typically occurs in adults over 50 and, if left untreated, can result in irreversible vision loss and death.
House hunting is a struggle for mixed-race families
Couples with a black partner were significantly more likely to move to a neighborhood that was racially diverse but less affluent.
Think female race car drivers aren't fit enough? Think again
In the world of racing, the debate on whether women are as fit as men behind the wheel can often become heated.
Study: With Twitter, race of the messenger matters
University of Kansas journalism researchers showed real tweets about the NFL anthem protests to a group of millennials.
In breast-cancer prevention, race matters
African-American women at high risk of breast cancer are less likely than white women to pursue potentially life-saving preventive care, and racial disparities in health care and elsewhere are to blame, new research suggests.
In the race of life, the tortoise beats the hare every time
Researchers have discovered that, over the long-run, the race will indeed go to the slower, steadier animal.
Dancing electrons lose the race
In a report now published in the journal Science ultrashort pulses of light were employed to start a race between electrons emitted from different initial states in a solid material.
Black, white or multicultural: Constructing race in two countries
A new study demonstrates the strong influence ancestry plays in Americans' interpretation of whether someone is black, white or multiracial, highlighting differences in the way race is socially constructed in the US compared to other parts of the world.
More Race News and Race Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at