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.
-end-
Reporters may request a copy of the paper from SPEA communications director Jim Hanchett at 812-856-5490 or jimhanch@indiana.edu. The paper may also be downloaded from the journal's website.

Indiana University

Related Race Articles:

Catch shares slow the 'race to fish'
A detailed analysis of 39 US fisheries by Duke University economists shows that catch share programs slow the 'race to fish,' reducing costs and occupational hazards for fishermen, improving product quality, and allowing fishers to better time their catches to market demand.
In a quantum race everyone is both a winner and a loser
Our understanding of the world is mostly built on basic perceptions, such as that events follow each other in a well-defined order.
How race consciousness influences your likelihood of getting a flu shot
A study led by Professor Sandra Crouse Quinn in the University of Maryland School of Public Health is the first to explore racial factors and how they may influence attitudes and behaviors towards the flu vaccine.
Study provides insight into children's race and gender identities
New research from the University of Washington finds that children age 7 to 12 rate gender as more important than race -- but that their perceptions are both are a complex tangle of personal and societal influences.
Race, not gender, is key factor in NIH awards
Race not gender appears to be the most significant factor influencing the award of a National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas economist.
Moving beyond race-based drugs
Prescribing certain medications on the basis of a patient's race has long come under fire from those uneasy with using race as a surrogate for biology when treating disease.
Race and gender may not affect employer interest in resumes
In 2004, research found that resumes submitted by people with distinctly sounding African-American names were less likely to get callbacks regarding the job.
When it comes to predicting depression, race may matter more than was thought
Depression can strike anyone, taking a toll on mental and physical health, friendships, work and studies.
Race and gender of scientists affect perception of credibility
Ideology is a key factor in determining how people assess the credibility of scientific researchers, according to a new UBC Sauder School of Business study.
Removing race from human genetic research
When it comes to studying human genetic diversity, a group of scientists, including Drexel's Michael Yudell, feel that the race concept has no place in human genetics.

Related Race Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...