Study Shows Racial Bias in Non-Lethal Police Force

A study from Roland G. Fryer Jr., a professor of economics at Harvard University, claims that although black men and women are disproportionately subject to most forms of force from law enforcement, there does not appear to be a disproportionate impact in terms of police shootings themselves.

In response to the recent deaths of black men at the hands of the police, Professor Roland Fryer and his assistants spent around 3,000 hours assembling detailed police reports from several major cities, including Los Angeles and Dallas.

According to Quoctrung Bui and Amanda Cox in The New York Times, in the cities Fryer and his team examined, law enforcement officials “were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white.” Also, Fryer found that black and white civilians in these types of situations were equally likely to have a weapon on them.

While these findings do not fit the narrative of racial bias with regard to police using lethal force, Fryer found that police were more likely to use non-lethal force against black civilians, even in situations where the officer reported that the person stopped was compliant.

Although Bui and Cox note that some debate the robustness of Fryer’s research, and that it is unclear what conclusions should be drawn from this research at this time, they highlight that it is interesting to see data suggesting that despite being subject to a higher degree of force overall, black men and women are less likely to experience lethal force. Indeed, Fryer noted that “it is the most surprising result of my career.”

Ultimately, Fryer still maintains that these encounters, where disproportionate numbers of black men are “roughed up” by the police, are an important factor for black disillusionment with society and law enforcement in particular, especially among youths. Bui and Cox conclude with a quote from Fryer, who, when discussing his interviews with minority youths, says that “almost every single one of them mentions lower-level uses of force as the reason why they believe the world is corrupt.”

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