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Racial disparities do extend to how police use force

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2020 | Firm News

I am amazed with the police shooting in Kenosha of a black man that some people try to maintain there are no racial disparities in how police use force.  Eliott C. McLaughlin and Alta Spells, CNN “Wisconsin police shoot Black man as children watch from a vehicle, attorney says” August 24, 2020.  The Wisconsin Department of Administration, has stated without qualification that “[r]acial disparities permeate the entire criminal justice continuum, in the number of arrests, cases charged, sentences and probation and parole revocations.”  Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, Racial Disparities

Since racial disparities permeate the entire criminal justice continuum, it would be foolish to argue racial disparities do not extend to how police use force: “Black men tend to be stereotyped as threatening and, as a result, may be disproportionately targeted by police even when unarmed.”  Wilson, J. P., Hugenberg, K., & Rule, N. O. Racial bias in judgments of physical size and formidability: From size to threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(1), 59–80 (2017),; Hehman, Flake, and Calanchini, Disproportionate Use of Lethal Force in Policing Is Associated With Regional Racial Biases of Residents, Social Psychological and Personality Science Volume 9 Issue 4, May 2018 (only the implicit racial prejudices and stereotypes of White residents, beyond major demographic covariates, are associated with disproportionally more use of lethal force with Blacks relative to regional base rates of Blacks in the population.); Using data on over 2 million police stops in New York City from 2007 to 2014, findings show that Black and White civilians experience fundamentally different interactions with police. Black civilians are particularly more likely to experience potential lethal force when police uncover criminal activity and this disparity is greatest for black youth compared to white youth. Rory Kramer and Brianna Remster, Stop, Frisk, and Assault? Racial Disparities in Police Use of Force During Investigatory Stops, Law and Society Review Vol. 52, Issue 4 Dec. 2018, p. 960-93,

There are racial disparities in arrests and use of force:

Disparities in police stops, in prosecutorial charging, and in bail and sentencing decisions reveal that implicit racial bias has penetrated all corners of the criminal justice system.  Race and Punishment: Racial perceptions of crime and support for punitive policies (The Sentencing Project 2014) p.4,

As summarized in Helen A. Neville (Editor), Miguel E. Gallardo (Editor), Derald Wing Sue (Editor), The Myth of Racial Color Blindness: Manifestations, Dynamics, and Impact Copyright © 2016 by the American Psychological Association:

The 2014 killing of Michael Brown symbolizes these later abuses. On August 9 of that year, Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, was shot and killed by a White officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri.  The African American community erupted in protest after the shooting.  The subsequent disrespectful and shameful handling of the situation: Brown’s lifeless body was left by law enforcement personnel in the street for more than 4 hours, and community members reported that the police desecrated the impromptu memorial site. Police responded to the mostly peaceful demonstrators in riot gear and with military-grade weapons. They even patrolled the neighborhood in armored vehicles and brandished tear gas, a chemical weapon that has been banned in war by most nations, including the United States, since the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 1993). Cities throughout the nation protested again after the acquittal of Wilson by a grand jury; for some, the acquittal symbolized the mounting injustice of the killing of unarmed Black and Latino people by police officers that have gone unpunished. These incidents provided impetus for the development of the Black Lives Matter movement and other calls to action to affirm the humanity of Black people in the face of racial oppression;
Early in 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (2015) released an investigative report on the Ferguson Police Department, which described the prevalence of racial bias on the force:

Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias, including stereotyping. The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race. (p. 5)

The killings of unarmed boys and men of color by police around the United States, including Eric Garner (Bronx, New York), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri), Ezell Ford (Los Angeles, California), and Darrien Hunt (Salt Lake City, Utah)—all of which occurred in the summer of 2014—speak to potential police misconduct directed at communities of color. These were followed by two more deaths in early 2015—those of Walter Scott (Charleston, South Carolina) and Freddie Gray (Baltimore, Maryland); in both cases, police were charged with murder. Although the killing of unarmed girls and women of color by police are less frequent and does not receive attention, they occur and further highlight police misconduct. For example, within a span of 3 months, Tanisha Anderson (37) was killed by Cleveland police in November 2014 and Jessica Hernandez (17) was killed by Denver police in February 2015; both killings were ruled homicides