Again and again the data show that people of color in the U.S. are disproportionately, and systematically, stopped, frisked, arrested, and exposed to the use of force by police. Police departments and communities across the U.S. are struggling with these realities and with what has become a glaring divide in how Americans experience and relate to policing. This special collection includes research from nonprofits, foundations, and university based research centers, who have not only described and documented the issue but who also provide much-needed recommendations for addressing this chronic and tragic problem.

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Gatekeepers: The Role of Police in Ending Mass Incarceration

August 1, 2019

Reforming the criminal justice system has become a bipartisan priority and a topic of intense public interest. Much of the focus is on reversing mass incarceration—lowering the numbers of people in prison and jail, creating constructive pathways for people returning to their communities, and addressing the stark racial and ethnic disparities that have been a primary feature of the American criminal justice system. This work remains essential: in the United States, half of all adults have an immediate family member who is or has been incarcerated. Moreover, black adults are 50 percent more likely than their white counterparts to have had an incarcerated immediate family member.But ending the practice of mass incarceration and repairing its extensive collateral consequences must begin by focusing on the front end of the system: police work. A police officer's encounter with a civilian, if it ends in custodial arrest, is where mass incarceration begins. And the enforcement numbers—most notably arrests—are staggering. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as of 2017, some 70 million Americans had been arrested. If everyone with an arrest record held hands, they would circle the globe three times. 

To Protect and Serve: New Trends in State-Level Policing Reform, 2015-2016 (Fact Sheet)

April 4, 2017

The work of law enforcement involves countless low-visibility duties that are often risky, challenging, and dangerous. Over the last three years, however, members of the public have brought increased attention to incidents of police-community conflict, violence, and misconduct, sparked by several high-profile deaths of people of color, many of them unarmed, during seemingly routine police encounters. These incidents—many of which were captured unfiltered on video and widely disseminated—have resulted in scrutiny of police officer behavior and, in particular, have reignited a debate over the extent to which police may use deadly force against civilians. The ensuing public attention has also signaled a marked erosion in police-community relations and perceptions of police legitimacy and accountability. At the same time, killings of police officers in New York City, Dallas, and Baton Rouge increased concerns about officer safety. To address these issues, localities, states, and the federal government have begun to examine ways to increase public confidence and police safety. In all, 34 states and the District of Columbia enacted at least 79 bills, executive orders, or resolutions in 2015 and 2016 to change some aspect of policing policy or practice—a marked contrast to the relatively few laws related to policing that were passed by states between 2012 and 2014.

To Protect and Serve: New Trends in State-Level Policing Reform, 2015-2016

April 1, 2017

The work of law enforcement involves countless and risky low-visibility duties. Over the last three years, however, members of the public have brought increased attention to incidents of police-community conflict, violence, and misconduct, sparked by several high-profile deaths of people of color, many of them unarmed, during seemingly routine police encounters. These incidents—many of which were captured unfiltered on video and widely disseminated—have resulted in scrutiny of police officer behavior and, in particular, have reignited a debate over the extent to which police may use deadly force against civilians. At the same time, killings of police officers in New York City, Dallas, and Baton Rouge increased concerns about officer safety. Concerned that eroding public trust impedes relationship-building with the community, 34 states and the District of Columbia enacted at least 79 bills, executive orders, or resolutions in 2015 and 2016 to change some aspect of policing policy or practice—a marked contrast to the relatively few laws related to policing that were passed by states between 2012 and 2014.