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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Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement

August 27, 2020

Progress in removing explicit racism from law enforcement has clearly been made since the civil rights era, when Ku Klux Klan–affiliated officers were far too common. But, as Georgetown University law professor Vida B. Johnson argues, "The system can never achieve its purported goal of fairness while white supremacists continue to hide within police departments." Trust in the police remains low among people of color, who are often victims of police violence and abuse and are disproportionately underserved as victims of crime. The failure of law enforcement to adequately respond to racist violence and hate crimes or properly police white supremacist riots in cities across the United States over the last several years has left many Americans concerned that bias in law enforcement is pervasive. This report examines the law enforcement response to racist behavior, white supremacy, and far-right militancy within the ranks and recommends policy solutions to inform a more effective response.

Racial Bias & Profiling

A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform

April 1, 2020

This report details marijuana arrests from 2010 to 2018 and examines racial disparities at the national, state, and county levels. The report reveals that the racist war on marijuana is far from over. More than six million arrests occurred between 2010 and 2018, and Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana. With detailed recommendations for governments and law enforcement agencies, this report provides a detailed road map for ending the War on Marijuana and ensuring legalization efforts center racial justice.

Racial Bias & Profiling

Racial Profiling in Louisiana: Unconstitutional and Counterproductive

September 13, 2018

Racial profiling – the unconstitutional practice of law enforcement targeting individuals due to the color of their skin – remains an egregious and common form of discrimination and continues to taint the legitimacy of policing in theUnited States. It is both pervasive and hard to prove. Stopping an individual merely for "driving while black" violates the U.S. and Louisiana constitutions, but few cases have been brought in state or federal courts in Louisiana to challenge racially discriminatory policing. Racial profiling is also problematic from a public safety perspective because it undercuts effective police work by damaging trust in law enforcement.While the much-needed sentencing reforms Louisiana began implementing in 2017 are projected to reduce the state's prison population by 10% over the next 10 years, resulting in savings of $262 million,22 none of the reforms focus onthe disproportionate policing of Louisianans of color. Eliminating racial profiling must be a priority if Louisiana wants to shed its status as one of the world's most prolific incarcerators. To address these harms, Louisiana law enforcement agencies must adopt and enforce effective policies against racial profiling and take other steps to ensure constitutional policing. For their parts, the Legislature and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice should institute a host of reforms to curb this unconstitutional and counterproductive practice.

Racial Bias & Profiling

Implicit Bias: Why It Matters for Youth Justice

September 1, 2017

Bias against youth of color has deep historical roots in this country with overrepresentation of black youth and disparities in treatment originating with the first juvenile court's inception. The view of youth of color as different and deserving of harsher treatment was intensified in the 1980s with the perpetuation of the "superpredator" myth—that a new breed of brutal youth, commonly viewed as youth of color, were going to terrorize the country. Disparate treatment of youth of color is no doubt impacted by the racism that continues to infect our society—most recently and glaringly represented by the August 2017 demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. While explicit and structural racism contribute to the widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice systems across the country, a more insidious contributor to this problem is that of implicit bias. This snapshot will provide a brief overview of this issue as well as resources to find more information.

Policing Youth of Color; Racial Bias & Profiling

Language from Police Body Camera Footage Shows Racial Disparities in Officer Respect

March 26, 2017

Using footage from body-worn cameras, we analyze the respectfulness of police officer language toward white and black community members during routine traffic stops. We develop computational linguistic methods that extract levels of respect automatically from transcripts, informed by a thin-slicing study of participant ratings of officer utterances. We find that officers speak with consistently less respect toward black versus white community members, even after controlling for the race of the officer, the severity of the infraction, the location of the stop, and the outcome of the stop. Such disparities in common, everyday interactions between police and the communities they serve have important implications for procedural justice and the building of police–community trust.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Traffic Stops

Driving While Black And Brown In Vermont

January 9, 2017

Vermont is perceived to be a political outlier in the United States. It was the first state to outlaw slavery in 1777. And in our more recent history, Vermont was one of the first states to legalize civil unions and to push (unsuccessfully) for a single payer health care system. When it comes to race relations, it is assume d that Vermont is equally liberal and as result, racial bias towards people who are Black and Hispanic, evident in other parts of the country, should largely be absent here. This paper investigates that assumption. In particular, the authors analyze police traffic stop data to assess the extent, if any, of racial disparities in policing. This task is made possible by legislation passed in the Vermont House that required police departments to begin to collect traffic stop data by race as of September 2014. 

Racial Bias & Profiling; Traffic Stops

An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force

July 1, 2016

This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Use of Force

The Science of Justice, Race, Arrests, and Police Use of Force

July 1, 2016

The current report examines racial disparities in use of force across 12 law enforcement departments from geographically and demographically diverse locations and reveals that racial disparities in police use of force persist even when controlling for racial distribution of local arrest rates. Additionally, multiple participating departments still demonstrated racial disparities when force incidents were benchmarked exclusively against Part I violent arrests, such that Black residents were still more likely than Whites to be targeted for force.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Use of Force

Gun Violence, Policing, and Young Communities of Color

July 1, 2016

Young people of color are leading the response to recent instances of gun violence. Young people do not all experience gun violence at the same rate nor do they feel its consequences evenly. Our research on young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 years old highlights the very different experiences young people have with guns, gun violence, and policing across racial and ethnic groups.

Perceptions of Policing; Racial Bias & Profiling

Strategies for Change: Research Initiatives and Recommendations to Improve Police-Community Relations in Oakland, CA

June 20, 2016

New Stanford research on thousands of police interactions found significant racial differences in Oakland, Calif., police conduct toward African Americans in traffic and pedestrian stops, while offering a big data approach to improving police-community relationships there and elsewhere.The report makes 50 specific recommendations for police agencies to consider, such as more expansive data collection and more focused efforts to change the nature of mindsets, policies and systems in law enforcement that contribute to racial disparities.Among the findings, African American men were four times more likely to be searched than whites during a traffic stop. African Americans were also more likely to be handcuffed, even if they ultimately were not arrested.Across the United States, the report noted, police agencies are guided by the commitment to serve communities with fairness, respect and honor. Yet tensions between police and communities of color are documented to be at an all-time high.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Reform Strategies

Racial Disparity in Marijuana Policing in New Orleans

June 1, 2016

In national research, self-reported marijuana use is similar across races, but in New Orleans, black people are disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses, including simple possession. While some states have legalized marijuana in recent years, the consequences for marijuana possession in Louisiana remain severe—under state law, repeated convictions for simple possession are punishable by multi-year prison sentences. This report illuminates through quantitative analysis the persistent racial disparities in marijuana policing from 2010 to 2015, and discusses the impacts of statutory and policy reforms the city has implemented to date. Through these findings, the report aims to guide state and local policymakers toward further improvements to lessen the harm even seemingly minor police encounters inflict on black communities, and inspire other jurisdictions to examine their own practices.

Racial Bias & Profiling

Group Threat, Police Officer Diversity and the Deadly Use of Police Force

May 15, 2016

Prior research indicates that (perceived) group threat measured in terms of population shares and race-specific crime rates are important explanations for variations in police killings across cities in the United States. The authors argue that a diverse police force that proportionally represents the population it serves mitigates group threat and thereby reduces the number of officer-involved killings. The findings represent one of the first analysis of a highly relevant contemporary issue based on a recent and high-quality dataset from 2013 to 2015. By highlighting the interaction between group threat and the proportional representation of minority groups in police departments, the research advances group conflict and threat theories with important theoretical and policy implications for law enforcement and representative bureaucracies more broadly.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Reform Strategies; Use of Force