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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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

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

Black and Blue: Exploring Racial Bias and Law Enforcement in the Killings of Unarmed Black Male Civilians

April 1, 2016

In late 2014, a series of highly publicized police killings of unarmed Black male civilians in the United States prompted large-scale social turmoil. In the current review, we dissect the psychological antecedents of the se killings and explain how the nature of police work may attract officers with distinct characteristics that may make them especially well-primed for negative interactions with Black male civilians. We use media reports to contextualize the precipitating events of the social unrest as we ground our explanations in theory and empirical research from social psychology and industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology. To isolate some of the key mechanisms at play, we disentangle racial bias (e.g., stereotyping processes) from common characteristics of law enforcement agents (e.g., social dominance orientation), while also addressing the interaction between racial bias and policing. By separating the moving parts of the phenomenon, we provide a more fine-grained analysis of the factors that may have contributed to the killings. In doing so, we endeavor to more effectively identify and develop solutions to eradicate excessive use of force during interactions between "Black" (unarmed Black male civilians) and "Blue" (law enforcement).

Racial Bias & Profiling; Use of Force

A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014

November 5, 2015

A geographically-resolved, multi-level Bayesian model is used to analyze the data presented in the U.S. Police-Shooting Database (USPSD) in order to investigate the extent of racial bias in the shooting of American civilians by police officers in recent years. In contrast to previous work that relied on the FBI's Supplemental Homicide Reports that were constructed from self-reported cases of police-involved homicide, this data set is less likely to be biased by police reporting practices. County-specific relative risk outcomes of being shot by police are estimated as a function of the interaction of: 1) whether suspects/civilians were armed or unarmed, and 2) the race/ethnicity of the suspects/civilians. The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average. Furthermore, the results of multi-level modeling show that there exists significant heterogeneity across counties in the extent of racial bias in police shootings, with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more. Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Use of Force

Law Enforcement and Violence: The Divide Between Black and White Americans

August 1, 2015

This document summarizes the findings of the AP-NORC Center's survey regarding race and policing. Some of the key findings include:  1) Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to describe violence against civilians by police officers as an extremely or very serious problem.2) More than 80 percent of blacks say police are too quick to use deadly force and they are more likely to use it against a black person. Two-thirds of whites label police use of deadly force as necessary and 58 percent say race is not a factor in decisions to use force.3) There is support among both blacks and whites for many changes in policies and procedures that could be effective in reducing tensions between law enforcement and minorities and limiting police violence against civilians. For example, 71 percent say body cameras on police would be an effective deterrent to violence against civilians and 52 percent think community policing programs would help reduce tensions in minority communities.

Perceptions of Policing; Reform Strategies; Use of Force

Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States

June 17, 2015

Hundreds of men and women are killed by police each and every year across the United States. No-one knows exactly how many because the United States does not count how many lives are lost. The limited information availablehowever suggests that African American men are disproportionately impacted by police use of lethal force. While themajority of the unarmed African Americans killed by police officers are men, many African American women havealso lost their lives to police violence. Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, as well as respecting andprotecting the lives of all members of society. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous. However, the shooting ofMichael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and countless others across the United States has highlighted a widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers and an alarming use of lethal force nationwide.Amnesty International reviewed US state laws – where they exist – governing the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials and found that they all fail to comply with international law and standards. Many of them do not even meet the less stringent standard set by US constitutional law. Some state laws currently allow for use of lethal force to "suppress opposition to an arrest"; to arrest someone for a "suspected felony"; to "suppress a riot or mutiny"; or for certain crimes such as burglary. A number of statutes allow officers to use lethal force to prevent an escape from a prison or jail. Others allow private citizens to use lethal force if they are carrying out law enforcement activities

Use of Force

Turning Back the Tide: Promising Efforts to Demilitarize Police Departments

April 1, 2015

A company of police officers in riot gear with raised automatic weapons advance upon a solitary Black man with his hands up—one of the most chilling and memorable images to come out of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last fall. The world was shocked to see local police officers in full body armor, rolling down the streets of a small suburban town in armored trucks, throwing tear gas canisters and stun grenades into crowds of peaceful protestors.When did our police begin to resemble an invading military force? When did protests in the United States start warranting a military-like response?Ferguson was a wake-up call that hastened numerous civil liberties organizations to speak out against police militarization—state and local police departments across the country amassing huge arsenals of military weapons, aided by federal programs that transfer weapons used in Iraq and Afghanistan, or issue grants to purchase them.The widespread militarization of policing—hostile, authoritarian, and too often, violent— represents the antithesis of community-centered policing and a marked transformation in the very nature of policing: Are police working to protect or control communities? Does a military response to non-violent protest increase community safety? Who are the police protecting when they use military equipment and tactics against communities?The first two briefs in our Beyond Confrontation series advanced local programs and practices that exemplify police-community partnerships and agreements. Militarization, however, is a unique issue, fueled by an underregulated and overlooked federal policy that has flooded local communities with military weapons and equipment. Turning Back the Tide: Promising Efforts to Demilitarize Police Departments, the third brief in our series, explores the stark landscape of pervasive police militarization, and lifts up early examples of communities fighting to reverse the tide of militarization at the local level and restore a focus on community to local and state police departments.

Use of Force

Limiting Police Use of Force: Promising Community-Centered Strategies

October 1, 2014

This brief is offered as a tool to communities to help them better understand what standards guide the use of police force, how that force is applied across the country, and what strategies exist to minimize such acts of aggression. It is one of a series that will explore steps that can be taken to improve how police officers relate to the communities they serve.

Reform Strategies; Use of Force

Few Say Police Forces Nationally Do Well in Treating Races Equally

August 25, 2014

Conducted between August 20 and August 24 as tensions ran high over the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teen in Ferguson, Missouri, the survey of 1,501 adults found large racial gaps in Americans' views of police accountability and performance. A majority of the African Americans surveyed, for example, said police departments do a poor job of holding officers accountable for misconduct (70 percent), of treating racial and ethnic groups equally (70 percent), and of using the appropriate amount of force in specific situations (57 percent) -- compared with 27 percent, 25 percent, and 23 percent of white Americans.

Perceptions of Policing; Racial Bias & Profiling; Use of Force

Transgressive Policing: Police Abuse of LGBTQ Communities of Color in Jackson Heights, Queens

October 1, 2012

After hearing numerous complaints of police abuse and misconduct against LGBTQ people in Jackson Heights, Queens, Make the Road New York (with help from the Anti-Violence Project) surveyed over 300 Queens residents about their experiences with police in the neighborhood. The survey findings and individual testimonies reveal a disturbing and systemic pattern of police harassment, violence, and intimidation directed at LGBTQ community members. The discriminatory use of "stop and frisks" in the policing of communities of color has been well documented -- the 110th and 115th precincts that are responsible for policing Jackson Heights had 90%-93% rates of stop and frisk activity towards people of color in 2011. Our survey reveals, however, that within this community LGBTQ people of color are particularly targeted.

Racial Bias & Profiling; Stop & Frisk; Use of Force

USA: Race, Rights and Police Brutality

September 1, 1999

Police brutality and use of excessive force has been one of the central themes of Amnesty International's campaign on human rights violations in the USA, launched in October 1998. In United States of America: Rights for All (AI Index: AMR 51/35/98), the organization documented patterns of ill-treatment across the USA, including police beatings, unjustified shootings and the use of dangerous restraint techniques to subdue suspects. While only a minority of the many thousands of law enforcement officers in the USA engage in deliberate and wanton brutality, Amnesty International found that too little was being done to monitor or check persistent abusers, or to ensure that police tactics in certain common situations minimized the risk of unnecessary force and injury. The report also noted that widespread,systematic abuses had been found in some jurisdictions or police precincts. It highlighted evidence that racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionately the victims of police misconduct, including false arrest and harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse.This document describes proposals for change made at federal and local level and other developments which have taken place since publication of Rights for All. It also summarizes Amnesty International's continuing concerns about police brutality in the USA, highlighting specific areas and reiterating its key recommendations.

Reform Strategies; Use of Force