Race and Policing
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During summer 2020, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black Americans sparked a national dialogue around the failings of the U.S. criminal justice system. People nationwide joined together in protest of police violence, calling for a new approach to safety and justice. During this crucial moment, the Center for American Progress, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation virtually gathered 1,000 advocates, researchers, artists, and practitioners for the Innovations Conference, a multiday exploration of what it means to reimagine public safety and shrink the footprint of the justice system.In the months that followed, public protests, spirited discussions, and grassroots campaigns led to remarkable policy changes across the country. Although the work is far from done, the movement has tangibly reshaped the nation's approach to justice and safety, offering a powerful example of community activism and civic engagement in action. This article breaks down five major issues that have shaped the national conversation around safety and justice, weaving in voices from the Innovations Conference to provide a snapshot of the country's progress to date and the pathway forward.
The brutal video of police murdering George Floyd has inspired unprecedented civil action and protests against police violence. Among the many signs and chants heard around the nation and the world are calls to defund the police.Some advocate for a complete restructuring of public safety. Others want sharp reductions in police spending with corresponding increases in other public services that support communities harmed by police violence.An examination of government finance data can inform—but in no way settle—larger debates around policing. Government spending on police is not merely a set of numbers but, rather, the culmination of a long history of policy choices, including many rooted in persistent structural racism.And spending is far from the only policing issue affected by structural racism. It's not even the only fiscal issue, as we saw with the excessive fines and forfeitures in Ferguson and increased purchasing of military equipment.There are countless issues, such as punitive policing, that require reforms outside of budgeting.But police spending reflects what communities pay in exchange for public safety—an exchange that does not keep all communities safe. At the least, spending data can help advocates and policymakers understand reforms' fiscal opportunities and parameters.
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.
Police expenditures include spending on police, sheriffs, state highway patrols, and other governmental departments charged with protecting public safety.Corrections expenditures are for the operation, maintenance, and construction of prisons and jails, as well as the activities of probation officers and parole boards.
The deep racial tensions seen in many areas of American life underlie how blacks and whites view police in their communities, as well as their reactions to the deadly encounters in recent years between blacks and law enforcement officers, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.Only about a third of blacks but roughly three-quarters of whites say police in their communities do an excellent or good job in using the appropriate force on suspects, treating all racial and ethnic minorities equally and holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs. Roughly half of all blacks say local police do an excellent or good job combating crime – a view held by about eight-in-ten whites.
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.
The narrative of "Black Lives Matter" offers a new framework for policymakers, activists, practitioners, and other stakeholders to think about a public safety strategy that is not solely defined by arrests and admissions to prison. This essay provides an overview of evidence-based approaches for public safety interventions that exist outside of law enforcement interactions.
This research, consisting of four studies of police officers and college students, finds that Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers. Instead, they are more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty, and face police violence if accused of a crime. The research provides evidence that these racial disparities are predicted by the implicit dehumanization of Blacks.