A July study on the Dallas Police Department found that white officers were not more likely to use force against minorities.
Researches analyzed 5,630 use-of-force reports from the Dallas Police Department from 2014-2015. They focused on reports that did not include fatal use of force because those incidents happened too rarely, researchers explained in the American Journal of Public Health.
A surface level look at the data seems to show a correlation between the race of the officer, the suspect’s race and whether force was used. Thirty-two percent of use of force incidents involved a white officer and a black suspect. White officers using non fatal force on white suspects accounted for 14 percent of such situations, and white officers using force on Hispanics also made up about 14 percent.
Researcher Stephen Bishopp, a professor at the University of North Texas, says there’s more to the numbers than just this cursory view. When he and fellow researchers controlled for outside factors, such as suspect cooperation and the officer’s size, the relationship between race and use of force disappeared.
“There’s much more involved than a person’s race, whether it’s the officer’s race or the suspect’s race,” Bishopp, also a sergeant at DPD, told the Dallas Observer. “Some of those things include: Is the suspect committing a crime when the office confronts him? Is the suspect drunk or high on drugs? Is the suspect being cooperative? Is the officer a two-year officer or a 25-year officer? Is the officer 6’5″ and 260 pounds? Or is the officer a 5-foot female who is 100 pounds soaking wet with her equipment on?”
The researchers also found that, after controlling for these situations, black officers were less likely to use “hard-empty hand control” with black suspects. “Hard-empty hand” control refers to an officer striking a suspect with his hands to subdue him.
“I think that there’s a narrative about what police use of force looks like, and I think that when officers misuse force, they should be reprimanded and punished accordingly. But I also think that we need to treat officers as fairly as we do anybody else and amass all of the information before we can develop any sense of finding in one way or the other,” Bishopp told Decider Magazine.
John Fullinwider, an activist and co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality questioned whether the data used by researcher was valid.
“There is no independent fact check on a police database. Some researcher sitting at his desk that wants to do research on the Dallas Police Department, he goes to the [DPD website] and he starts pulling officer demographics and victim demographics,” Fullinwider said.
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