Harvard Professor's Study Finds No Racial Bias in Police Shootings But Suggests Bias Elsewhere

Roland Fryer; Photo: via aei.org

Roland Fryer; Photo: via aei.org

A new study finds that racial bias plays no role in police shootings but it suggests that bias exists in other use of force situations.

Conducted by Roland Fryer, Jr., a professor of economics at Harvard University, the study found that police officers were 24 percent less likely to fire their weapon at African-American suspects during situations in which the police use of a gun would be plausible. 

The finding shocked Fryer, who said, "It is the most surprising result of my career."

In a New York Times analysis of the study it found that among the police-involved shootings examined, "officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white."

Other data points, however, suggested that police officers were more likely to use non-lethal force against African-American individuals versus their white counterparts.

In similarly constituted situations, officers were between 16-25 percent more likely to use force including hands, pepper spray, and baton strikes against African-American individuals over whites.

The study does suggest that racial disparities do exist in the most common use-of-force scenarios documented; however, it casts significant doubt on the widely held belief that police officers in America use disproportionate amounts of deadly, or potentially deadly, force against suspects based upon race.

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