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Do Police Treat Black People Differently than White People? Yes and No

July 13, 2016
Plain English Version

Stop-and-Frisk in NYC near Go-and-Frolic

A new study answers some questions about black people and the police.  It confirms most of what many people think. It says the police “push around” black people more than they push around white people.

Pushing around includes handcuffing, shoving people to the ground, drawing a weapon, using pepper spray and using a baton. Police are 20% more likely to push blacks around than whites during encounters.

That is not news to young black men.

What is news? It is another finding of the study. A well-known black economist from Harvard was the author of the study. He said, “It is the most surprising result of my career.”

The study looked at times when police might have shot suspects. It found that police do not shoot at black people more often than they shoot at white people. It found that police were less likely to shoot at blacks. It found that officers were more likely to fire their weapons when the suspects were white.

Black and white suspects were equally likely to be carrying guns.

In general, police do not use their guns. The study included data from Houston, Texas. Of the 1.6 million arrests in Houston over the study period, the police fired their weapons 507 times.

Other cities included in the study were Austin and Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Orlando, Jacksonville, and four other counties in Florida.

Firing a weapon is traumatic for police officers. It is one of the reasons given for the low number of shootings.

The author of the study says there is tension between the police and young black men. It is a result of the way the police treat them.

The Black Lives Matter movement is about police shootings. The results of the study do not bear out the charge that the police consider black lives cheap.

Source: The New York Times July 11, 2016


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