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 these 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.
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.
There should be no argument that black and Latino people in Houston are much more likely to be shot by police compared to whites. The author looked at the same Houston police shooting dataset as Fryer for the years 2005-2015, which he supplemented with census data, and found that black people were over 5 times as likely to be shot relative to whites. Latinos were roughly twice as likely to be shot versus whites.
The Texas Justice Initiative is an interactive database with information on the 6,913 deaths that reportedly occurred in Texas custody from 2005 through 2015, including deaths in police encounters, jails, and prisons. The project seeks to build narratives around who is dying in Texas’ criminal justice system, bring attention to the lives that have been lost, and provide a foundation for research toward solutions that will save lives.
What causes police brutality, and why are minority citizens the primary victims? Social scientists often attribute the behavior to poorly managed police departments, bad cops, or the interests of the powerful in controlling minorities perceived as criminal threats. Malcolm D. Holmes and Brad W. Smith contend that these explanations fail to identify key causes of police misconduct, particularly the use of excessive force. Focusing on the interaction of ordinary social-psychological processes and the disadvantaged conditions of minority neighborhoods, Holmes and Smith develop an integrated model of police brutality that takes into account contemporary theory and research on social identity, stereotypes, and emotions factors that produce intergroup tensions and may trigger unwarranted acts of aggression.