Increasing the number of Black police officers may not reduce the number of police-involved killings of Black victims, a new study concludes.
An increasing number of police-involved homicides of unarmed African Americans have spawned nationwide protests and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and other human rights groups to improve police-community relations included increasing the diversity of police forces.
But researchers at Indiana University reported that in most jurisdictions, it would take a significant infusion of Black officers to make a difference in the number of Black deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
“There may be other good reasons to have a police force that is more representative,” said study co-author Sean Nicholson-Crotty, “but there is little evidence that more Black cops will result in fewer homicides of Black citizens.”
“For the vast majority of cities, simply increasing the percentage of Black officers is not an effective solution,” he added.
The researchers used data derived from Mapping Police Violence, an advocacy group that developed a database of police homicides in 2014 in the 100 largest American cities; and a Washington Post collection of data on police-involved homicides in 2015.
The data analysis showed that until the percentage of Black officers reached between 35 and 40 percent of the police force, there was no effect on the number of police-involved killings of Black persons. Above those percentages the effect ranged from negligible to a reduced number of Black deaths at the hands of police.
“At that point [35 to 40 percent] and higher, individual officers may become less likely to discriminate against Black citizens and more inclined to assume a minority advocacy role,” co-author Sergio Fernandez said.