Black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement, a new study confirms. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where and when they encounter the police, reports the New York Times. When it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.
“It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Harvard economics Prof. Roland Fryer, the study’s author. The study examined more than a thousand shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida, and California.
The result contradicts the mental image of police shootings that many Americans hold after the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Laquan McDonald in Chicago; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota. The study did not say whether the most egregious examples are free of racial bias. Instead, it examined a much larger pool of shootings, including nonfatal ones. Official statistics on police shootings are poor.
FBI director James Comey called the lack of data “embarrassing and ridiculous.” Even when data exists, the conditions under which officers decide to fire their weapons are deeply nuanced and complex.