Police in Austin, Texas, used force against African Americans and Hispanics at significantly higher rates than they did against whites during the past six years, says the Austin American-Statesman. For Hispanics, the likelihood was 25 percent greater. For African Americans, it was 100 percent.
The difference defies easy explanation. Minorities were 40 percent more likely to be involved in reports of violent crimes than whites. Police used force against African Americans at even higher rates.
Experts say the racial disparity is evident across the country. In an interview, Austin police Chief Stan Knee said, “It’s disappointing. I wish it weren’t so,” he said. “We look at things using a different base, but it doesn’t matter. The end result, these numbers and the numbers that we look at, is that we need to do a better job giving our people better training and better equipment in order to decrease the likelihood that use of force will be employed.”
Samuel Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, said, “The fact is that in Austin, as in Omaha and in other cities in this country, there are racial tensions. There is a problem. In any enterprise, whether a police department, a hospital or an airline, you should pay attention to those problems and try and solve them.”
Alejandro del Carmen, a criminologist at the University of Texas-Arlington, who specializes in racial profiling said, “This is basically a reflection of poor training and a culture in a particular police department that does not take seriously the issue of racial sensitivity.”