Austin, Tx., police are using force against civilians less often than in past years but have continued to use it against blacks and Hispanics at rates higher than against whites, says the Austinan American-Statesman. Blacks remained twice as likely as whites to be on the receiving end of force during the first nine months of 2004, police records show; the likelihood that police would use force against Hispanics increased. The findings echo those 10 months ago when an American-Statesman investigation discovered wide racial disparities in the way police used force between 1998 and 2003. The analysis compares the number of times force is used against whites, blacks or Hispanics with the number of times members of each group have significant enough encounters with police – either as suspects, witnesses or victims – that reports are generated.
Officers reported using force 25 percent less often so far this year. Injuries to police and civilians also have gone down by about 30 percent. In turning to Tasers, or electronic stun guns – to supplant other types of force, the department appears to have saved the lives of two suspects who might otherwise have been shot. But two criminologists questioned whether Austin police are resorting to the stun guns too readily.