A New York governor's task force studying mistaken-identity confrontations between police officers found that racial bias, unconscious or otherwise, played a clear role in scores of firearms encounters over the years, most significantly in cases involving off-duty officers who are killed by their colleagues, reports the New York Times. The task force, formed last June by Gov. David Paterson to examine confrontations between officers and the role that race might have played, conducted what it said it believed was the first “nationwide, systematic review of mistaken-identity, police-on-police shootings” by an independent panel outside of law enforcement.
“There may well be an issue of race in these shootings, but that is not the same as racism,” said Zachary Carter, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who served as task force vice chairman. “Research reveals that race may play a role in an officer's instantaneous assessment of whether a particular person presents a danger or not.” The task force found that 26 police officers were killed in the U.S. over the past 30 years by colleagues who mistook them for criminals. It found that it was increasingly “officers of color” who died in this manner, including 10 of the 14 killed since 1995.