Race, Crime and Police Use of Deadly Force

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What role does race play in a police officer’s decision to use firearms against a citizen?

After conducting a study of 230 police shootings in St. Louis between 2003 and 2012, a team of researchers determined that “neither the racial composition of neighborhoods nor their level of economic disadvantage directly increase the frequency of police shootings, whereas levels of violent crime do—but only to a point.”

But David Klinger, Richard Rosenfeld, Daniel Isom, professors of criminal justice at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and doctoral student Michael Deckard, wrote that more comprehensive data is needed to develop evidence-based policies regarding the use of deadly force by police. In a  a study published in the American Society of Criminology journal Criminology & Public Policy, entitled “Race, Crime, and the Micro-Ecology of Deadly Force, the authors called for creation of a database that would collect and make available to the public information from officer-involved shootings across the U.S..

The database should include all available details on officer-involved shootings, including:

  • The sex, age and ethnicity of the officers and other individuals involved in the incident.
  • The agencies where the officers work as well as the location of the incident.
  • The specific weapon(s) used in the incident.
  • Any injuries suffered by the people involved.

“Beyond the value that a national database on officer-involved shootings would have for researchers, such a system is necessary to evaluate policy proposals regarding police use of deadly force,” the authors write. “Specific proposals to improve police training and practice on deadly force are difficult to evaluate when so little is known about how often and under what circumstances the police discharge their firearms against citizens.”

Read the study here.

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