Austin Cops Found More Likely to Use Force in Minority Areas

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Photo by Jeremy Keith via Flickr

A first-of-its kind report found that officers in the Austin Police Department are more likely to use force in communities where more African Americans and Latinos live, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Until now, police use of force in the city hadn’t been quantified in a way that accounted for such factors as crime and poverty rates, which are unique to individual communities and can affect studies into the issue.

The analysis from the New York-based think tank Center for Policing Equity and the Urban Institute determined that Austin police use-of-force rates in communities with higher percentages of blacks and Latinos were still disproportionate even after taking those factors into account.

The report found that Austin police are more likely to use more severe force against blacks and Latinos. Officers are disproportionately more likely to open fire or use a stun gun than to employ lower levels of force, such as using their open hands or pepper spray, when the subject is African American, the analysis found. The report said the disparity wasn’t direct evidence that Austin police are systematically prejudiced. However, it comes as community tensions have risen over high-profile incidents such as the violent arrest of Breaion King, in which an officer was recorded making comments that stereotyped blacks, and the February shooting of an unarmed, black teenager. Police Chief Art Acevedo said the findings weren’t a surprise. He hopes the report will place more pressure on other law enforcement agencies to release similar data. Austin was chosen for the study partly because of how much data it releases to the public, said Prof. Phillip Atiba Goff of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, president of the Center for Policing Equity.


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