A new study quantifies what many African-Americans already know, or at least suspect—cops are more discourteous in some communities than in others.
What’s being called “the first systematic analysis” of police body camera footage reveals a consistent pattern of officers using less respectful language toward Black people compared to Whites during traffic stops, Stanford University reports.
The study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that officers were 57 percent more likely to speak politely to White people during traffic stops, including making apologies and thanking motorists.
At the same time, Black motorists were 61 percent more likely to hear demeaning language, such as cops calling them “bro” or ordering them to keep their “hands on the wheel.”
“Our findings highlight that, on the whole, police interactions with Black community members are more fraught than their interactions with White community members,” said Jennifer Eberhardt, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Stanford.
The researchers analyzed more than 100 hours of body camera footage from the Oakland Police Department. To accomplish that, the multidisciplinary team included members from Stanford’s psychology, linguistics and computer science departments. They developed a new artificial intelligence technique to measure the officers’ language.
“Our findings are not proof of bias or wrongdoing on the part of individual officers,” Eberhardt cautioned. “Many factors could drive racial disparities in respectful speech.”
Next, the team is working on a system to analyze the language used by motorists during traffic stops and other subtleties, such as tone of voice, to better understand encounters between officers and the public.
SOURCE: Stanford University