Amid calls to reimagine policing in America, a new study suggested that having fewer white cops could reduce the rampant police brutality — much of it racist in nature — that has ravaged departments across the country since law enforcement was created in the U.S.
The study, published Friday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is entitled, “The role of officer race and gender in police-civilian interactions in Chicago.” But it was being used as a national model that can provide valuable insight “In the wake of high-profile police shootings of Black Americans,” the study’s abstract said.
The main takeaway the study’s authors want for readers is that greater diversity can improve policing.
The study “found that Hispanic and Black officers make far fewer stops and arrests and use force less than white officers, especially against Black civilians.” The encounters in question took place in Black neighborhoods. The study also found that women who are officers use far less force than their male counterparts. The logical conclusion, the study says, is that “These effects are supportive of the efficacy of increasing diversity in police forces.”
But another way to interpret the study’s findings could be that police forces are just entirely too white, especially in communities that don’t have that same racial makeup.
Data shows that American police departments are lopsidedly white at more than 65%. Conversely, less than 13% of all police officers in the U.S. are Black. The numbers get smaller and smaller when accounting for other racial minority members of law enforcement.
Criminal justice experts were lauding the study.
“It’s a difficult, difficult thing to pull together these data sources,” Thaddeus Johnson, a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice and a former Tennessee police officer who is Black, told the Associated Press. “This is the kind of research we really need.”
Specifically, the study found that Black cops use force against and injure Black suspects fewer than white officers do.
“Reduced use of force against Black civilians accounts for 83% of the overall force disparity between white and Black officers,” the study’s authors wrote.
Black cops also initiate traffic stops at a far less rate than white officers do. Traffic stops with Black drivers often result in the use of force. The study said that Black cops were “more discretionary in nature” when it came to identifying so-called “suspicious behavior” that is oftentimes coded language for racial profiling.
The study’s authors conclude that their findings must mean that police departments need to have more racial diversity to correct the disproportionate use of force that falls along racial lines. But that also means that fewer white cops would have the same desired effect for better policing.