BRUTALITY AND RACIAL BIAS

Protests after the death of George Floyd have renewed pressure to reform US policing.

Police killed 250 Black people in the U.S. in 2020 spread out over 176 days in that calendar year.

Body-worn cameras can increase the accountability of the police, but studies on their use have produced mixed results. .

BRUTALITY AND RACIAL BIAS: WHAT THE DATA SAY.

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Some interventions could help to reduce racism and rein in the use of unnecessary force in police work, but the evidence base is still evolving. By Lynne Peeples.

For 9 minutes and 29 seconds, Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. This deadly use of force by the now-former Minneapolis police officer has reinvigorated a very public debate about police brutality and racism.

As protests have spread around the globe, the pressure is on police departments and politicians, particularly in the United States, to do something — from reforming law-enforcement tactics to defunding or even abolishing police departments.

And although researchers are encouraged by the momentum for change, some are also concerned that leaders might miss the mark without ample evidence to support new policies. Many have been arguing for years about the need for better data on the use of force, And for rigorous studies that test interventions such as training on de-escalating inter- actions or mandating the use of body-worn cameras. Those data and studies have begun to materialize, spurred by protests in 2014 after the deadly shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death by the chokehold of Eric Garner in New York City.

From these growing data sets come some disturbing findings. About 1,000 civilians are killed annually by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, (1) Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime. And in another study, (2) Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed twice as likely as white people to be unarmed.

“We have enough evidence that tells us that action needs to be taken,” says Justin Nix, a criminologist at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

“One thousand deaths a year does not have to be normal.” New evidence continues to support a link between racial bias and the use of force. Data from California show that, in 2018, police stopped and used force against Black people disproportionately (see go.nature.com/2bgfrah). A December 2019 paper reported that bias in police administrative records results in many studies underestimating levels of racial bias in policing or even masking discrimination entirely.

The data are still limited, which makes crafting policy difficult. For example, a national data set established by the FBI in 2019 contains data from only about 40% of US law-enforcement officers. Data submission by officers and agencies is voluntary, which many researchers see as part of the problem. “Most agencies do not collect that data in a systematic way,” says Tracey Meares, founding Director of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. “I hope when people think about the science of this that they understand what we know, what we don’t know, and why we don’t know it,” she says. “Policing, largely for historical reasons, has proceeded in a science-free zone.”

Thanks to Videos of police misconduct, the killing of George Floyd placed a spotlight on brutality and racism that is rampant in cities across America.

Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than White Americans.

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate. Below is a small example of the killings.

This image taken from a bystander video shows Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr shoot Patrick Lyoya on April 4, 2022. Officer Schurr shot Lyoya , 26, in the back of the head following a struggle during a traffic stop. Police officer Christopher Schurr has been charged with the second-degree murder of unarmed Patrick Lyoya.

Bad cops?

Scientists must often work around the limitations in the data. Mark Hoekstra, an economist at Texas A&M University in College Station, has attempted to decipher the role of race in police officers’ use of force, by comparing responses to emergency calls.

Based on information from more than two million 911 calls in two US cities, he concluded that white officers dispatched to Black neighborhood's fired their guns five times as often as Black officers dispatched for similar calls to the same neighborhood's. the ugly truth is Law enforcement agencies across the country are failing to provide us with even basic information about the lives they take.