Texas A&M University Study Documents Race as a Major Factor in Police Use of Force

A new study by researchers at Texas A&M University finds that White police officers are far more likely to use force than their non-White counterparts, especially in minority neighborhoods. The researchers examined data from more than 2 million 911 calls in two major cities.

The outcome is dramatically different when a White officer responds to a call versus a Black officer in an otherwise similar call, the researchers found. White officers use force 60 percent more often, on average, than Black officers, and use their guns twice as often. While White and Black officers discharge their guns at similar rates in White and racially-mixed neighborhoods, White officers are five times as likely as non-White officers to fire a gun in predominantly Black neighborhoods, according to the study.

Mark Hoekstra, a professor of economics at Texas A&M who wrote the study along with dcotoral student CarlyWill Sloan, stated that “the main question we were trying to answer with the project is, is there a race problem when it comes to use of force? Many people clearly believe that race matters. On the other hand, others think these incidents are rare, or that some cops use too much force but without regard for race. In addition, most prior research has concluded race isn’t much of a factor. We found clear evidence that race matters, and clear evidence of a race problem.”

The full study “Does Race Matter for Police Use of Force? Evidence from 911 Calls,” is a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. It may be accessed here.

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