A new study led by Emmanuella Ngozi Asabor, an MD/Ph.D. candidate at Yale University found that Black men are the most common victims of killings committed by off-duty police officers in the U.S. In an analysis of 242 incidences in which people were killed by police officers when they were off duty between 2013 and 2021, the research team found that nearly 40 percent of the victims were Black men.
The study also revealed that the presence of off-duty officers frequently escalated confrontational situations, many incidences occurred while off-duty officers were performing side jobs as security officers, and that these officers often obscured information about their involvement in situations that turned deadly.
“We also consistently saw that off-duty officers were often escalating situations and intervening with lethal force in circumstances that did not seem to necessitate it,” said Asabor. “There needs to be clear, widespread guidance, preferably at the federal level, on what types of situations call for off-duty officer intervention and how we can document those interventions after they happen.”
“Reconsidering officers’ relationships to other citizens, particularly when they’re off duty is critical for the conversation on police reform,” concludes Asabor. “One message of our study is that there is space to reconsider the extent to which the broad deputization of off-duty police officers, in terms of their weapons carriage and their conduct, is potentially causing more harm than good.”
Asabor earned a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University where she studied the history of medicine and global health. She holds a master’s degree in African studies from the University of Cambridge in England.