Texas A&M study finds white police officers more likely to use force than non-white officers

White police officers are far more likely to use force than their non-white counterparts, according to a study from Texas A&M University researchers. 

The data was compiled from more than two million 911 calls that showed race is a key determinant of force, especially in majority-Black neighborhoods. 

The researchers found that the outcome is drastically different when a white officer responds to a call versus when a Black officer responds to a call in an otherwise similar situation. 

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"White officers use force 60 percent more often, on average, than Black officers, and fire their guns twice as often," said Texas A&M Professor of Economics Mark Hoekstra. 

Researchers also discovered that white and Black officers discharge their guns at similar rates in white and racially mixed neighborhoods while white officers are five times as likely to fire a gun in predominantly Black neighborhoods. 

Texas A&M researchers used a method different than previous studies and obtained data from two unnamed major U.S cities. The researchers then combed through 911 emergency lines recorded by dispatchers "that contain detailed call addresses, descriptions, and priority levels given by the operators." 


“We picked cities where it would be a clean experiment because of how dispatch protocol works, and where we could get the data,” Hoekstra said. “For a call in a given location, it’s essentially a coin flip whether a Black or white officer is dispatched.”

Researchers then matched the data to more than three years of corresponding information about the responding officer's race, gender, and time spent with the department as well as the type of force used. The researchers said force can include an officer grabbing, punching, or kicking an individual, the most common of which observed in the data was using a baton or firing a gun. 

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In order to determine the racial makeup of a neighborhood, researchers used geographical information systems to match the address of a 911 call to the corresponding "Census Block Group" then compared it to Census data showing the race of people who lived in the area. 

The researchers say the samples they examined do not represent the entire country, but that they are large enough to draw the conclusion that “race matters, and it matters a lot,” Hoekstra said. “We would also love to replicate this analysis in other cities, and would be happy to work with mayors and police departments to identify if race matters in their city.” 

You can read the full report on Texas A&M's website.