CarlyWill Sloan, Assistant Professor of Economics, Claremont Graduate University - Does Race Matter for Police Use of Force? Evidence from 911 Calls.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM (ET)
OCL Remotely through Zoom
Event Type
Conference & Symposia
Kim Minor
Economics Faculty

Does Race Matter for Police Use of Force? Evidence from 911 Calls

Abstract: While there is much concern about the role of race in police use of force, identifying causal effects is difficult. This is in part because of selection, and in part because researchers typically observe only interactions that end in use of force, necessitating nontrivial benchmarking assumptions. This paper addresses these problems by using data on officers dispatched to over two million 911 calls in two cities. Importantly, neither city allows for discretion in the dispatch process, which generates random variation in the race of the officer dispatched. Results indicate that white officers use force 60 percent more on average than black officers, and use force with a gun twice as often. To examine how civilian race affects use of force, we compare how white officers increase use of force as they are dispatched to more minority neighborhoods, compared to minority officers. Perhaps most strikingly, we show that while white and black officers use force with a gun at similar rates in white and racially mixed neighborhoods, white officers are five times as likely to use gun force in predominantly black neighborhoods. Similarly, white officers increase use of any force much more than minority officers when dispatched to more minority neighborhoods. Consequently, difference-in-differences estimates indicate black (Hispanic) civilians are 30 — 60 (75 — 120) percent more likely to experience any use of force, and five times as likely to experience use of force with a gun, compared to if white officers scaled up force similarly to minority officers. Estimates are robust to various neighborhood, time, and neighborhood-by-time fixed effects, individual officer fixed effects, and randomization inference. These findings highlight the importance of race as a determinant of police use of force, including and especially lethal force.

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