America’s police officers are said to be trigger-happy when it comes to black suspects, but a recent research suggests fact couldn’t be further away from assumptions.
Owing to widespread perceptual racial bias, it is commonly believed that cops will fire quite easily and quickly on black suspects. However, an innovative study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, indicated that the police officers hesitated while discharging their weapons when confronted with a black suspect.
Interestingly, in realistic simulations, though cops felt more threatened by black suspects they took longer to pull the trigger on black men than on white or Hispanic men.
“This behavioral ‘counter-bias’ might be rooted in people’s concerns about the social and legal consequences of shooting a member of a historically oppressed racial or ethnic group.”
Surprisingly, though the paper was published way back in May of last year, it took on a renewed prominence in the wake of a series of high-profile police-involved shootings involving black victims over the summer. There was a huge hue-n-cry over how police officers had a strong inclination of opening fire on black suspects. Multiple incidents seemed to support public opinion.
However, these results strongly support, what one of the researchers, University of Missouri-St. Louis professor David Klinger, has found after independently interviewing more than 300 police officers: While the police officers wouldn’t prefer shooting anybody, they really don’t want to shoot black suspects. Speaking about his research, Mr. Klinger, a former cop and author of “Into the Kill Zone: A Cop’s Eye View of Deadly Force” (2006), said.
“Across these 300 interviews, I have multiple officers telling me that they didn’t shoot only because the suspect was black or the suspect was a woman or something that would not be consistent with this narrative of cops out there running and gunning.
“When it comes to the issue of race, I’ve never had a single officer tell me, ‘I didn’t shoot a guy because he was white.’ I’ve had multiple officers tell me, ‘I didn’t shoot a guy because he was black.’ And this is 10, even 20 years ago. Officers are alert to the fact that if they shoot a black individual, the odds of social outcry are far greater than if they shoot a white individual.
“The second things is, I’ve had multiple officers tell me they were worried in the wake of a shooting because they shot a black person, and I’ve had multiple officers tell me that they were glad that the person they shot was white. Because then they knew they weren’t going to have to be subject to the racial harangue.”
Mr. Klinger further stated that police officers didn’t seem eager to find young black men who don’t have guns so they can shoot them down like dogs in the street, which seems to be the common perception. On the contrary, given a choice, cops would certainly prefer shooting a white guy than a black one.
[Image Credit | Lois James/Washington State University Spokane, AP]