Does Race Matter for Police Use of Force? Evidence from 911 Calls
Authors: Mark Hoekstra, CarlyWill Sloan
Date: March 2020
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 often observe only interactions that end in use of force, necessitating nontrivial benchmarking assumptions. This paper by Rex B. Grey Professor Mark Hoekstra and Graduate Student Fellow CarlyWill Sloan addresses these problems by using data on oﬃcers dispatched to over two million 911 calls in two cities. By using a location-by-time ﬁxed eﬀects approach that isolates the random variation in oﬃcer race, results show white oﬃcers use force 60 percent more on average than black oﬃcers, and use gun force twice as often. To examine how civilian race aﬀects use of force, the authors compare how white oﬃcers increase use of force as they are dispatched to more minority neighborhoods, compared to minority oﬃcers. Perhaps most strikingly, findings show that while white and black oﬃcers use gun force 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.
Race, police, use of force