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Diversity in police force may lead to better treatment of people of color: study

Diversity in police force may lead to better treatment of people of color: study
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Black and Hispanic Chicago police officers make fewer stops and arrests, and are also less likely to use force, particularly with Black civilians, according to research published this week in the journal “Science.”

Researchers analyzed data for 1.6 million stops, arrests and other enforcement actions over a four-year period among nearly 7,000 officers. They found Black officers made an average of 16 fewer stops and two fewer arrests than their white counterparts, a 20 to 30 percent difference.

“We see two groups of officers going out, and they’re treating the same group of civilians differently,” co-author Dean Knox of the University of Pennsylvania told The Associated Press. “It’s troubling.”

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The study found that the principal variation was not in how officers responded to violent crimes, such as armed robbery, but with minor offenses where officers have broader leeway, such as traffic or drug offenses.

The research is limited in its generalizability, as it is specific to one city with unique features and it was conducted from 2012-2015. The department has made numerous changes in policy since then, particularly in the wake of the 2014 murder of Laquan MacDonald, and those would not have been fully reflected in the data.

However, the results are broadly reflective of community activists’ longstanding arguments that law enforcement should reflect its community members and have a personal connection to them.

“That’s what we expect,” Regina Russell, co-chair at the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, told the AP. “That’s why we’ve been pushing for this for years.”

However, Erika Maye of the civil rights nonprofit Color of Change argued that if an institution is fundamentally discriminatory, increasing its diversity will not solve the problem.

“[Diversity efforts] don’t go deep enough or tackle the root issues,” she said. “Police violence is not an issue of representation.

“To really protect Black lives, we feel we really need to upend the current policing system,” she added.